We are presented the question or inquisitive looks on how we can afford to change our lifestyle to a full-time travel and RV living adventure. It’s always difficult and uneasy question to answer without offending someone, sounding arrogant or delving into the societal faux pas of not talking about finances. We have decided to go ahead and share anyway to provide our successes, failures and ultimately help others towards a similar path to financial freedom if they are interested. Our desire is to simply share knowledge and our journey.
Both of us have were raised with a “basic” understanding of finances and managing money. Meaning we understood you shouldn’t spend more than you have, how to balance a checkbook and pay bills on time. Within those guidelines we were living pretty normal lives. We had all the “normal” bills in order to “ensure we built credit because you need to”. Financed two cars, student loan debt, home mortgage, credit card just to list a few of the debts we felt were supposed to help us through life.
About five years ago C got hooked on talk radio shows on her way home from work which included, “The Dave Ramsey Show.” She came home with a new story daily about people struggling to find their way through mounds of debt with the guidance of this finance guy who “doesn’t believe in debt.” Unfortunately for C and her story telling ability she would remember the punch line, but forget the details so eventually we both had to start listening. The radio show listening evolved into purchasing Ramsey’s audio book (The Total Money Makeover) and listening to his podcasts. Getting hooked on the program and knowing others were doing the same seemed to motivate us to control our debt and manage our money with a purpose.
We began implementing the very clear process of the baby steps in order to try and find ourselves in the same financial freedom the debt free screamers were experiencing. First step in the process was to stop the bleeding of funds and get control of the situation. Then playing to each other’s strengths we attacked our debt from different perspectives, but still as a joint force. C being great at the bargain and discount shopping, she focused on cutting our budget through savings. Things like every few months calling the cable company to request a lower rate or we are going to drop them, coupon clipping, finding the grocery deal such as discount ground beef and chicken on Tuesdays, free entertainment around town, etc. J is a numbers and money person, so he developed an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of all spending with all to colorful charts and graphs to visually represent incoming and outgoing.
One of the first things we noticed was the trivial ($10 or less) little purchases each of us spent without knowing it and how they added up throughout the month. Like a paper cut it doesn’t hurt to spend it at the moment, but with enough it can cause some significant pain in the budget. Although Mr. Ramsey suggests the envelope system, we weren’t very good or comfortable keeping the amounts of cash on hand. Instead we made sure to spend every dollar on paper as he suggests through the Excel and keep each other on track with where we were for each of the remaining balances. This was an additional boost to our relationship as it forced us to discuss our finances more frequently as well be more accountable to each other and our budget.
Over time by sticking with the process we found ourselves in baby step 6 being debt free except our house, emergency fund in place, and investments being funded. Additionally, we started planning a vehicle fund in order to ultimately replace our aging cars. Though we heard it time and time again on the show, it is remarkable to see the change emotionally and physiologically on how we spent our money. When we stopped utilizing credit to pay for things we truly reduce the amount we expended and really consider want versus need.
When life brought us to the pivotal decision point to take up RV and travel full-time, it was immensely easier knowing financially we were in a good place. We reassigned the vehicle replacement fund to the purchasing of our future home on wheels, sold our boat and began saving with the new goal in mind. When it came time to make the purchase it was extremely difficult to part with the hard earned and saved money. We started to find ourselves being extremely selective on which RV was for us being it was real money leaving our accounts. In the end, our new mindset helped us stick to a budgeted dollar amount to pay cash for our RV and remained debt free except for our current home which is on the market.
The Dave Ramsey resources were a great guideline and motivator for us to get to where we are today. It wasn’t an easy path to walk and there were definitely times we stumbled. Having our end goal and support of each other made the journey much easier. Our continued communication with each other and a “Semper Gumby” (Always Flexible)approach to understanding sometimes Murphy joins in on our finances helped us get through. No matter your personal methodology a goal of financial independence can be reached.