- Jillian Johnsrud lives in Montana with her husband Adam and their five kids; they’re currently on a mini-retirement.
- Their income is comprised of Adam’s military pension, rental property income, and investment income for a total of $US41,400 a year. They earn an additional $US50,000-$US75,000 a year doing freelance work.
- For Business Insider’s “Real Money” series, Jillian tracked the family’s spending for a week.
- Want to share a week of your spending? Email [email protected].
Three years ago my husband and I became financially independent at the ages of 37 and 32.
Life had been a bit of a whirlwind in the years leading up to that. We had adopted a sibling group of three, bought and renovated three homes, and were both working full time. I found out we were expecting a second biological child and I decided it was time for another mini-retirement. It would be our fifth mini-retirement and our longest, lasting two-and-a-half years.
The goal of this new mini-retirement was fairly simple. Fill it with rest, family time, and adventure, and start figuring out what we wanted life to look like now that we no longer needed to earn income.
What was our ideal day or week? Did we want to volunteer or work part time? How much do we enjoy travelling? What was the perfect mix for us as individuals and as a family?
Here’s a look inside a typical week for us:
Spending for our family of seven averages about $US30,000 a year.
This is largely due to the fact that our fixed monthly bills (cell phone, taxes, insurance, dental, utilities, etc.) are under $US700 a month, plus about $US400 a month for childcare, which we started in September. The $US30,000 includes our six to 10 weeks of travel and vacations a year. Our kids are currently ages 2-11. We also donate an additional $US5,000-$US20,000 each year.
Our passive income comes from a military pension ($US1,450 plus healthcare), rentals ($US1,200) and investments ($US800) for a yearly income of $US41,400. That is enough to cover all our regular costs because we don’t pay a mortgage, car payment, or have any debt.
During our mini-retirement we had the freedom to pursue things we loved and were passionate about. We ended up creating some part-time freelance work that earns us $US50,000-$US75,000 a year working part time. Because we don’t need that income to pay the bills, we get to just focus on work that enriches our lives.
We spent a total of $US228 this week.
It’s been almost three years since we became financially independent and left our 9-to-5 jobs. Weeks like this are about how it goes.
Lots of fun, adventure and friends. Mishaps, appointments, and chaos. A bit of writing and coaching fit in to keep things sane.
On Sunday, Adam took the kids to run a few errands before we went on a hike at Glacier National Park.
I love slow Sunday mornings. When I have to do a bit of reading, reflecting, and planning. All the kids are home and it’s a nice mix of them playing together so Adam and I can chat and the constant but brief bids for our attention. Pictures are being drawn and games are being invented that we need to bear witness to. For a few minutes before they are off to go create some more.
After a few hours of controlled chaos, Adam took the kids to run a few errands: a trip to the dump, buy two sheets of sheetrock to finish my new scheming and dreaming cave, and a few groceries.
He dropped me off at the local coffee shop to be able to write for an hour. As an introvert mum to five young kids, an hour of quite and time alone with my thoughts is a magic balm for my sanity.
We live in Montana near Glacier National Park. It was a sunny, perfect hiking temperature Sunday when the tourists are gone and the fall colours in full swing. So we headed into the National park for the afternoon. We played along the famed Trail of the Cedars in the crisp fall air along with sparse fellow hikers. Although a family of deer seemed to trail us closely peeking out from every corner. Hunting season had just opened and the deer in Glacier National Park have an extra air of confidence in their safe harbour.
Lake McDonald was like glass so we stopped to eat Nutella sandwiches and skip rocks. We have a pine tree called a Tamarak that fills Glacier National Park and the surrounding mountains. In the Fall it turns a bright yellow and when the sun hits it on a bright day, it’s like gold flake in the mountainside.
After a long afternoon in the mountains, we ate a bit of dinner and all slept well.
On Monday, we went to the gym and paid a visit to the dentist.
My husband, Adam, is the kindest person I know. Every morning he wakes up early with our crazy and loud kids and lets me sleep. He comes downstairs with a cup of tea to wake me, giving me enough time to read for 10 or 15 minutes in bed before I join the party upstairs. One day he sheepishly admitted that he considers what my day will look like then tries to pick the mug that he thinks will best encourage me in that day. This day he opted for a small white cup that says “Today is the perfect day to start living your dream.”
While we work hard to create a life we wouldn’t want to retire from. Each week is a bit of a gamble. I think that’s just life with five little kids. Kids get sick; appointments, work, and volunteer obligations fluctuate. But I was hopeful for this week.
We went to the gym together which we do most days. Normally I work out with my personal trainer two times a week, but I spoke at a conference a few weeks ago and said I needed a break. After seven days of extreme extroversion, my introvert heart needed a slower pace to recover. It had been a wonderful week with friends, fans, and new faces. I had loved every second but came home worn down.
After we left our jobs three years ago to start a mini-retirement, Adam doubled down on his health and strength. He puts in a solid 90 minutes in the gym five days a week. I basically cap out at 60 minutes, so I get 30 minutes of coffee and journaling time in the gym lobby.
After, I head to the dentist for a cleaning and $US25 copay. Having the time for these kinds of appointments something I still appreciate. Simple blood work or teeth cleaning use to be a huge inconvenience when we both worked full time. Now they easily slide into our rather flexible days.
Adam had some video editing to get done for a new course I have coming, so he dropped our youngest off to play at daycare for a few hours while he worked at a coffee shop across the street.
