Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Power of Time and Money

Awhile ago, I promised some insights into the costs of creating our traveling vehicles, from purchase price to getting them the way we want them for traveling. Yesterday, I was able to gather the figures together on a spreadsheet. I will also go into some of what it takes to get on the road.

Although the total expense for both vehicles is more than I originally figured on, it's still a lot less than purchasing a decent used Class B motorhome of similar mechanical condition, and if I threw in the cost of a ready made toy-hauler travel trailer that would meet our needs (if I could even find one), then the overall cost of not one, but TWO vehicles, is still a bargain.

Some things have not been purchased yet, but we added estimated costs for those items. Currently, the trailer build cost is at a little over $6600, including the price of the $1600 trailer, the tongue replacement, the electric brakes being added to it, and 8-ply tires. With a cushion added for miscellaneous things that we may not have even thought of yet, let's just round it up to an even $7,000 for the total build, as we want it.

Year 2000 Haulmark motorcycle trailer.

What it doesn't include, are some things that aren't really a part of the trailer, such as the Coleman camp oven, dishes, a portable canopy and tent attachment, and things such as that. Nor does any of the totals include things that we already owned, such as the porta-potty, the Coleman stove, the RV table legs and tripods, or any of the wood and hardware that we already had on hand. Nor does it include my labor time. As happens so many times, especially with real estate, people fail to keep track of their own time in building and maintaining their property...but they should. A person's time is just as valuable as the material. We will need some of the items that aren't attached to the trailer, and some are already purchased, while others are only on a future want list, but the incidental items currently total just under $700.

The van costs have also been totaled up, including the original cost of $3495, after which it immediately needed tires, alignment, and both catalytic converters replaced. Then shortly after that, the fuel pump quit, and we had to have that replaced. The difference that we got back in cash on trade for our Dakota Quad-cab and the North Star TC-650 slide-in truck camper (custom built for the Dakota) was more than enough to cover all the repairs.

1997 Chevy G-1500 high top conversion van.

There is one thing we have been told about (by our mechanic) that still needs repair, and that is a special plastic shroud around the fuel tank that needs replacing by a Chevy dealer. Apparently the charcoal canister is attached to it, and it has left that canister hanging by its hoses. It's not an immediate problem, but one that should be dealt with before or shortly after we leave here.

So far, we have only added the cost of a new receiver hitch, as far as actual items needed for traveling. We still have to have the hitch installed, along with the necessary wiring for the electric brake controller. Beyond that, the only thing that comes to mind is a swivel seat base for the front passenger seat...not a critical item, but nice to have. It can be purchased and installed after we hit the road, and have time to make sure we really have a need for it.

We also have not addressed the issue of window treatments for privacy in the van. Ideally, we would like to replace the existing "day shades" with the 3-way "day/night shades", but we haven't checked cost or availability of those yet. They could be expensive. For the time being, we may just get by with a windshield sun blocker and some Reflectix over the other windows until we find something better. After all, it's only a tow-er and daily use vehicle, so we may not have a need to stay overnight in it for a long time! And we may even trade it for something else if something comes along.

Still, with estimated costs of future anticipated purchases on the van, we are only at $6780. There is no way we would find a good used Class B for that kind of money, and if we did, it would likely need lots more put into it to make it into something we could live with and feel safe in. The systems in older vehicles that make them official RVs are cause for concern, especially where plastics are concerned. Tanks and fittings dry out and crack, causing leaks. Electrical things have often been "messed with" by people who have no idea what they are doing, and there are a LOT more reasons for things to go wrong.

When we first checked Google for comparable prices on conversion vans of the same year and style (1997 high-top Chevy G1500 with 115,000 miles), they were all over $6000 asking price, even when they weren't in pristine condition. That was October of 2013. So even though we had to put some money into this van right off the bat, we did more than OK with the deal. The inside is as clean as a new one, and everything works except the windshield washer pump, which we still need to have repaired, but that's minor stuff.

