Many people have been asking Shelly and I about the process we used to get to the point where we could travel around in an RV full time. The process was relatively simple, though it did take some time. Over the next few days, I’m going to go through the steps that worked for us. Most people could probably apply the same principles to reformat their lives and follow their dreams.
Step One: Get Lighter
Most of us are bogged down with too much of the things that make it difficult to radically change our lives. We have too much debt, too many bills, and too many material possessions. As an example, we had many former colleagues that routinely complained about working for our school district. Teaching is a peculiar career in that moving almost always requires a significant pay cut. They couldn’t sacrifice their present lifestyle to make a move. The goal of this step is to create a situation where you will have the freedom to make radical decisions.
We’re going to use a three-pronged approach to solve this problem and make ourselves lighter. We’ll eliminate excess to gain freedom. We’re going to address:
- Expenses, and
Our original “plan” had nothing to do with traveling the country in an RV. We just wanted to stop living paycheck to paycheck. We were in a situation where almost all of our take-home income was spent on debt payments. The only way we could afford anything was to finance it. It sucked.
I did a little research and stumbled upon Dave Ramsey. I liked his approach (The Total Money Makeover), so we decided to start his debt snowball plan. He breaks the process down into manageable steps, which includes ideas like starting an emergency fund, paying off the debts from smallest to largest to build psychological and financial momentum, and never buying on credit.
Over two years, we eliminated car payments, student loans, the debt from purchasing our mattress, and a host of other debts. Eliminating these debt payments allowed us to live on a significantly reduced income, which ultimately gives us the freedom to do what we do.
Part of Ramsey’s plan involves reducing expenses and directing the money toward debt payments. For us, this meant reducing our spending on things such as groceries, eating out less, and only purchasing stuff we absolutely needed. This also involved eliminating bills like our elaborate cable plan. We went from a $150 per month bill down to $45 (basic cable + Internet). This also included our land line phone, newspaper subscription, and gym membership. If we didn’t need it to live, we eliminated it.
In the beginning, Shelly and I had a ton of crap. We actually had a storage unit for some of our junk. We started by eliminating all the stuff we had been wanting to eliminate but never had the motivation. This stuff was truly garbage.
Next came the stuff we had been keeping around in case we needed it… someday. This stuff was pretty easy to eliminate, too.
The next wave was more difficult- the stuff we either used occasionally or had some distant sentimental value. The first few things we eliminated weren’t easy. For the stuff we occasionally used, like tools, we had to find alternatives if that item was needed. In the case of tools, we just borrowed them from friends.
The sentimental stuff was more difficult. We decided to take a middle-of-the-road approach and gave ourselves six Rubbermaid containers to save stuff we couldn’t take with us in our RV. By the time we were done, we had given away about 80-90% of our possessions.
The Next Phase
The process of getting lighter took us quite some time. We could have done it faster, but we didn’t have a clear goal in the early days. If we would have dived in head-first, we probably would have finished the plan in less than a year.
The next phase is another that will take time- building a platform. I would recommend starting the second phase at the same time as the first.
Stage Two: Coming soon!