My friend Dot and I spent Friday morning weeding the flower beds in the park across the street from my house. We're members of the city beautification committee, formed after our small Michigan town had to lay off most of the maintenance crew.
On Saturday, the county supplied some nonviolent offenders assigned to do community service to handle heavier tasks, like trimming trees and shrubbery and putting down mulch. A probation officer who took retirement a few years ago supervised that aspect of our low-cost, stitched-together city maintenance plan.
Finding smart ways to manage money is important to this aging community where paying more taxes just doesn't fit into the retirement planning of many residents. As a relative newcomer, I've been impressed with the financial savvy of the mostly volunteer community leadership. And I've discovered that they manage their own money as frugally as they manage tax dollars.
Dot's husband has been retired from one of the Detroit car companies for several years, and she recently retired from a local publisher. Her first post-retirement project was to write a history of our city. She was paid a small stipend by a national publisher -- only $2,000 -- for writing the book, but it was money she didn't expect to get, so she's planning to splurge -- a winter cruise to the Virgin Islands. Nice.
Dot says she and her husband have two checking accounts -- one for the bills and one for the splurges. Social Security and pensions go in the first account, and the money that her husband makes from his part-time landscaping business and her writing revenues go into the second account. They try never to mix the two, but they aren't afraid to spend money from the splurge account on themselves and on their grandchildren.
"You only go through this life once, so you'd better enjoy it while you can," Dot concludes, wisely.