With all your traveling, where do you keep your important papers?

Q&A with a Reader

Disclosure: Some links on this site, like the Amazon links, may be affiliate links. If you click on one of these links and buy from the affiliated company, then we receive some small compensation. The modest income helps to keep this blog going. Affiliate links do not increase your cost, and we only use them for products or services that we’re familiar with and that we feel may deliver value to you.

Greetings,

My husband and I have been following you for some time now and we will be retiring in June of this year. We are getting ready to travel the world and look forward to making memories in most of the destinations you have lived in.

Our question is where do you keep your important paper records ( investment, will, birth certificates, marriage license and month to month papers)?

We know you recommend a mail service but while traveling what do you do with important  monthly papers?  If the internet is not great at some of the locations does paperless work?  We will have a turn key home base in the USA but hope to be away from it for maybe 9 months out of the year.

Your suggestions are welcomed.

Thank you so much.

With gratitude,

Marie

Relaxing by the beach

Hi Marie,

Thanks for writing. And congratulations on your upcoming retirement! How exciting!

Marie, about 99% of our mail – important papers, financial statements, credit card billings, and so on – are all done online. We have been paperless for about 15 years.

Our brokerage firms (Fidelity and Vanguard) offer paperless statements and Fidelity offers a free check writing service that we utilize when we need to send a physical check to someone. Otherwise we PayPal money to friends and family with no fee.

In regards to our wills and marriage certificate, we have them stored with a trusty friend. Alternatively, you could put them in a bank vault or leave them with family. Birth certificates we carry with us, as sometimes we need them when we travel. If we were to lose them, we’d simply have another one sent to us from the county office in the county in which we were born. We also have a digital copy of our marriage certificate.

Traveling Mailbox (the service we use) can physically mail us anything we receive should we want a physical copy, otherwise they will scan the item and we can read it online, then ask them to shred it or forward it to us anywhere in the world.

Right now, the only monthly papers we are receiving are the ones from Social Security and Medicare, and we don’t really want all that paper sent to us, so we peruse online and then have them shredded.

Since we are on Medicare, and we have no US based health care insurance, we have no booklets, and no EOBs or paperwork sent to us. We utilize medical tourism as we travel and pay out-of-pocket.

Traveling Mailbox can be purchased by the month or by the year, as you see fit in your travel schedule. We purchase their services for the year, and then receive 2 months for free. We find that to be very convenient.

I hope you have found this information to be useful. Feel free to write if you have another question.

Wishing you the best in your travels and in your upcoming retirement.

Best Regards,

Akaisha

Posted in About us, All Things Financial, Q & A From our Readers, Travel Tips and Insight | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

When Is Enough Money Enough? How Do You Just Stop Working?

Q&A with a Reader

Hi Billy, Akaisha,

Just listened to your broadcast on youtube.

Wow! you guys are the pioneers of this movement. Congrats on your success.

I am well on my way to following your lead. I currently live in southern Thailand, still telecommuting for work back in the US but I am almost at the point of stopping. It was very encouraging to hear that you have been able to live off of your investments for such a long time.

I have a question, and I’m sure you have heard this many times before, how do you know when enough is enough? I mean, my investments would cover my expenses, at least if I stick to the 4% rule but how did you come to pull the trigger and just stop?

When you come back to Thailand, let’s get together. I would love to chat.

Spencer

 

Surfing in southern Thailand is great fun!

Hi Spencer,

Thank you for taking the time to write. We are very happy that you enjoyed our interview with Mad Fientist.

How much is enough is a question we asked ourselves when we were preparing to leave the conventional working world, and it is a question that we are asked often today. The answer is individual, of course, depending on the style of retirement you want to live. But to give you an idea of how to figure that out, you would take the amount of spending you are doing today to live the life you are living now, and multiply that by 25. That Dollar amount is the figure you need to have in invested assets in order to throw off enough income plus enough to cover inflation.

Over the last almost 3 decades of world travel, our annual spending is still under $30,000USD per year and we have more money now than we did when we first retired.

We knew we wanted to travel the world

As far as how we were able to “pull the trigger” and let go of our jobs and current lives and jump into our undefined futures… There were a couple of things. One for certain, is that we were being pulled by our dreams of a better lifestyle – one of travel, free time, personal creativity and continuous learning. In other words, we were being pulled forward instead of trying to escape something we had.