And this total figure also includes the improvements we still plan to make, which includes $868 for some minor body work, and another $400 for some new wheels to replace the corroded aluminum wheels currently on it. I may even check with J. C. Whitney to see of they have a custom, after market grill for it, just to dress it up a little and make it unique! These items alone will bring the value up to a fair market price if we should decide to sell it later on.

But that can all come later, after we get away from here and have time to save up some money to do it.

So the grand total of everything for both vehicles is going to come out close to $14,000, +/- $1K either way. That's for not one, but TWO completely functional vehicles in good repair and capable of sleeping in overnight. And we won't have any payments! That's not to say that we will "never" have them again. Our house will be sold after we leave, and once that payment and liability is out of the way, we have no problem with replacing it with a slightly smaller RV payment..."IF" we ever find what we want that works better for our needs than what we have. Only time will tell.

Right now, the most important things are what we need to make everything livable and safe, so that we can function normally as soon as we leave. All the extras can be purchased at any point along the way, and installed as we have the time and money to do it.

The main thing is that we are leaving here debt free (except for the real estate)! Since 2010, until July of this year, we will have paid off over $40,000 of debts...not including normal fixed living expenses, and not including the house mortgage or the $9,000 we had to pay for a septic system replacement. The $40K was just credit card and miscellaneous debt over and above our normal living expenses. But we kept our noses to the grindstone and made it happen. If we are lucky, the house will sell soon after we leave, and then that last debt will also be gone...and good riddance!

How did we get to the point of having that debt in the first place? Let's just say we counted our chickens before they hatched, for one thing, and winter slow-downs in the construction trades in the Midwest was the other part. Until 2010, when I officially retired, I was running a "high end" service business, but back problems forced me into early retirement, otherwise, I may have continued with it until a later date. We used the credit card to balance out our budget when things were slow during the winter months.

We anticipated having an inheritance from my family estate that should have come to roughly a quarter million dollars for just my part, so we got careless, figuring that any debt could all be paid off when the time came, and have plenty left over. That was until an unscrupulous, greedy and conniving relative sent an equally unscrupulous attorney into a nursing home and pulled a totally immoral but yet legal move on a subject that was no more competent to understand what they were doing than a blind and deaf two year old, and that kept us from even contesting the estate!

As a result, I have disowned that part of the family and protected myself from them in other ways. If they think they need the money more than I do, then let them choke on it. They'll never get any more of my money! I'm fine without it and without them. The greed of money, real estate or social standing with an elite crowd doesn't buy happiness. Freedom from all that is what buys happiness, and they will never understand that.

As of the day this is published to the web, we have exactly 90 days to our planned departure date. By coincidence, it also happens to be my 67th birthday. We had planned to be out of here and traveling long before now...originally "hoped" for at age 62...but as always happens to best laid plans, "life" gets in the way. I don't think there is a person alive who can say that life turned out exactly as they had planned when they started out as adults. If any can claim that, I'm sure they must be in the very small minority of the population... or own a crystal ball.

But even though our plans have been delayed, we never gave up on them. In fact, the years that we have been delayed still don't equate to the years that we actually jumped ahead and lived a traveling life long before retirement. Not everyone can say that. So I guess it balances out. We just enjoyed some of our traveling years before retirement.

Besides, Sharon had already traveled extensively, including to Israel, Cairo and Rome before we married, not to mention Hawaii and all but two provinces of Canada. After we were married, she also took an Olsen Tour to eight countries in Europe, and later on to Mexico on two occasions. When I was tied up with work, I let her go with her sister.

Most of my early years were spent tent camping with friends. My parents didn't travel much, although we did make a few trips to central and northern Wisconsin, and one trip to Florida when I was 13. I also went to Brown County in southern Indiana several times on my own, after I could drive.

