Based on the rough “worst-case scenario” estimate that we did a few weeks ago, we’ve been operating with the plan that we would be capable of paying off 5 of our 7 outstanding balances in the next 40 months. The two balances left to be paid would be the truck (a consistent $400 per month, which is set to be paid off in November 2021) and the mortgage (also a consistent amount, which we plan to pay off when we sell the house, obviously.) But, I did some more detailed number-crunching the other day to better evaluate our mission and plan to become debt-free as soon as possible to see if our worst-case scenario of 40 months was indeed the worst-case scenario. The original number-crunch had been conducted after a few adult beverages, so, let’s just say, I wanted to check our math. After approaching the numbers in a non-threatening, stone-sober fashion, it turns out 40 months really was the WORST of the worst-case scenario. Realistically, we are on course to have 6 of our 7 outstanding balances paid, in-full, within the next 31 months, without sending any more money out the door per month than we are right this very minute. Well, sort of. I budgeted in using $1,000 from each of our income tax returns for the next three years (2017, 2018 and 2019) to put towards out debt-free mission. Other than that additional money one time per year after getting our tax return back, the monthly outgoing stays the exact same. And, we’ll have the truck included in the 31-month debt-free mission, letting our only debt as our mortgage. Crunching the numbers resulted in a pretty stellar Excel spreadsheet, detailing every payment for every account between now and when the account is paid off, which I’ve determined may make me a bit neurotic. But, the upside is that this Type A spreadsheet will double as our progress bar where it will be super simple to keep track of how much progress we’ve made and what our intended time line is. I shared the good news with Josh, who was as excited as I was that things seem possible. Actually, not just possible, but achievable. Realistically achievable. Within the next 31 months. We can do this! We’ve already experienced the positive financial impact that occurred when we made the conscious decision to stop buying stuff. We’ve got money left over when the next paycheck arrives. It’s become easier to look at things in a store and say “I don’t NEED that so I’m not buying it.” We weigh the idea of eating out – do we spend $100 to fill our bellies with someone else’s food or do we cook at home, save $80 and fill our bellies with better tasting food? Of course there are still nights we order from the pizza shop, nights we spend $100 on dinner when we go out and nights we decided to order the $15 appetizer, just because we want to. But, those days have become more calculated and, as a result, less frequent.
Just this past weekend, we celebrated Josh’s 35th birthday by meeting some friends and family for a night at the local casino for dinner, gambling and drinks. We decided beforehand to take cash to gamble with and that we would put our dinner on our debit card. It was Josh’s birthday celebration, after all. Dinner was fine – okay food, mediocre service and expensive are the norm at this particular establishment, but, we go because it’s a fun experience – and it cost us $60. We bet on almost all the horse races that evening and got super lucky when I picked the horse with the 20:1 odds that ended up coming in first place! (The horse’s name was “Happy Indeed,” how could I NOT pick it?!) It was only a $2 bet so my winnings were $60, but, it was something AND it paid for our dinner so no need to put anything on our debit card. We headed to the casino and Josh did extremely well playing Head’s Up Texas Hold ‘Em, walking away from the table with upwards of $250. (Josh’s brother Matt was the big winner of the night, though. Winning $190 on one turn of roulette. He’s just a lucky SOB like that.) After leaving the casino, we hit two more bars and ended up staying out until the bar closed and they kicked us out, drinking, laughing and loving with our friends and family. In retrospect, it’s been FOREVER since we’ve closed a bar…I think we’re getting old. When we arrived home, we counted what cash Josh had left in his pocket, as we hadn’t kept track of what we made vs. what we spent. We had dinner, bet horses and gambled, drank and had a fantastic night with our loved ones and had returned home with $305 in cash. And nothing put on our debit card. Of course, it’s not every time that we go to the casino that we end up walking out with a few extra dollars in our pocket. But, we agree on a plan before we head out. How much are we willing to throw away tonight in order to have fun? We take the cash that we’re willing to let at the casino and that’s it. When the cash is gone, it’s time to call it a night. There’s no hitting the ATM because I decide I could use another drink after we’ve used up all the cash. There’s no using the debit card for drinks because all the cash is gone. When the agreed upon amount of cash is gone, that’s it and it’s time to go. Or have a FREE bottle of water and enjoy the band. Either way, the spending stops when the cash is gone. I’m very blessed to be married to someone who is willing to set these limits with me and stay the course instead of gambling away our savings, home and happiness. I’m also very blessed to be married to someone who is willing to stay the course with our plan of not buying stuff and paying off our debt in order to free ourselves from the grind.