We made a list of all the things we wanted to do, wanted to learn, places we wanted to visit, etc., so that when we left our jobs, we knew what we were going to do on day one. So it wasn’t a complete unknown. It wasn’t like we were jumping into a void.

That being said, we did sort of “Jump into the Volcano” (it was a popular Tom Hanks movie at the time) and trusted ourselves enough to figure things out. We didn’t diddle and daddle and over analyze every little thing. We took 2 years to track our spending, knew what we needed financially, had our list together, and dreamed ourselves into our future.

How much money would we need to retire?

There were certainly some unexpected things we had to face… as you can read here… but we have never regretted our decision.

I hope you find my answer useful, and do feel free to write any time.

Thanks again for your interest in our story.

Best Regards, and wishing you the best of everything,

Akaisha and Billy

Posted in About us, All Things Financial, Heart Song, Q & A From our Readers, Travel Tips and Insight | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Transitioning to Retirement; The Housing Conundrum

Q&A with a Reader

Disclosure: Some links on this site, like the Amazon links, may be affiliate links. If you click on one of these links and buy from the affiliated company, then we receive some small compensation. The modest income helps to keep this blog going. Affiliate links do not increase your cost, and we only use them for products or services that we’re familiar with and that we feel may deliver value to you.

Hi,

I wrote to you a few years ago.

At the time, I was considering retiring in Brazil in a home that we own.  My wife is from there and her family lives close by.  To qualify for permanent residence I have to stay there for 6 months.

I have now reached the “magic” age of 62 and after 44 years in my technology career, I’m looking forward to retirement but I don’t intend to sit around and do nothing.

In Brazil, I can teach English or technology part-time or help my wife in some of her small businesses such as renting out kayaks on the beach or parking cars in our parking lot.

I recently purchased your latest Retire Early Q&A  volumes 1 and 2 and The Adventure’s Guide to Early Retirement.

You’ve mentioned that you have investments in the U.S.  Most brokerage firms require a U.S. address to maintain an account.  I’m guessing you use your residence in Arizona to satisfy that requirement.

You also mention that housing is the largest expense.  I totally agree.  I do not own a home in the U.S. but we would like to come back for visits.  Most of our family is here in New England.

The cost of housing can take a chunk out of your retirement budget

We considered purchasing a 3 or 4 unit building and keeping one of the apartments for ourselves but then we would have to hire a property manager when we traveled for long periods.

The other option is to do what you did, purchase a manufactured home in a park.  In New England, sometimes the homes are expensive but the park fee is low.  In other cases, the homes are cheap but the fee is much higher.

I’m curious as to what you are paying for a park fee in Arizona.  Maybe I should move there or to Florida – LOL.

Best Regards,

Paul

Hi Paul,

Thank you for taking the time to write.

Congratulations on your upcoming retirement. Sounds wonderful!

To answer your question about maintaining a US address for your brokerage account, we utilize Traveling Mailbox. You can read about the features and benefits here.

Do you need to keep a home in the US?

In terms of housing being the largest expense in any household, and the idea of your purchasing a domicile in the States so that you can visit family… I sincerely would recommend house sitting. Chances are there are people in your New England location who want to travel and need someone to look after their home and/or pet. In this way you are not purchasing property and saddling yourself with insurance payments, maintenance, property taxes, or having to deal with renters, a property manager, a gardener or anything of this sort.

House sitting allows you to stay in someone’s home (for free, usually) in exchange for watching over their pet and belongings. We know of people who travel the world house sitting in one country after another. Many of the home owners ask the sitters to come back year after year, and strong friendships are created in this manner. AND it suits everyone’s needs. I would certainly give it some thought as an alternative to spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in purchasing property.

If you would like some other ideas for housing, take a look at our Travel Housing Page or our Housing Options Page. You might find the information here to be useful.

In case you have not read about our manufactured home in AZ, here is our piece on Worry-Free Housing. Since we chose not to purchase the property, our annual Lifestyle Fees are a modest amount, less that you would pay to rent an apartment in the same city.

Active Adult Communities have many amenities

I hope you find this information to be useful to you. If you have further questions, feel free to write to us any time.

