Traveling a Different Financial Path

Posted by on Dec 15, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Me on a day trip to the isle of Gozo while living in Malta.

Everyone who knows me also knows that I’m about as unconventional as they come.

I’ve been traveling a different financial path for a long time. The feature photo was taken about thirteen years ago. It was my first long-term trip abroad and my last home away from home on that trip before I returned to the states. I was new at the whole vagabonding experience. Living everywhere but nowhere was the biggest adventure of my lifetime. How did I manage to retire so early and travel at such lengths, even living abroad for up to eight month stretches on a tiny income? People think I’m rich or that I inherited a tidy sum or that maybe I won the lottery, but that’s as far from the truth as you can get. My lifestyle was and is uconventional because I make loads of unconventional choices every day. These choices are often in direct opposition to what I see almost everyone else doing, but I don’t care. I want something quite different than what many of my friends and acquaintances seem to want and that’s okay.

My financial goal has always been to have no debt while living with the lowest monthly overhead possible.

Americans now have the highest credit-card debt in U.S. history

It’s upon those two goals that I base all of my financial decisions. If I earn more money, that’s okay, but not if it’s so I can support a higher monthly overhead. Believe it or not, if push comes to shove, I feel my most secure if I know that we can survive on two part time jobs. That was a third goal of mine and it’s pretty incredible to be in that position. I made a decision today that is a perfect example of one of those daily choices that I make in order to keep low overhead and no debt. I’m going to share my decision making process with you.

Eight years ago when we came back to the states from three years of international vagabonding for the birth of our only grandchild, we didn’t own a car.

Car buyers are going deeper into debt and for longer periods of time as they reach to buy more expensive new cars.

We’d been managing quite nicely abroad using public transport and were enjoying the benefits of keeping our overhead VERY low. You’d be surprised how much less money you need if you don’t own a car. But we were back in the states where public transport was less accessible so we purchased a 2005 Kia Spectra for $5500 cash. That was in 2010. The car is now thirteen years old and still serves our purpose. We have remained a single car couple as well. However, periodically, there is upkeep involved with our little car. It looks like we will be investing another $460 dollars in the car in January with the outside chance that we might need a new clutch before the end of 2018 as well.

Ye gads!

When conventional wisdom whispers in my ear it says, “Do you want to spend that much money on a thirteen year old car? Maybe it’s time to buy a newer car rather than waste your money on this dated vehicle.” Hmmmm … I look around me and people are driving much snazzier, newer cars than I am. But with everything I’ve read about the state of American household debt, I can assume that most have a rather sizable car payment. And, of course, they have higher insurance premiums as well. I could pay cash for a newer car. Of all people, if I want a newer car, why shouldn’t I buy one? Is it foolish for me to pour another possible thousand dollars into my thirteen year old car?

If I listen to my well cultivated non traditional advice, however, it says, “Would you rather spend $1000 dollars now and drive your car for at least another two years or spend $15,000 — $20,000 on a two to four year old car and still have repairs down the road plus much higher insurance payments? How long would it take you to save $15,000 again? Would you be comfortable with a higher monthly overhead because of the increased insurance payments? Is your little car serving your basic needs already? Since you already know that you can’t have it all, what would you prefer to have? Financial freedom and money left over for other things as well as  thousands of dollars left in your savings or a newer car more in keeping with what many of your friends and acquaintances drive?”

Fortunately for me, I always end up listening to my non traditional advice.

I know it has served me well. I don’t get to have everything that I want, but that’s okay. I have lived with immense financial insecurity before. It took it’s toll on my psyche. I have struggled to pay my monthly overhead including debts and it sucked. Often, I couldn’t sleep at night while worrying about where the money for next month’s bills would come from.

Sunset from my winter apartment in Torre Del Mar, Spain.

And, worst of all, everything I earned went to paying for my loans and the rest of my high overhead, leaving me little to do the things I really wanted to do.

I don’t EVER want to return to that way of living, at least not because I was stupid enough to listen to conventional advice. Sure, I could fall upon hard times, circumstances that are beyond my control like illness or a deep depression of our economy that closed our banks and robbed me of my savings. If that should happen, I suspect, I’d find the intestinal fortitude to get through such dire times, but to willingly sacrifice my well being and peace of mind by embracing the American Nightmare would be unforgivable. I know too much now.

So in January, after I return from visiting my sister in Florida, our little Kia will get the repairs she needs. I’ll shell out the $460 dollars to get her road worthy again so that I can drive her to the store, to my granddaughter’s house, to my mother-in-law’s house in Connersville, Indiana, to the Embassy Theater to see a play, down the street to Target and wherever else I plan on going. But here’s the really good bits! I’ll still have that $15,000 in my bank account, my car insurance will be LOW and I’ll still be able to get by on two part time jobs if it should ever come to that. I’ll be sleeping very well, thank you!

Teresa writes about unconventional ways to live life and encourages people to think about the limits our  cultural expectations place upon us. Take a look at her books. Happy trails ….

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