I’ve been working on our goal of going paperless over the past few weeks, too. I’m happy to report that our filing cabinet that, just a few weeks ago, was stuffed full of disorganized papers, is nearly empty. One of the two drawers in the filing cabinet is now completely empty. Not a folder, hanging file or piece of paper in it. The other drawer holds just a handful of hanging files that contain papers that are relevant for our current jobs, health insurance and life insurance policies. I’ll convert these remaining files to electronic storage through attrition and then be done with the paper filing cabinet monster! I’ve been making a concerted effort to not carry papers upstairs unless it’s absolutely necessary that we hold onto the paper copy (which hasn’t happened in the past 3 weeks). Everything gets scanned in and then trashed or burnt, depending on its contents. I figured out how to have my portable scanner scan PDF files directly to Evernote which has been EXTREMELY useful throughout this project, as I’ve found that I don’t care for maintaining a non-searchable PDF file of each and every receipt on our server. Evernote is beneficial for this type of electronic storage for a number of reasons. 1 – PDF’s are stored within Evernote, not taking up space on our server. 2 – Evernote maintains its own backups so I don’t have to worry about backing up all the PDF receipts I would be scanning to our server. 3 – PDF’s scanned right to Evernote have a thumbnail image where you can get a glimpse of what the document is without having to open each and every document to see what they are. 4 – Evernote makes PDF’s searchable! Read it again – Evernote makes PDF’s SEARCHABLE! That means, each receipt that you scan into Evernote becomes searchable, using whatever criteria you want to search for. You want a Lowe’s receipt from 4/13/2015? No problem and you’ve got it in front of you in seconds. You want to see all the Walmart receipts that show you purchased butter? No problem. Search results are returned in seconds and you can confirm that you buy wayyyyy too much butter. I’m avoiding the entire process of scanning a document to a folder on my computer, renaming the document so I know what it is and moving it to wherever I have determined it should live. With Evernote, scan it in, put it in the notebook it belongs in and call it good. Even if you later decide to change your organization within Evernote, the PDF’s are still searchable, so you should never spend hours looking for one specific document. It’s like opening your filing cabinet door, telling it what you want and having that document automatically pop out of the file for you. Pure heaven for incessant organizers like me.
I’ve also been continuing to sort, purge and sell things that we’re really not using and don’t plan to use. This process has been a bit slower than I would like so far. I take all these pictures of my crap. Measure the height, width and length of the crap. Decide how much someone is likely to give me in exchange for taking ownership of the crap. Put all of this information about the crap together and put it on a yard sale site, hoping that someone logs on and realizes that this is just the crap they’ve been looking for. The pictures, measuring and advertising have been going about as well as planned – slow but steady, Josh has been helping with pictures and pricing while the dog has decided that he needs to give each piece of crap his fair assessment. The selling has been tough. So far, I’ve sold a handful of things and made decent money on all the sales, but, I’d like to sell more of it more quickly. I briefly toyed with the idea of setting up all the crap and calling family and friends to come pick through it and take it home with them. I decided against the idea because I’m not sure they’d take enough with them and then I’d be left with a basement full of crap on display. I haven’t quite succumbed to the idea that it would be wiser to donate it all to Goodwill and take the tax write off either. Aside from having a yard sale, I’m not sure how I would accomplish selling more quickly. So for now, more crap processing in hopes of crap selling. The dog will be pleased.
Being the planner that I am, I have been putting some thought into how I will attack the major purging of the house nearer to the time of needing to get rid of everything. At this point, I’m planning to have a massive sale. I plan to, first, identify the items that I absolutely want to keep when we move aboard and move those things into one room that can be closed and locked. Most likely that room will be the den, as that’s where all of the guns are already and they, of course, will need to be secured during the sale. Then, I plan to let everything that’s left sit where it is and put a price sticker on it. Then plan on (at least) two weekends for this big purge. The first weekend would be open to only friends and family so that they can come “shop” for whatever they may want before the general public. Of course, everything they would take would be for free. But, after they’re through, do a little advertising and let the general public come through, pull what they want and collect money for everything just outside the front door. Rinse and repeat as many weekends as necessary to rid the house of the crap. At that point, I won’t mind random strangers knowing where my house is and coming through my house to eyeball my crap. I’m pretty sure recruiting some guys to play “security” for this craptastic sale wouldn’t be a bad idea either. After all, I’d like to make SOME money on my crap and not just have it walk out the front door. After I’ve gotten my fill of weekends full of strangers in my home, I’ll call Salvation Army and have them come pick up whatever’s left. Mission accomplished with relatively minimal effort. At least that’s my hope. I think my plan, at this point, is to hold off on the sales and massive purges until about a month before the house was to go on the market to be sold. I thought it would be a wise idea to be able to have some information available about when the house would be listed available at the sales to drum up interest and potential buyers. And, the sales (and clean-up via donation, if necessary) would achieve the goal of emptying the house for when it goes on the market and needs to be shown. But, since so much of our plan hinges on me becoming vested in my pension at work (October 17, 2021), I anticipate that a lot of gears will be in motion so careful planning will be important in order to prevent insanity.
On a different, though somewhat related note, I heard about a must-read book the other day that I began reading last evening and finished today at lunchtime. “Leap Of Faith: Quit Your Job And Live On A Boat” by Ed Robinson. Quitting working forever isn’t quite in our plans just yet, but, I hope our plans turn in that direction eventually. The sooner the better. At this point, Josh and I have agreed that we will need to return to work, at least part-time, upon moving aboard, at least until things settle down and the complete financial picture becomes clearer. With that being said, the book was great and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who is curious about the idea of quitting the conventional lifestyle and really living more. After reading it, I feel like it might be the perfect explanation for those people who will doubt our decision to quit our cushy jobs, sell everything and live on a boat. I was also really, really reassured after reading Ed’s strategy for how anyone with enough courage and determination can quit their job and live on a boat: Step 1 – Stop Buying Stuff, Step 2 – Pay Off All Your Debt, Step 3 – Save Money, Step 4 – Get Rid Of Your Stuff. Conveniently, Step 1 has been in action for nearly two months with considerable success so far. Step 2 began a few weeks ago when we paid off our Visa and immediately began paying on the next debt. Step 3 will be important, but, we’re not quite there yet due to being on the 29-month-til-debt-free plan. And we’ve at least begun Step 4 and plan to continue making forward progress. There’s a bunch of things that Ed writes in the Leap Of Faith that I will, no doubt, end up quoting in future ramblings, I’m sure. After I finished Leap Of Faith, I saw that Ed has written a number of other books that are available in eBook format that might be worth checking out.