Sending you our best regards, and looking forward to hearing from you again sometime.

Akaisha and Billy

Posted in About us, All Things Financial, Housing, Q & A From our Readers, Travel Tips and Insight | Leave a comment

We have an obligation to serve the poor and the homeless

Comment from a Reader 

I have a neighbor who retired at age 40, and she has seen the world as you have. She does humanitarian work, but most of it does not involve the homeless and the poor, for those are the ugly pictures, the ones which cry out for your help, elderly bagging groceries, and little children who know only that they are uncomfortable, for mothers know nothing about grooming them.

I only wish to know who takes care of the majority of the world when we all go out into the kingdoms made for those who flee from one adventure to the other.

We do have an obligation to serve the poor and the homeless.

How does this fit in to your quest?

Barbara

Hi Barbara,

Thanks for taking the time to write.

It is our perspective that becoming financially independent is one of the best things we can do for ourselves and the world.

When we are no longer enslaved to our paycheck with the corresponding pressures to maintain a job to pay our bills, we have the time and the finances to give back.

Each person is able to give according to their skills. Perhaps one person has the talent to invent a product to assist mankind in one form or another. Maybe someone else dedicates their time installing clean water in villages that don’t have it. Another teaches English so that the local poor can move up in the world and bring their knowledge and income back to their village. Other people spend their time educating young women who are known to go back to their village and uplift, teach, or mentor other young girls… and the entire village benefits.

There are countless ways to volunteer and to give back.  Medically trained people donate their time and expertise for free to those in need – as was done in our previous home base of Panajachel, Guatemala. Those who are trained in horticulture are helping locals plant sustainable crops. Others offer mini-loans to help small business people (many of them women) to get started so they can purchase shoes, clothing and school supplies for their children.

We are aware of so many of these things happening as we seem them in our travels.

I’m unclear of what has formulated your perspective – thinking that “people” don’t give enough to the poor or homeless… Many good things are happening all around the world — all the time.

Besides volunteering ourselves (instructing, mentoring, building, supporting those in need) we make a point of disseminating information so others can volunteer in their retirement time. We connect people to projects often, and we publish what we can about certain projects that are making a difference in people’s lives.

We encourage those who are leaving the working world to create a life of meaning in their retirement, not just spending their time in endless rounds of golf or bridge.

I am proud of what we do, of how we give back, and am amazed at the quality of people we have met who are supporting those in need…

It is my hope for you that you, too, will experience the exhilaration and satisfaction of giving back – whether it is in your own home town and neighborhood or if you travel to some faraway land.

Sending my best,

Akaisha

Posted in About us, All Things Financial, Heart Song, Indigenous Life, Is It Work or Is It Passion?, Q & A From our Readers, Travel Tips and Insight, Volunteering | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why We Decided to Hold Off on Children

By guest author June, she’s a new blogger over at Dinks.co, read about her journey!

After marriage, one of the first questions that many young couples get is, “So, when are you going to have kids?” My partner and I have gotten used to the question, which has been repeated in a variety of forms in the years since we have gotten married. The truth is that while we do want kids, we are also enjoying our lives without them. As a two income household without any children, we have been able to reap financial rewards from our decision to put off starting a family. This will ultimately put us in a better position once we do decide to have children.

We Are Better Able to Manage Our Home

The first major purchase that we made as a couple was our house. While we love our home, it requires quite a bit of time, money and effort from us. We spend a lot of time on improvements, and have put quite a bit of work into make it our dream house. Without kids in the picture, we can devote our weekends to things like retiling the kitchen or adding on a deck. These not only increase our enjoyment of the place but they also increase its value — something that will be useful if and when we decide to sell. Putting off having children has allowed us to take our starter home and turn it into a beautiful showpiece.

Being child-free has given us more than time to do these home improvement projects. It has given us the money to purchase high quality tile and top of the line appliances to replace broken or outdated ones. We can handle mishaps with relative ease (such as when the old hot water tank broke) because we are not spending $1000+ a month on daycare.

We can also put more money each month towards our mortgage. Based on a mortgage calculator, the few hundred dollars that we add to our mortgage payment every month will shave more than 5 years off of our mortgage — along with tens of thousands of dollars in interest payments. Waiting to have kids allowed us to make this happen, which will free up our money later to devote to other things, like saving for college.