After Sharon and I were married, we took many vacations of three weeks at a time, to California and Florida, and one two week trip to south Texas. We also took a cruise on the largest ship at that time in the Royal Caribbean fleet, the "Song of America"... to Nassau, San Juan and Saint Thomas, in 1985. We also traveled by car/van/air/RV all over the country to major cites for the National Square Dance Conventions, from (her) 1975 to (my) 1982 up until 1991, having only missed one during all that time. We also traveled the eastern half of the country full-time in our motorhome doing site maps for a publishing company, as well as taking a major trip out to California, then north to Portland, and then back through the northern part of the country over a six-week period in 1994.

I'm not saying that to brag, but simply to point out that many people never have the opportunity or make the time for that kind of travel. Too many people always dream of doing it after they retire, and then something happens to crush those dreams. We can never recover time, and if you want to do something, you need to make up your mind to do it as soon as it's possible. The opportunity may never come around again.

Also, it is a fact of life that we always MAKE the time for what is most important to us. That applies to everything from visiting friends and family, to hobbies, to taking vacations. If you don't MAKE it a priority, it will never happen. Often, other things have to be sacrificed to accomplish those goals, and I know I'm going to get off on a personal tangent here, but I'm going to say it anyway.

Besides all the little stuff, like hobbies, that may steal vacation funds, the two biggest thieves I know that will destroy your dreams are cigarettes and alcohol. Every time you light up a cigarette, you are basically setting fire to the money it cost to buy them. So why ruin your health in the process? If you have that much money to burn, then throw it in a fireplace, or on a campfire, or better yet, donate it to people or pet causes who both deserve it and can use it! Either way, you are never going to get it back. It will never have a chance to grow as an investment to make more, and it will simply go away...as if you never had it in the first place. But you know it was there, because you worked for it, and all that wasted time is something you will never get back, either!

You can never be truly free as long as you have some form of drug ruling what you do and how you live your life, as well as sucking money out of your pocket that isn't required for living. That includes nicotine, alcohol or any other drug.

Sharon figured up many years ago, as proof to herself, what it would have cost for cigarettes over the years since high school. That total was more than the cost of her first vacation retirement home here in Arkansas, which was by then already paid for! Anything left over was enough to pay for many of the trips that she took!

So you have a choice...you can either set fire to your hard earned money and destroy your health in the process, or you can make that money work for you to provide a life worth living. There is no redeeming value to tobacco products, other than making other people rich for making them! They will have no value to the end user of them, and will do nothing but cause you further debt in health care costs! No matter how you look at it...you lose!

Alcohol is another stealer of dreams. I don't begrudge anyone a drink with dinner, or at an appropriate social function. I am not opposed to it in that context. In fact some studies have proven that certain wines can be beneficial to our health. But what I am talking about is drinking as a habit or as an addiction. If that beer means more to you than putting that money into savings or into investments so that you can enjoy the much finer things in life, then the loss is your decision to make. I won't argue with your right to make that decision. But you need to ask yourself if it is a wise one.

I read a lot of blogs that involve making the circuits of all the new craft brewery places around the country, and the "bourbon" routes around the eastern states. I don't begrudge anyone what they enjoy, as long as they aren't addicted to it. But I have to stop and consider...is it necessary to my health, either physically or mentally? Would my money be better spent on things that I truly enjoy, that will have a longer lasting effect, rather than (excuse my French) "pissing" it down the drain in the next 30 minutes? And if you do all your drinking at a bar or nightclub, then it doubles the cost of the loss!

The answers may be different for every person out there, but for me, the only value in visiting such places is for the historical value and the atmosphere of the surroundings. I couldn't care less about putting alcohol in my body in a useless attempt to make the experience better. No matter what the experience, truly "feeling" life is only gained with a clear head!

Although I have been known to drink a beer on rare occasion when it was very hot outside and nothing else was available, I have never really cared for beer. Even when I drank more of it in my younger years, it was more because of peer pressure and circumstances...not because I craved it! I can leave it rather than take it if other options are available.

