We have three kids, a travel trailer, and are mortgage-less. We have nothing binding us to any particular place, and are relatively free to explore new places on our whim. But it wasn't always this way, and it's not quite simple living, either.
Let me introduce you to how we got here: 13 years ago in 2007 when we left Oklahoma for Florida after Chris left the military, we discussed owning and operating a hair salon during that four-day drive. In 2010, we opened our doors to the world, defied the odds by staying in business, and then in 2016 we sold the salon. It wasn't wildly profitable, but we were effectively reimbursed for our six years of "sweat equity".
Shortly after that, we sold our four-bedroom house in Sunrise and headed into the sunset to California with our two bicycles and stuffed all of our belongings in our 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan and 26-foot travel trailer (a ball of a story deserving of its own post). Getting rid of our furnitures and other things that we had never used for years gave us a sense of accomplishment and liberation. It turns out we really could survive without having those things! Do I regret it? HELL NO. I'm talking about a dining table, side tables, candleholders, piles of toys, books, kitchenware, etc. I absolutely do not miss them and my kids would never remember them.
Here are some of the practices that we have managed to accomplish so far:
Minimizing personal belongings
Had this been presented to us a decade ago, I would've said, "No way! How about my more than a dozen pair of shoes?!" Now, I'm very comfortable having one pair of flip flops, hiking shoes, work shoes and a pair of sneakers. Oh, yes I almost forgot my favorite pair of high heels for formal events. For the kids, it's always an ongoing challenge. We try to keep a single medium-sized container box for each kid with their hand-picked favorite toys. Watching them pick the toys they wanted to keep was harder than selecting my shoes to keep! We just get so attached to our own memories of them playing with certain toys that it's difficult for us to part with them.
Just by eliminating subscription services like cable, Netflix, and Hulu, we are saving an average of $200 per month. We've digitized our DVD collection and keep them on a media server for our private use. For the videos we don't have, we tap into Amazon Prime. We still have our cellphones, though. We use Dropbox for cloud-storage since we have probably near a terabyte of photos and data. There are things worth paying transactionally (pay as you use) like movies if you don't have enough time to binge watch, why pay unlimited for the services for only occasional use?
Setting a budget especially for food is still the most basic and the most effective way of saving money. We cut our dining out bills by 90% alone! Imagine all the things that you could do with the extra money in low cost of living areas?!
It's not easy, but neither is it impossible to save money. We have embraced buying used things, like cars, from True Car, to used furniture, to our RV! LetGo and Facebook Marketplace are two of my favorite sites for finding amazing deals and of course when you're in California, some thrift stores are like boutiques. I'm so impressed with how they categorize their merchandises, sometimes they arrange their goods by color, making it easier to find things. If I'm looking for a specific stuff like pressure cooker, Goodwill hasn't failed me.
You know what was surprisingly the most fun? Going thrifting with Chris and the kids. We do it with our whole family. Some places has large selection of used books and unused boardgames and our girls love it!
Earlier this year, Chris wrote an article dedicated to how he manages our personal household financials. It's a really good read if you're just getting started on your personal finance journey.
Of course, we understand that not everyones circumstances are the same. Some of us have learned our lesson the hard way on using credit cards. We have been fortunate and disciplined enough to use our credit cards, which we pay off every month to avoid paying interest. When we bought a larger truck so we could haul our tribe around, we financed it only because the lending rate for it was lower than the interest we were earning where we kept the money. For example, at the time, our long-term savings account was paying 2.20% while the interest rate on the loan was 1.9%, offered by Space Coast Credit Union. It made much more financial sense than withdrawing the money from savings while it's increasing in value to pay for a used car.
It's never too late to start minimizing your expenses and start saving. Start with small things, like recurring subscriptions. We wish we had done it sooner.
What tips do you have on how to live minimally and eliminate unnecessary expenses? Please subscribe below and reply to the confirmation email.