We Can Pay Down Debt Sooner

Each of us came into the marriage with certain debts, like student loans from college. We also had some credit card debt that had to be addressed. Because we each earn a healthy salary, we are able to dedicate ourselves to paying down our debt, focusing ourselves on a particular strategy (the debt avalanche) to become debt-free before we become parents.

We know that once kids arrive, certain expenses cannot be avoided — diapers, clothes, new clothes and shoes, car seats and more. By devoting our extra money to debt now, we can start off on the right financial foot while we have the spare cash.

High interest rates can make it incredibly difficult to get out of debt. That is why we are so devoted to putting as much money as possible towards our high-interest debt. By waiting to have kids — and taking the financial hit of setting up a nursery, maternity leave and so forth — we can chip away at our biggest debts until we pay our debt off early.

We Can Save for Retirement More Effectively

Finally, by waiting to have kids, we are in a better position to save and invest. With two incomes and no children, we have more financial freedom than we otherwise would. This gives us the ability to max out our 401(k)s, contribute to Roth IRAs, and even start investing to maximize our nest egg. If we currently had children, saving for that dream retirement would be much more difficult.

Once we have kids, we would either be bringing in less money, or paying more each month in order to earn the same amount. One parent would likely need to either stay home from work or cut back to part-time, or we would be paying a fair amount of money for child care. This significantly reduces the amount that we can contribute towards retirement and other savings and investment.

On top of that, we would also have to start contributing to a college fund, paying for numerous other expenses, and otherwise plan our finances in part around our child. While the joy of a baby would be worth it, we know that we aren’t ready yet — which is why we are taking advantage of being child-free for now to maximize our saving and investing.

Final Word

There are many financial advantages to having two incomes and no kids. The ability to manage our household better will give us an edge in the future, when our home has greater value and we owe less on it. We can also use this time to pay down our existing debts, and to continue to save and invest as much as possible. By taking all of these steps, we are positioning ourselves to be in the best place possible when we eventually do decide to become parents.

Posted in All Things Financial, Guest Blog Posts, Heart Song, Housing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Healthcare, Assisted Living: Our Future in Mexico

Q&A with a Reader

Hi There!

My husband Paul and I just moved to Mazatlan in September and love where we are renting, but I am now looking forward to finding an affordable 2 bedroom cottage or apartment, that allows pets, and has retirement living amenities.  A place where we can add on in-home care as needed in the future sounds perfect.  Then we won’t have to keep moving.

We are both 64 years old.  I will turn 65 this year, so also wondering if there are age restrictions for starting Long Term Care Insurance?

Do any retirement communities in Mexico give a locked in price if you commit to staying longterm?  We are living on our social security with almost no savings (a business failed at just the worst time).

We would be interested in Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas, Todos Santos, Huatulco, Puerto Escondido, Lake Chapala, or possibly beach areas in Eastern Mexico (we are not familiar with that side).  My husband prefers staying near surfing beaches.

Thank you for any advice or resources.

Best regards,

Mary and Paul

Hi Mary and Paul,

Thank you for writing.

Congratulations on finding an affordable retirement location despite the financial roller coaster you both have been through. We understand and we send our best support to you both!

First, let me say that “retirement communities” with retirement amenities are a new idea in Mexico. The older members of the family are taken care of by the younger members of the family, often having Grandma and pa move in with them, so that there is inter-generational living. I think that Mexico is seeing the business possibilities of this idea (with more and more Boomers retiring and moving to Mexico) and there are plans in the works for facilities such as you mention.

I am going to give you some links where you can do research on your own, or links to forums where you can ask those who are living locally what the rental and “aging/assisted living” situation is in their location. The forums are free to join.

You might try looking at our Chapala Medical Care page that lists assisted living facilities in the general area (scroll down to almost the bottom to find this section). Several of them have nurses on site and regular doctor visits to patients are available. Some also provide taxi service to take you to your doctor as well. Some even have “comfort dogs” on site.

Here are some links to forums – 

Chapala Web Board Forum    Chapala Club      Inside Lakeside

A couple of articles:

Continuous Care: Opening Up the Conversation

Questions on Continuous Care in Latin America | RetireEarlyLifestyle.com Blog

And here is our Relocation Page where you will find Expat forums where you might be able to post your questions in order to have locals answer them.