And although I have tasted many hard liquors, there are few that I have found that I can say was really "tasty" in their raw form. Some wines are OK, but many of the drinks I have tasted always seem better if mixed with something else. If I am going to have a drink, I really prefer a weak mixed drink, or a wine cooler, and I can admit some have been "really" tasty! But that doesn't mean I am going to make a habit of it. I can sip a drink for over an hour, allowing the alcohol to dissipate as fast as my body can absorb it. Getting drunk has never been an end goal with me, and has no social value. It's an ugly situation to be in, or to be around. I've been there, and know what it is like, but it just seems totally stupid to me!

But again, that's just me. So just because I read your blog about visiting all these craft breweries and distilleries, don't think I am going to jump on the bandwagon for a night of touring such places with you. I get no particular enjoyment out of wasting my money on such things, nor do I like the sometimes rowdy crowds that congregate at such places. I am much happier sitting around a campfire out in the woods, enjoying an ice tea, having polite conversation with a small group of people of like mind.

After all, at least with a campfire, I can always move instead of inhale the smoke, even if it does smell better than most tobacco products. And if no one is around, I can work on my guitar or piano playing or go watch a movie or play on the web. Everyone has their own likes and dislikes.

The other major destroyer of dreams is drugs, and that includes pot. No reputable employer is ever going to put someone in a position of responsibility if they are a "druggie". And with responsibility also comes more money. You can't think clearly enough about what counts if your mind is always in a fog, so if you do ANY kind of drugs, you will always be at a lower pay grade where you never have the extra funds to get ahead. It's a losing game...for everyone.

I have never tried drugs of any kind, nor do I care to. They are the biggest blight on our society today, and have done nothing but drag lives into the trenches, and even into the gutters. If life is that miserable that you feel a need to cover it up with a foggy brain, then why not change the part of your life that is making you miserable, rather than destroy it even further? To people with clear minds, that is a "no brainer" type of question!

I have seen many cases of people who think they are stuck in their situations, and rather than leave, they only make their situation worse by staying. Everyone has feet and can find a grocery bag to put a few clothes in. If life is that bad, then there is nothing keeping you from packing up and hitch-hiking out of there, if that is what it takes to get gone and make a positive change in your life! The only thing holding you to a bad situation is yourself and your fears! Overcome the fears through knowledge and clear-headed thinking!

But as I said, that gets off the topic of this post...by a LONG way!

The topic was the power of time and money. From the time that the first (affordable) financial calculator was introduced to the market, I had one. And then I actually studied the book on how to use it. What it can reveal is enough to blow the mind of the average person. I strongly feel that owning a financial calculator and actually learning how to use it is something that EVERY person out there owes to themselves, and every high school in the country ought to teach! If everyone truly understood the relationship between time and money, and what it can do for them, many of their problems would already be solved!

I won't go into all kinds of mathematical details here, because it would bore most people to death. Either they already know the principles by this time, or they haven't cared enough to better their lives by learning them. In either case, I can't help you. But I will provide a little experiment.

Find out the cost of whatever vice you choose, whether it be cigarettes, alcohol, or even your favorite hobby, and total up what it has cost you per month over the years since you started. Now take that same amount of money and input it into the financial calculator with regular monthly contributions to it, and an average return percentage based on a safe mutual fund over that same amount of time, and see how it compounds upon itself over those same years. And then you tell me...which would you rather have...all that money and your labor time to earn it that was wasted, or the many more funds that could have made your life better? The choice is yours to make, as always.

One of the main reasons that people fail to travel is the cost factor. They claim that they can't afford to for various reasons... most of them untrue.

Let's start with the RV itself. If you buy new (or new-ER) you are going to likely have payments, with interest and higher depreciation every year. The last two is what can cost you...in a big way. Your maintenance costs may be lower on a newer unit, but you are going to lose any advantage in depreciated value. If you buy a unit that is larger than what you think you need, you will also spend more in fuel, and in maintenance on it... more money down the drain. If you have that kind of money to foolishly throw away then you shouldn't have any problem with the cost of the RV or in using it.

