Although it may seem like we jumped into the decision to abandon our lifestyle and go mobile, it has actually been a long time in the making. We didn’t just wake up one day and decide to sell the minivan, buy an Airstream and a truck and drive into the sunset.
So, what did we do?
Our biggest concern as we started planning and scheming was money. How would we afford this? Not just the everyday life, but the initial purchase of both an Airstream and a truck. We had 3 month’s worth of money saved in the bank as an emergency buffer (good idea in anyone’s situation I think) but in no way was it enough to cover the purchases. We definitely needed to finance, but wanted to make sure we’d still have money every month to buy groceries and gas after the monthly payments. As we started looking at our bank accounts we realized there were a few helpful things we were already doing.
1. We paid off our minivan in the spring of 2012. Instead of using that “extra” $600 for day to day life (however tempting that might have sounded) we began paying into a separate “car fund” savings account at our bank so that next time we needed to buy a car we could pay for it in cash. Separate account made it less tempting to spend.
2. We have been a 1 car family since the summer of 2012. Our Ford Focus’ engine died right before we left for California for 5 weeks. We eventually sold it on Craigslist and figured we’d buy another car when and if we needed it. We never have. We do realize Sam working from home really helps this situation. I’m definitely not the type of wife to be stuck at home while my husband has the car all day at work, but I could do it if necessary. If he had a commute, Sam could also bike, take public transportation, or carpool a few days a week so I could have the car to run errands. Lots of possibilities to free up a few hundred dollars a month.
3. We had maxed out our emergency buffer savings account and started putting that $500 into the car fund in addition to the $600 we were already saving.
We totaled up the amount in the car fund and it was a hefty enough sum to put a $5000 down payment on a used truck to lower our monthly premium while not completely draining the account. Once all our loans went through (that’s a different story – not many banks will loan to the self-employed) our monthly payments totaled $829, which turned out to be $270 LESS than the amount we were currently saving into the car fund. Our purchases of both a truck and the Airstream were not going to cost us any extra money per month. After we sold our minivan, that money went back into our savings account & car fund to bring those back up to reasonable levels. We still put that extra $270 into the car fund every month as we anticipate new tires, new batteries (did that one last week), and other improvements or repairs we’ll need to do along the way.
This brings me to our Number One Recommendation to Prepare Financially for Life on the Road:
Live below your means.
Well below your means if you can help it. I can’t tell you how many months I wished we had more money for eating out, taking the kids to movies, going on fun vacations, even groceries. Not stressing about my grocery budget would have made my life so much simpler. I’d look at that account transfer every month and think, “But if we just used a little of it…”
You know what? It was worth it. Every time we scrimped, every time we decided to not make a big purchase but instead save the money, every time I made dinner instead of eating out, we were one step closer to our dream.
Fulfilling and living our dream took sacrifice and planning. It hasn’t been an easy road (it still isn’t) but knowing that we are actually doing what we’ve always dreamed about is better than anything else we could have bought.