In terms of what you might do in the meanwhile, you can always hire a local to do your shopping, cooking and cleaning. You can hire a nurse to come to your home on a regular basis to check in on you, administer meds, take your blood pressure or other simple procedures. Doctor visits can be arranged, either having them come to your home or more likely, having a taxi service on retainer to bring you to your appointments and back. These services are far more affordable in Mexico than in the States.

As far as Long Term Care Insurance, I personally don’t know anything about it, but you could take a look at our Medical Insurance Page to see if any of the underwriters offer this option.

I would advise keeping yourself open to new prospects and to not get discouraged. With a little creativity you could put together something that works for you.

If you have further questions, feel free to write.

Wishing you both the very best,

Akaisha

Posted in All Things Financial, Health, Heart Song, Housing, Legal Matters, Travel Tips and Insight | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Want to Simplify and Travel

Q&A from a Reader

I just came across an article about your decision to leave convention behind and really live.  I need help to convince my conventional husband that we can do the same thing.

Can you help?

I will be looking into your books, etc. but appreciate anything else you have for “ammunition”.  I am a free spirit that thought security was more important than anything.

We are both over 50 now and I have learned that we will do well in whatever we put our mind to.  My husband is cautious by nature and loves the idea but is afraid to step forward.

Help!

Thank you for your inspiration!

Rachel

Hi Rachel,

Thanks for taking the time to write, and for your interest in our website and books.

We do explain in both of our books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible, about finding out what your net worth is, tracking your spending so you know what you are spending per year and per day. We also speak about the Safe Withdrawal Rate, where if you spend, say, 4% of your net worth or less per year, the theory is that you will never run out of money.

If you track your spending, there will be no surprises about how much money you have or where it goes. If you do it daily, then you can aggressively manage that figure to be what you want it to be to keep you in line with having a sustainable retirement.

We also discuss the 4 categories of highest spending in any household — housing, transportation, taxes and food/entertainment. If you modify any or all of these categories, then you are able to “find extra money” to either spend elsewhere or to invest.

Be free to travel! Be free to LIVE!

In Your Retirement Dream IS Possible, we discuss when partners have a different vision of retirement, and give suggestions on working those challenges out.

One thing to do is to focus on what will make your partner happy, what they are attracted to, and — say in your case — how you can make it sustainable, practical and “secure.”

Partners often will fight the idea because they have questions that are not resolved or they feel threatened in one way or another (“You” want to travel “they” want to stay home. “You” want to work on being a pillar of the community, mentoring, using your expertise, “they” want to be a vagabond and let go of heavy responsibilities — and so on.) The best way to get a partner on board is to appeal to what they like, and work out a viable plan between you, where you both get what you want.

Pushing, or threatening or emotional blackmail (not that you might do this, but we have heard from other couples) doesn’t work. The partner entrenches their feet into the ground, and then you have a bigger problem.

Akaisha and her Maya friend, Panajachel, Guatemala

You might take a look at our Retirement Issues Page as well as our Preferred Links Pages which address many issues of retirement and they give you options. Also, take a quick look at our Annual Spending Update which is recent as to the end of 2017.

Feel free to write to us any time with your questions, as we are happy to help.

Again, thank you for writing.

Best Regards,

Akaisha and Billy

Posted in About us, All Things Financial, Heart Song, Q & A From our Readers, Travel Tips and Insight | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mistakes to Avoid When Hiring a Moving Company

Aqib Ijaz

You need to take a few precautions when you hire a mover company. You need to do your research and ask the right questions. This is your chance to interview the company and assure you are making the right choice. When it comes to moving to another place, people rush the hiring process and often end up hiring the wrong company. To make sure you don’t, read the following tips.

Not Doing Your Research

It doesn’t matter where you want to move from and move to. It’s best to find at least 3 movers. For best possible results, get quotes from at least five companies.

Get costs, and learn from other’s experience with the company. You have to do your research, and getting background checks helps to ensure you hire the right one.

Not Showing Your Home before the Move

When you ask for moving estimates, have the mover visit your home. You need the company to review everything you are moving for a proper estimate. It makes sure the mover sees everything you move to make the inventory, and it will match in the end.