I had an hour or two of work that afternoon then picked up one of my kids for an doctor’s appointment. Again, these are the kinds of appointments that used to take a somewhat manageable day and turn it into a big ball of stress. Today it was more a fun solo outing with my kid. It’s a rare treat when we get alone time to chat and hang out. We had some great conversations before meeting up with Adam to pick up all the kids from school.
I set out to try a new gym class I’d heard about called Ula at 5:30 but showed up at the wrong place and wrong time. Trying new things is hard. After a call to my friend I realised I was an hour too early and found the actual location. My parents live just down the street from me so I opted to go spend an hour with them and attempt this class again. This is the first year since I graduated high school that I live in the same town as my parents. Being able to stop by for a bit to chat is still such a treat. For years we were a 20 or 30-hour drive apart.
I paid $US5 for the Ula class. It reminded me a bit of being in grade school and dancing along with my mum to Sweating to the Oldies with Richard Simmons.
Adam and I spent time Tuesday planning our next family vacation — a summer road trip with speaking engagements along the way.
Tuesday is my flex day. I rarely schedule work during the day, instead leaving it open for whatever seems most needed or wanted. It’s the day we might head to the hot springs to soak, to the mountain to ski or hike, go out to lunch or get a massage.
This Tuesday we started with our coffee and gym routine then headed to the coffee shop. One of my favourite things is writing across from my husband. We spent two hours at Starbucks, then headed out for a downtown walk. The downtown neighbourhoods are full of historic homes and huge trees lining the streets. The leaves are almost past their peak colour and I know there might be only a few days left of the warm fall weather.
We spend two hours talking, walking, and sipping our hot tea. We are starting to plan a big summer road trip with the kids and some speaking engagements for me. It’s far enough away that we don’t need to do the tiring work of reservations or figuring out drive times yet. Instead we can just dream, scheme, and talk about how lovely it will be.
This is my favourite kind of planning, all the romance, and none of the drudgery of managing the actual logistics. Last year we did a 10-week road trip to 10 National Parks. It was an amazing trip, but the weeks leading up to it were a whirlwind of work to get ready. Talking about the idea that is a solid nine months away is much more fun.
Because the lovely weather is fleeting, Adam opted to head out for a last motorcycle ride. He bought a Triumph Bonneville 10 years ago and as our family has grown his road miles have shrunk. He still fits it in when an opportunity presents itself. Two years ago, he bought a 62 Mercury Comet to have a fun mode of transportation that also was practical for running errands with kids. It’s nicely filled the gap and the kids loving driving in “the classic.”
Maybe it’s was the extra workouts but I was craving a Mudman burger. We almost never eat out, going out for coffee is obviously more our style. But Mudman is my one weakness. Spend: $US9.75
One of our kids had an IEP meeting at school so we both walked to the school and Adam played with the kids on the playground while I attended that meeting. We walked home together enjoying one of the last warm fall days.
After the kids were in bed, I had a few work calls. Those evening calls are the perfect fit. My house is always quiet and I’m always home anyways. It’s the perfect way to cap off a day with some great conversation and convenient for working parents.
On Wednesday, I skipped the gym and did a bit of writing at the coffee shop.
I had five calls on the schedule for the day and completely missed the fact that my kids have an early out from school. Plus, Adam is doing a class at the local college for Adobe and today he had a group project.
I opt out of the morning workout to do a bit of writing at the coffee shop ($US2) and get prepped. We finagle the schedule to have my mum watch the kids for the two-hour window.
I met with a musician friend on Thursday to help with some marketing ideas, and then Adam and I walked to pick up the kids from school.
I met with a musician friend who is hoping to creatively promote her new album. We had coffee for a hour and came up with some fun marketing ideas. I love having a bit of margin in our life so I can help people out and push my skill set into new areas.
Adam and I worked out together after dropping the kids off at school. Adam had a college class in the afternoon and I did a few calls.
We were able to walk to pick up the kids from school. This is one of my favourite parts of the day!
Instead of Friday Family Fun Night, we had to treat the kids for lice.
Fridays we typically have our family fun night. But this Friday we had an unexpected surprise…our kids came home from school with lice. Our adorable kindergartner just loves giving hugs. She must give 20 hugs a day to her friends at school. With all that hugging, she also picked up lice.
Instead of the board games, homemade popcorn, and science projects that normally are part of family fun night, our kids got haircuts, nit combs, and blow dryers. Two years ago our kids’ school was overrun with lice. It became so bad that at any given time half the school, teachers included, were walking around with bug filled hair. I still itch just thinking about it. The upside was I became a lice killing ninja, with metal nit combs and my own three-step process. It still freaks me out, but I can get rid of them in 24 hours.
On Saturday, we checked out new campers and hung out with friends at a pumpkin-carving party and potluck.
My mum watches the kids every Saturday morning so we can either get some projects done around the house or take care of a bit of work. We headed to the coffee shop and spent $US4 on coffee. We looked at campers online to see if we want to switch campers before our next epic road trip. We were going to head out to take a look at a few in-person when we realised our car keys were stolen by a local homeless person. Thankfully the person he was with got him to return them! But it was a stressful hour hoping our keys would come back.
We ended up taking all five kids to look at campers, which was a hilarious fiasco. They were like baby monkeys in a banana store. An hour in and everyone was ready to be done, including the sales person.
One more check for any stray lice until I was confident they were gone.
The afternoon was spent out in Bigfork at a friends pumpkin-carving party and potluck. They run a dog sled camp in the winter and live in one of the most lovely spots in the Flathead Valley. An evening with 50+ friends, good food, pumpkin carving, and bonfire was the perfect ending to our week.
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