Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Taking leaps

It's difficult to get away if you work at a job that only gives you two to three weeks off per year. When I was a CPA, that was all I was given for vacation. I started to take time off during slow periods without pay. Weekends were precious and we would take many mini-vacations to surrounding areas by taking off Friday after work and returning home on Sunday. 

Personal time is worth so much. What were we working for
anyway? We wanted more and more time together. Charley was a teacher and had that extra time in the summer, Christmas, and spring break.
So I jumped off a scary metaphorical cliff onto a new career path. It was really quite scary because I had worked so hard to get where I was and it was a very respectable position. Pride is a nasty trap. The career leap turned out to be perfect. I loved teaching and it fit my outgoing nature. The classroom was like plugging into electricity. Since we valued our personal time so highly, we never taught during the summer. That was our time, time to recover, to refresh spiritually and physically, and to explore this amazing world.

We host traveling cyclists through Warmshowers. One spring, we hosted a couple of older, retired gentlemen who were going to ride through Texas to see the bluebonnets and other beautiful wildflowers. We were so jealous. Charley was intrigued. We'd only toured during the deathly heat of the summer. Charley asked, “Can we do it financially with only my retirement?” You see, I'm 14-1/2 years younger than my mate and my career change only gave me ten years in teaching so I was not eligible to retire. My response was, “We could look at pros and cons and work the numbers all day but we won't know if we don't give it a shot.” We basically had everything we desired (or so we thought) so Charley retired and I quit work (he's a retired gentleman and I'm a bum). Plan B, our net if finances got too tight, I would go back to work. It's been seven years and we haven't implemented Plan B yet.

As far as money is concerned, I save like the IRS withholds money from our paychecks: take it before you see it and you won't miss it as much. I seem to recall in one of my accounting classes the discussion of IRS withholding practices. At one point, people would receive their pay at one company window then go to the next window and pay their taxes. That really didn't work out so well since it's harder to give up the money once we have it in our hands. So the IRS began withholding--taking it away from us before we saw it. That really sparked my way of saving. So, I would evaluate how much money we actually used and have the bank automatically transfer the excess funds to our savings on a per paycheck basis. By the time summer rolled around I had plenty to maintain the household expenses and have travel expenses to boot. If you don't think you can spare anything, start with a small amount like $25 per paycheck. You'll be amazed how it adds up.

Technology is wonderful today and makes it so easy to take care of things while traveling on the road. Back in 1998, when we first started our long-distance cycle touring, I would make out checks to the various bill collectors (electric, gas, water, etc.), sign and date them. I paid an honest young neighbor who would go through my mail and fill out the amounts that were due on the bills and mail everything. (She'll be reading this and let it be known to all that we still love her!) Then automatic payments became possible. This really transformed my ability to pay things. Everything is drafted automatically and I can monitor withdrawals and balances at a distance.

The leap of purchase:
We've owned our Casita about 2-1/2 years now. The purchase was a leap itself. We had a difficult decision buying it and, as mentioned in a previous post, visited the factory 3 times and went through 2 other modes of travel before we finally committed ourselves to this little abode on wheels. I'm a nerd and formal CPA. I can't keep myself from making spreadsheets. So I have a spreadsheet that keeps track of every night we've spent in our roaming home. After years of research, we found that Casita trailers only depreciated $800 - $1,000 a year and Charley asked this rhetorical question, "Would you rent one for $1,000 a year." The answer was a resounding YES! So on my spreadsheet, I take the cost and divide it by the nights spent in the trailer, I take the $1,000 (for each fiscal year) and divide that year's nights into it. This calculation shows us the diminishing cost per night, both from the overall cost stand-point and the theoretical $1,000 per year. So for our two and a half years we have over 29,000 miles on her and 224 nights. 

So leaps lead to the unknown. It's nice and safe to stay all warm and cozy in the known. But you don't know what's over the horizon if you don't take that leap and sometimes it leads to greater things and greater adventures.

Happy trails.

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