If you haven’t heard our story, you are about to learn a lot about how we go to where we are financially. This post is about living simply and how you can make strides to multiply your financial goals by taking the same principles and applying them to your life. It doesn’t have to be exactly what we did but it can help you 5x your financial goals if you are willing to explore the idea.
Let’s get to it!
As some of you may know, Jen and I made a huge leap of faith in 2014 to simplify our lives to to get out of debt. Many of you can probably attest to the weight that financial instability can bring to life.
It’s normal for people our age (mid-twenties to early thirties) to have a ton of debt, the average amount is nearly $40,000! Most of all we hated feeling like we would be in debt forever.
When we first got married, we had always dreamed of becoming “financially free” enough to just quit our jobs and travel the U.S. or better yet, the world!
This got us thinking…
If we kept our jobs, bought a camper, and focused on setting some short-term financial goals to meet while living in the camper, we could really knock out our debt fast!
We developed what we thought were the best ways we could do this. That meant buying a camper, selling a lot of our stuff on ebay and Craigslist, and putting the non-essential items that we wanted to keep in a storage unit until we reached our goal of becoming debt free. The idea of simple living really intrigued us.
Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. - Abe Lincoln
Before we did any of that, we had to know exactly what our goals were. So we developed the 7 strategies that we would rely on. I’ve written extensively about how this process worked. If you enter your email below I will send your our free download that covers it all.
Basically, we minimized our expenditures each month by cutting back what we could, the non-essentials like Netflix, Audible, and other expenses.
This really can make a difference when you add them up over a year. In conjunction with minimizing your phone bill, insurance, and rent – you can really reduce your expenses.
Once we had the roadmap and our route planned per say, we set out to make the big changes: buying a camper! Simple living was on it's way!
We had already arranged with close family that they would allow us to park it on their land once we had it. The location (which I will leave undisclosed) wasn’t even in the same city that we currently lived in – but we knew that we could not pass up the opportunity. The deal was that we could live on the land for a small, monthly rent/utility payment each month.
Purchasing the camper was not a fun process. We had a budget of $4,000. This was money that we had been saving up for a couple years. We began the search for a decent, livable camper, in our price range.
I searched for weeks on Craigslist and other sites to find the right deal. It is a lot like buying a car you are excited about. You don’t want to take the first deal that ‘seems’ right but probably won’t work out in the end.
The main challenge was that we had to be able to pull the camper with my 1999 4Runner, which only has a v6 engine. If you don’t understand what that means, basically we needed a light enough camper so I didn’t have to go out and purchase a big truck to pull it with.
It was a 1997 Trail Manor King. Which was perfect because I could pull it behind my 4Runner. They are designed a lot like a popup which makes them very light but they have a hard-outside shell. All in all, it was about 30 feet when opened and it turned out to be the perfect deal.
Best part… We got it for exactly the price we wanted, $4,000!
Here is a photo of the camper once we had it set up.
The only problem was that the inside was a bit outdated. We decided we wanted to improve that so we spent the first month of owning renovating, on a budget of course. I would love to write a post on this if you are interested, if so please let me know in the comments!
The project was a lot of fun and we did it for under a few hundred dollars and many weekends of work. Below is the after picture when we finished!
Once we moved into the camper, we celebrated! It was literally one of the happiest days of our lives. We were finally embarking on a journey we had talked and planned for months.
It was almost like a mini-vacation for the first few days. It was early spring and we were enjoying the transition honeymoon phase.
You know that feeling, right? The feeling that you get when you start something new. That release of endorphins and happy chemicals in your brain that is saying “you are doing something different, I want to reward you”.
I know for some this may seem crazy… Happy to live in a camper? What!!
For us, this had become a mini obsession. We set our sights and were determined to make this happen because we were motivated by our WHY.
We lived in the camper for a total of 11 months. It wasn’t the easiest thing we have ever done. It was not glamorous. It was not a mini-vacation.
In fact, about 6 months into the journey, even though we were making huge strides on paying off our debt, we truly considered giving up.
I am so glad that we didn’t forget our WHY.
Your why must be stronger than the doubts that come up along your journey to whatever you are pursuing.
Our results? We paid off all our remaining debt when we sold the camper 11 months later. Making that final student loan payment was one of the most gratifying experiences I have ever had. You can read about the full story here!
It was a feeling of – “We did it. We stuck to it. Now we are sticking it to the status quo.”
I will never forget the first dinner we had once we were debt free. We must have spent nearly $100 to celebrate our hard work.
There are many ways to minimize your life to cut back and live simply even if you don’t have the desire to live in a camper. Find a way that works for you. Maybe you can rent a cheap room from a friend. Maybe you can live with your parents for a year. Whatever you do, think outside the box!
We would love to hear your thoughts on the minimalist lifestyle and any ideas you may have about how to live simply to reach your financial goals! Please comment below with your thoughts.
Zack & Jen
Zack is one of the co-founders of FreeUp and is in charge of setting the strategy for the blog and managing the day-to-day operations. When he isn't plotting new ways to create awesome blog content, he likes to geek out about global affairs, ride motorcycles and can probably be found hiking somewhere during his days off.