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Posted on Jan 2, 2014 | 0 comments

Start Your Engines

Toy cars on the coffee table

Cars, trucks, and motorcycles. What more could a little boy want?

The new year has begun and we are hitting the ground running. We’ve made some huge progress towards our cruising goals in only a few days and the realization has finally sunk in. Things just got serious, folks. All of a sudden Dan and I have become somewhat overwhelmed by the amount of work that must be done in a relatively short time.

Let’s back up a bit. A few weeks ago, we were working on our financial plans trying to figure out what exactly still needed to be done before we could attain our preferred amount of savings (i.e. $10,000 kitty; $3,000 per house rental reserves; and $40-50,000 in total boat purchase/refit allowance.) Our goal was to purchase at least 1 more rental house so our total could be 5 houses producing around $1,500 a month in total profit. To do that, we would either need to buy a 5th house out of our current boat savings (boo!) or sell our owner occupied house for enough to pay for 2 house down payments (yay!) 

We decided to talk to the realtor who sold our last house as well as showing our house to a coworker of Dan’s who said she might be interested. The realtor quoted us a very healthy number that would far outweigh the cost of purchasing 2 additional houses, but it turns out that listing it wasn’t even necessary. Dan’s coworker loved our house so much that she made an offer one day after seeing it and our tentative scheduled closing date is February 3rd! Talk about a quick sale from thinking about selling to sold in a week! The only downside is now we have to get another house purchased ASAP or we might be out on the street in a month. Packing and house shopping is on the menu for sure!

In addition to working out our housing issues we also decided now would be a good time to start actively searching for our boat. We want to have plenty of time to find the best boat for us for the right price. I’ll go into more detail on that search in another post coming soon, but the important thing is there has been a major shift in mindset occurring in our plans. We are no longer looking at boats as prototypes or theoretical options, now every boat we look at has the potential to be the one. Serious scrutiny of each boat and the options available takes a lot of time and effort to get right, but it’s crucial that we make good choices in the beginning to allow ourselves to stay on track for cruising this year.

That’s right, I said it: WE’RE CRUISING THIS YEAR! Happy 2014!

 

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Posted on Aug 22, 2013 | 0 comments

Please Hold

A lot can change in a year.

A lot can change in a year.

We are stuck in a moment of anticipation. Wound tight like a spring preparing to release and just waiting for the trigger to be pulled. The jetliner full of people sitting on the tarmac while someone changes out the light bulb. The senior class two weeks before graduation. We are so ready to start our new life that we ache with the tension of waiting. And yet here we sit in our holding pattern, day after day after day wondering what are we still doing here?

At our current rate of savings, Dan and I will be preparing to quit our jobs in just about one year from now. One more year of rolling out of bed every morning knowing that this is not where we want to be. One more year of watching Carter change from a toddler into a little boy. While logically we know that one year will move so quickly that we will feel rushed and surprised when it finally comes time to take the plunge, right now every day is an internal struggle between “we have a great plan” and “just do it, we’ll survive”.

In the meantime, we’re trying to keep busy and check items off of our to-do lists. Home repairs, SCUBA certifications, and potty training are all on the docket for the next few months. We’re doing our best to savor the things that we won’t have when we leave, while also slowly untying the lines that hold us here. Each day that passes brings us ever closer to our dream and we want to be ready when the time comes. That being said, if anyone out there has a fully stocked cruising boat for 3 that you’d like to get rid of for $10,000 or less just let us know, I’m sure we could find someone to take it off of your hands.

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Posted on Aug 14, 2013 | 0 comments

Good Things Happen at Night

Though we didn't take this picture, we did see this meteor ourselves. It was stunning!

Though we didn’t take this picture, we did see this meteor ourselves. It was stunning!

As a teenager I remember hearing a statement by well-meaning adults that went something like “Nothing good ever happens after 10:00 PM.” Well, no offense to those people but this last weekend was yet another example of how there are always exceptions to every rule. (I’ve never really understood why adults feel the need to impart statements that only serve to elicit eye rolls and intentional contradictions from teenagers but that’s another issue entirely.) Last Friday and Saturday night were late ones for us but very rewarding in that we were able to spend some real quality time with Dan’s brother Kyle and his wife Becca.

Partially due to our influence Kyle and Becca have been putting a lot of thought into moving somewhere warmer with a better quality of life. Kyle has recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in engineering and has quickly come to the realization that the promises made by college recruiters a few years ago weren’t all that they were cracked up to be. Friday night at around 10, he called us up and they came over to get some advice on budgeting and planning for their future goals. (After we got out of bed… yes we are the 20-something, old people who are in bed on Friday night at 9:30.) We talked with them at our kitchen table until 1:30 in the morning about dreams and goals that they have and how to figure out where to start. They left with plans to come back the next night and start by finding their baseline…where are they now? where do they want to be? and what to they need to do to get there?

After dinner together on Saturday night of the fabulous grouper that Kyle speared in Panama City (remember the Most Beautiful Beaches?) we jumped right in and started sorting through the last six months of bills, bank statements, and credit card purchases to find a complete understanding of their current spending and to build a good budget that will let them save the kind of money that they hope will get them where they want to go. For anyone who has never done this before, you should because it can be eye opening to see how just rearranging your spending a bit can significantly impact your goals. I have no doubts that if Dan and I hadn’t done the exact same thing 2 years ago at the start of all of this that we would be nowhere close to the financial situation we are now in. It was immensely gratifying for both of us to see Kyle and Becca getting that same kind of focus and understanding together that we have shared.