It will be ideal if you create an inventory list before the company quote or estimate. This will provide the moving company with everything you plan to move. It will also help you to ask the companyto mention items that need special handling.

Choosing Only Over Price

You can never know whether the least expensive mover or most expensive is the ideal one! The only way to assure is through conducting proper research.  Compare at least three to five movers, and find the most affordable one. If it is way cheaper than others, then it means they are unreliable and has no standards for their services.

Unreliable companies often try to lure people with low costs, discount deals, and other offers including free facilities. So, before you fall victim to one, you should learn to identify them.

If you consider where to move, and if the move will be complete in one day, then a small moving company will suffice. If you are moving a long distance, and it can take more than two days, then it’s best that you better hire a well-renowned company with the means to entertain your needs.

The crux is, you have to know which type of move you are going to make, and which type of mover can help you out.

Skipping the Right Questions

When you hire movers from Montreal, you have the right to a few questions. There are many details you need to cover to ensure the company is reliable, and your stuff is in good hands. An ideal mover has to provide you with all the info you need, and anticipate questions before you ask.

Moving companies do this all the time, and they expect you to have a few questions. You have to ask the company about the following:

  • Registration Number
  • Rates, and Estimates
  • Subcontractors
  • Additional Charges
  • Insurance
  • Added Transfers
  • Storage Service
  • Packing Service
  • Referrals and Recommendations
  • Complaints and Claims
Posted in All Things Financial, Housing, Travel Tips and Insight | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

5 Things Your Mover Wishes You Knew

Aqib Ijaz

It doesn’t matter what industry you are in; your work needs you to interact with people. It doesn’t matter whether its new or old clients, you just wish they knew a few things that will make your work easier. The same goes for moving companies. Yes, they wish you knew the following pointers!

Don’t Get in Their Way

How can you help the moving team? Let them do their work, and they will be fine. You may believe you know how to get everything done perfectly, but you are paying the professional team for some reason, right? They are trained and have years of experience.

They deal with such hurdles on a daily basis, so they know better than you. They have been moving furniture, boxes, and delicate items for years. They know what they are doing. So, don’t get in their way, this way you won’t stress, and feel frustrated.

Pack before the Big Day

Does your moving company offer packing services?  If yes, then take advantage of it. If you don’t want to, then make sure everything is packed and ready to move before the moving day.

You don’t want to waste their time. If they have to wait for you to finish packing, remember you are paying for their time. So, don’t waste your money and breath. Get everything ready for the big day.

Take Valuables with You

There are a few things you don’t want the moving team to handle. These are your cash, jewelry, and medicine. Don’t burden them with these valuables, trust us they feel the same way.

The fact is, a moving company will take every chance to steer clear of the chance for being accused of stealing or misplacing your valuables, but they are not allowed to say no to a paying customer.

We understand that taking care of your valuables on a moving day is not a walk in thepark, but it’s one of many challenges you will face during the move. So prepare yourself for this.

Label Fragile Items

You want the move to handle fragile items carefully? No surprise, but how can you expect them to do this if they can’t tell fragile items from the rest of your stuff?

Yes, now you get the picture. If you are packing your stuff by yourself, you have to label the fragile stuff with great care. If you are paying the company to pack, then you should remind them to do so.

Take Precaution with Heavy Items

If there is something heavy, you better pack it separately. Yes, you don’t have to pack them with light items. Even large guys will find big and heavy boxes a headache.

They will have a hard time carrying it around, and it can easily burst open. So avoid putting heavy items in a big box with other lightweight items.

You need to differentiate them by packing them in a small box and label it for its heavyweight. The Demenagement ADT will appreciate this thought.

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Don’t hang up your gardening hat just yet, check out these clever wintertime gardening ideas

Gardening doesn’t have to end with your final summer crops each year. Whether you live in milder winter regions or where the snow piles up high, there are so many different gardening projects available to fill the winter months and keep your pastime going until spring. Below Rhianna Miller of Rubber Mulch shares a few great wintertime gardening ideas to keep you busy and productive in the coming months.

Plant Winter Gardens. Swap out your summer containers for winter containers with frost-tolerant flowers and greens such as evergreens, cabbage, twigs, and strings of lights. In milder regions, rotate your garden to a winter one with plant greens, root crops, herbs (depending on your region), and other hardy vegetables.