Which brings up the cost of using it... mainly fuel and camping fees. I see many blogs out there where people don't think twice about dropping an amount WAY in excess of $30 a night in camping fees, and yet they seem to think this is normal. Maybe it "is" normal for their way of traveling. Many of them are driving big Class A motorhomes or huge fifth-wheels that could never get back into the places where the camping is free for the taking, even though most of them have generators, propane refrigerators, battery power and other things that make boondocking much easier.

Instead of parking for free for the night, they spend money on expensive campgrounds with full hookups, just because they think that is the way camping is done! That may be "RVing", but it's a long way from "camping".

Again, this is only my opinion, but if you are going to drag an RV with you that's as big as a house, and with all the amenities (including air conditioning) and then set inside it most of the day because it is too hot or too cool to spend time outside, then what is different about that than staying at home?

Granted, some people have one so that family can join them wherever they are, and have extra sleeping capacity for all the guests, plus they drag all the toys along. I can't begrudge family "closeness", but it all comes at a cost, and it's the RV owner who bares the brunt of that cost while everybody else gets free entertainment for the weekend! In many cases, the guests aren't there to "be with" the RV owner. They come for all the free amenities they can enjoy while there, and a chance to get away to do something that many of them aren't willing to spend the money on for themselves!

If I have to resort to "buying" people's company with toys and entertainment, then they obviously aren't there for me, so why should I fund their entertainment? Let them pay for their own just like I've always had to do!

Think about it...if you didn't have that big RV and go to fun places with it, and provide the toys to use while there...would those guests still come to visit? Are they there for YOU or for the RV experience?

The other thing is how often are you really going to use it for that purpose? Let's say one of the guests flies in to stay with you a couple of times a year. Why are you paying for an oversize RV that will accommodate guests when it's only two of you for 90% of the time? For the short amount of time you have guests, you can afford to stay at a place with rental units while they are there and still come out way ahead, especially if everyone splits the cost!

We have done our share of providing things for the entertainment of others, including buying real estate with a huge yard, swimming pool, a family room with a pool table, video games, books, music, other games, and even planned entertaining trips on the side. And yet we felt there was no appreciation for any of it, because the users had no vested interest in any of it.

The most times we ever used the pool for our ourselves was six times in any given summer season... but we still had to maintain it...EVERY DAY! The pool table often collected dust and became a collection point for other things on top of it. The books never got read, the games never got played...and yet we were paying for all that extra space for a bunch of ingrates! If we didn't have any of it, and the "visitors" had to just deal with us in normal conversation and mutual learning, they probably would have stayed home.

Maybe everyone doesn't have that same situation, but maybe they haven't thought about it, either. It takes money to provide all those amenities, but when we work hard enough to provide them, we often don't have the time to enjoy them for our own use. Sometimes they only get used for the "supposed" enjoyment of others, who often don't appreciate what it takes to provide them. Our time and space is worth money, and if all it is is a money pit, then it's time to quit wasting time to earn that money to provide that space!

Time is often something that we have enough of, but yet it is wasted on things and people that provide little value to our lives. One way to balance that out is by allowing time to work for us, and one way to do that is to let time grow our money.

All that is required of us is to not waste our money on foolish things, and put that money into safe investments that will grow. Once it's in there, we can go our own way and do something else. We don't have to constantly "work at it" to get something out of it. It continues to work even when we don't. That is far different than having to work at a job for everything that we get out of it. If we stop that work, the income from it stops, also.

So which is the more intelligent option, to put money where it will work for us and continue that work 24 hours a day, even when we don't, or to spend it on stuff where we have absolutely nothing to show for it after 30 minutes, and all the time that we put in to earn it is gone forever?

Far be it for me to preach to anyone on how it should be done or how they should live their lives. We have made many mistakes and lost many thousands of dollars (plus the inheritance) during our lifetimes. The important thing is that we have had more gains than losses, and that's really all anyone can expect. No one is going to be right "all" the time and have continuous growth in everything. But without clear, rational thinking, it is so easy to make too many wrong choices and end up on a losing spiral that is hard to break. And often that is caused by simply being oblivious to the relationship between time and money.