After working hard and getting to a good stopping point, we decided to reward ourselves with a night of spectacular star gazing. Every year at the beginning of August is the Perseids meteor shower, the most active one of the year. We bundled up the sleeping baby into the car with the four of us and plenty of blankets to lay on and headed out of town to a camp about half an hour away. The sky was free of so much light pollution and with no moon to hide them, the stars were out in force. We trekked down to a small valley with just the five of us in the large prairie and spread our blankets out to watch the show. Nothing can compare to watching shooting stars with people you love.

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Posted on Jul 22, 2013 | 0 comments

A New Car with a Side of Friendship

Small but mighty!

Small but mighty!

Over the last few months, several times Dan and I have brought up selling our GMC Jimmy and buying a vehicle with better gas mileage. Though we had only owned the Jimmy for a little over a year, we’ve had multiple repairs that we’ve had to make in addition to only getting around 15 mpg on average. We figured out that even though we only are planning to own our cars for one more year or so, there was still significant savings to be made so we starting searching for a reliable car with good gas mileage. We got a little help from the financial blogger Mr. Money Mustache who has a list that we used of the top rated small cars for reliability.

We quickly found that we really liked the look, efficiency, and pricing of the Scion xD and xA hatchbacks. These cars are stylish and fun while getting great gas mileage and having plenty of interior room for the three of us. (Note: they are still pretty small cars so anything more than 2 adults and 2 small kids is going to feel cramped.) We found an xD on craigslist only about 45 minutes from us and decided to check it out.

As Dan went on the test drive (we had Carter with us so I stayed behind) I started talking to the couple that currently owned the car, Kyle and Becky. The conversation sounded something like this:

“So, why are you selling your car?”

“Well, we’re pretty much selling all of our stuff because we are moving to Belize.”

“Really? Are you going there to do anything specific?”

(apprehensive pause) “We’re planning to be self-sustaining farmers and work at an orphanage there.”

How cool is that! Just in the course of a few minutes I got to hear about how this couple about our age are getting ready to head out on their own epic journey and follow their hearts off of the well worn path. Even though I could tell Becky was obviously nervous about telling us their plan (as I understand completely) I’m so glad she broke the ice. We were able to share some of our experiences in trying to plan for the unknown and made new friends. Most of all it was so encouraging to meet other people who share in common with us their belief that we are not prepared for our current life to continue on without change. Their journey will be very different from ours, but it comes from the same desire to live more extraordinary lives while we have the opportunity.

We were happy to be able to help fund their goal in some small way by buying their car (which we love by the way) and if you would be interested in buying their house in Lincoln, Illinois here is the listing. We wish the best of luck to Kyle and Becky and hope that they see their dreams come to fruition very soon. Maybe if we make our way over to Belize in the next few years we will meet up with them again.

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Posted on Apr 12, 2013 | 0 comments

Digging a Little Deeper

Sure it can eat through mud and snow...and your wallet.

Sure it can eat through mud and snow…and your wallet.

Now that we’ve taken care of most of our “big-ticket” items to improve our savings, Dan and I are trying to tackle the smaller ways that we can find extra dollars in our budget. Not only is this important for increasing our savings to maximum levels but it also is helping to prepare us for living more frugally while cruising. If we want to have any kind of decent chance at living on $1000-$1500 a month than we have to get serious about knowing where each of our dollars goes and how to cut that down as much as possible.

The tracking part is made much easier by the online financial website that we use: Mint.com. We have all of our bank accounts, credit cards, loans, and investment accounts tied in so they automatically update whenever you long in. We’ve used this program for a few years and we’re pretty happy with it, though it can be a lengthy process to set everything up and figure out what budgets you want to set for yourself. Once you have been using it for a couple of months, it can really help to show you where your money is going every month. For some time now, it has been giving us a pretty clear indication that we have been spending too much in the Food and Gas departments, so we’ve finally decided to get those under control.

Food was first and it was somewhat daunting to me to be honest. Not to play the martyr working mom bit, but it is really hard to provide home cooked meals during a working week. There’s just not enough time to be able to figure out what to make every day and go pick things up from the store so I had to find a different approach. A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that we have purchased a subscription to 5meals1hour.com for five dollars a month. Well, we’ve completed the first months’ worth of recipes and I can honestly say that we are way ahead of where we were last month, but I can’t give all the credit to the menus. We only used about 1/3 of the recipes on the menus, but we have still been eating at home on average of 5 days a week, which is a huge deal for us. I think just the change in mindset about grocery shopping every two weeks for actual planned meals has been the biggest positive change that 5dinners1hour has made for us. We can still improve a lot in this area, especially because I’m not a very experienced grocery shopper yet so I think we’re paying too much for our groceries, but we’re seeing a definite change in attitude and habits.

Gas spending is our other cash hog. Like a lot of people we know, it’s just something that we haven’t taken seriously before. But looking at our accounts, we have spent almost $1300 in gas alone since February 1! That’s averaging $18.50 per day, yikes! Here are a few strategies we are implementing to help us cut down this silent killer.

  1. Drive less…obviously. Eating meals at home isn’t just saving us money in the food department, it means less driving too.
  2. Walk and Ride Bikes, and not just for leisure riding. Dan has started riding his bike to work most days and we are planning to use our bikes for trips to the grocery store, library, and other close to home errands.
  3. Get rid of the gas guzzler in the driveway. We’re still working on this one, but the goal is to eliminate one of our 15 mpg SUV’s for a 30+ mpg compact car. Even if we have to spend some money over the sale of our Jeep, we should get most of it back in the end when we sell it in a year. This one has the potential to save us in the realm of $250/month!

Hopefully, we’ll find some good success using these strategies and find others to help us keep our everyday spending in check. If you have any suggestions, let us know in the comments!

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