Indoor Gardening. There are many herbs that can easily be moved indoors during the winter months, such as rosemary, basil, and parsley. Just keep your containers near a window for maximum sunlight. Salad greens are also a cinch to grow indoors with the right amount of light and warmth. Just avoid placing them near cold windows. Other plants like white jasmine, narcissus, and cyclamen open beautiful blossoms during the cool seasons of the year. Even small lemon trees can be grown indoors during the winter months.

Plan Next Spring’s Garden. Winter is the perfect time to start planning your summer garden. There are so many wonderful resources online to help you do the job easily like Smart Gardener or Gardena’s My Garden. During the winter you can lay out your garden, decide what you want to plant, request seed catalogs, and order flower and vegetable seeds, as well as, any new gardening tools and accessories at an off-season discount (think trellises, fencing, compost bin, and plant containers).

Research New Plants and Flowers. Take inventory of your yard and landscaping in the fall and note areas that are lacking and need filling in. Decide if you’re looking for plants, trees, shrubs, or flowers. Take some time for researching plants and figuring out what’s native to your region and would grow the best. Look through online photo galleries, browse through Pinterest, and visit the websites for different seed retailers and see what their offerings are. Once you narrow down your selections, you’ll be ready to order once spring arrives.

Winter Care and Maintenance. There are a lot of things you can do in fall and winter to help prepare yourself for spring. Many of the items on the list take some time and effort and you may not find the time until the cooler months arrive. Things to add to your winter care and maintenance list are cleaning off tools, wrapping terra-cotta and ceramic pots in bubble plastic, organizing seeds, properly storing hoses and tools, and checking the supplies you’ll need for seed starting. The good news is that you may also find some deals online and even in stores with left over gardening tools and supplies.

Prepare a List and a Schedule. First off, you have to map out a winter gardening itinerary to follow. You need to know your area’s frost dates, for starters. The USDA site has a plant hardiness zone map you can use as reference to know which plants are best at surviving cold weather, and which need special care. You can then schedule the chores, tasks, and other activities that need to be done in your winterizing list. Small acts like rolling up garden hoses, putting plastic containers away to prevent from cracking, and draining the fuel tank of lawn mowers will save you a lot of heartache (and money) when spring rolls around.

Trim, Clean and Put Away. Before it gets too cold to do outdoor activities, clean up garden debris as best as you can in milder weather. Leaves, dead stalks, decaying foliage, and other garden refuse can become a breeding ground for pests. Rake fallen leaves, trim overgrown shrubbery, and compost where you can. Don’t forget to put away garden accessories like buckets, hoses, rakes, and others – keep them in a shed so they won’t freeze or rust. Remember to cover your compost with a tarp or a thick layer of hay so that it won’t get soggy with snow. Give your garden a general cleaning so that it still looks presentable after all the snow melts.

Get Rid of Weeds. Don’t neglect weeding pre-winter. Many can survive the cold and wreak havoc on your plants. Carefully remove those with seed heads so that none will come out. Even a tiny portion of seeds can germinate fast and invade your garden in a matter of weeks. Make sure the weeds are nowhere in contact with your other plants and soil. Put them in a covered garbage bin where they belong.

Keep Shrubs Snug and Warm. Plants can experience chill, too. You can wrap shrubs with a burlap sack or a thick fabric to keep them from freezing and suffering windburn. Never use plastic because it doesn’t breathe, and can overheat young plants. When the weather becomes warmer, remove the wrapping right away.

Mulch, Mulch, Mulch. Plants need extra warmth during winter, and mulching will act as a protective blanket for them. New plants that have not taken root yet especially need mulching. It will keep moisture where it needs, and prevent weeds from taking hold, while keeping soil temperature even for tender plants. Check in mid-January to early February if the mulch has moved from heavy wind and rain, and reapply as needed.

Bio: Rhianna Miller is the Home & Garden Design Expert at RubberMulch. Rubber Mulch is the original and environmentally responsible mulch made from 100% recycled rubber used in gardens, playgrounds and sustainable landscaping. Rubber Mulch is weather resistant, durable, and the most cost effective mulch around.

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