One new pup, one new shower, one son returned for one last semester in paradise, one long settling-in period later, I am still reveling in the happiness of being an American living in the USA. A year in Ukraine was great. And enough. What next?

The joy of budget.Now that both Stanley and I are truly retired, I can finally answer the question that has always been theoretical: how much money does it take each month to survive?

Of course, I also have to answer the other theoretical question: what is survival? Do I need to turn down the thermostat? Refrain from buying a non-essential bar of dark chocolate? Non-essential? And Sadie? Why should the pup suffer a reduction in puppy treats?

Perhaps for the sake of Sadie, I have decided the budget will be for a normal month. We will spend as usual and see where the dollar goes.

Stanley and I are planners. And, happily, savers. We knew this day would come on Stanley’s 57th birthday. I worked a year longer, then we stretched things out by volunteering for a year. We think we’ve done things right. We are by nature fairly thrifty. Stanley recently refereed a karate tournament and came away with a free t-shirt. He’s set for a year. Just like that, both of us. Even the tee’s I buy on sale at Target last me two or three years. Maybe you know the drill: first year- worn alone, second year – under a sweater, third year – working in the garden.

So we know some things about ourselves, but fortunately, haven’t had to keep a dollar budget for a long time. Our friend, Janet, still in Kherson, kept a budget all last year. She could pull out her booklet, turn to a particular week or month, and site the expense, not because she had to, just because she was curious. Now, I’m curious, and not in a theoretical way.

Beginning tomorrow, I will keep track of everything we spend for a month, trying to answer for myself that gut-wrenching baby-boomer question: should I have retired so early?

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