So the bottom line I wanted to make here is that it doesn't take a "lot" of money to enjoy life and have a life of freedom, with the ability to spend more time on yourself. If you watch the YouTube videos regularly on topics such as RV's, van dwelling, and self-sustainability topics, you will discover that there are thousands of people out there living a traveling lifestyle as well as on permanent homesteads, that are living their dreams every day. Many of them are doing it full-time, rather than part-time.

A traveling vehicle can cost almost as little as you want it to cost. I read many stories of "vagabond" backpackers, who travel the world with only what is on their backs. And the traveling itself doesn't have to cost a fortune. Fuel expense can be controlled by how often you move from place to place. Overnight parking expense can be controlled by purchasing the right kind of RV to start with, and learning how others do it at little or no cost, and making use of the best opportunities for the way you can afford to travel.

We are each different, in our own tastes, our own financial circumstances, and our own needs. Maybe some are afraid to venture out. We all know people who have lived their entire lives without ever leaving their state or even sometimes their counties. But the real question is whether they do it because they really like staying home, or whether they have other reasons for not venturing out. They will never know what they don't know, unless they are willing to take the steps necessary to learn about what they are missing.

If their problem is lack of knowing how to do it, then it can be learned. If the problem is money, then learn how to NOT waste it and make it grow for you. If the problem is fear of the unknown, then again, learn what you have to in order to overcome your fears! Notice that all three directly relate to knowledge. Those who stick their head in the sand and refuse to partake of even free knowledge when it comes along, can expect a life no bigger than their ambition.

You have the power to control your time and money to do with it whatever is important to you. Don't waste it, or wait too long to make the important things happen. Travel IS affordable, at whatever level you can make it affordable. The choice is yours.


Ed Helvey - Location Independent Traveler said...

WOW, John! I'd say you said a mouth full, but it's really more like a book full.

I can honestly say I don't disagree with anything you said and I actually agree and live a very similar lifestyle. I've also been there and done that regarding the various vices and addictions and life thieves (though I've never smoked and never done any drugs including pot). That's why I'm currently writing my "Life Thieves" series on my blog.

It all comes down to personal values. Unfortunately, all you said about the way we think (and are taught to think) is precisely why you and I and others like us constantly hear people saying "I envy you, but I couldn't do it." Absolutely right! If you say you can't - YOU CAN'T! If you say you can - YOU CAN! Everything in life is about choices. Good ones and bad ones. And, of course, not making a choice is still making a choice.

Great info on the trailer and van investment. Your point is well taken about each of us making choices about the lifestyle we want on the road. You are two. I am one! My needs and requirements are different than yours, but we have followed a similar path in getting to the place we want to be for this kind of lifestyle. I have watched with interest and enjoyed our discussions about your building projects. I'm looking forward to crossing paths on the blue and red highways and byways of America. 90 days and counting. Keep on keepin' on, Brother vagabond!

John Abert said...

Thanks Ed! It seems to always be the case that posts are never intended to be as long as what they turn out to be! I know that you understand that when a train of thought enters your mind, it is hard to get away from it until you have finished with it. Too many people fail at putting their thoughts in writing, which is probably why there is so much miscommunication going on in the world. But as always, what I relate to are my own truths as I have discovered them...and what applies to me doesn't necessarily apply to anyone else. Some demons in life can be walked away from and forgotten, while others have always been a part of that life, and the memories will always be there. But those memories have made us who we are, and if people can't accept us for who we are, then the problem is at their end. Some people will never be pleased, no matter what we do, and all we can do is distance ourselves from them. But I have found throughout life, whenever someone dislikable exits, someone better comes along, and just as in business, you keep eliminating what doesn't work, and keep adding what does, and that becomes a successful strategy for life. It's not rocket science...just logic. If that doesn't work, then we only have ourselves to blame.