1-800-HELP-POINT is how.
Taking a year off isn’t just a matter of luck. The bottom line is that we worked really hard to get here. Planning, planning and more planning. Saving, saving, and more saving.
When Chris quit the clubhouse job at Metolius Climbing to work for Farmers Insurance (yep, that’s right – Farmers Insurance) it was all part of what we affectionately called “The Plan”. Chris knew that making the move to be a desk monkey at a corporate job would be a short term stint, so what was originally labeled the “5-Year Plan” turned into a “3 1/2-Year Plan”.
From the get-go, we calculated how we could cut our costs. We knew that Chris would get a company car, cell phone and laptop, so we figured in those savings. Katy mostly rides her bike or walks to work, so our gas savings would be significant. We also looked at our mortgage and we were able to refinance to a lower rate and save about $120/month (I have good “refi-karma”). As for other expenses, we stopped eating out, buying new clothes, gear, and other things that we thought we “needed”. However, we were able to still enjoy life in Bend (remember – free gas, courtesy of Farmers Insurance) and still traveled to Mexico, always buying plane tickets with air miles, and being as cheap as we could without totally losing our sanity.
The old adage of “the more you make, the more you spend” isn’t our scene. We deliberately put the annual maximum money amounts into our Roth IRAs. Chris’ job offered a match of Roth 401k contributions up to 6% of his salary, so that was a no-brainer. This money will remain in retirement unless we need it for an emergency, then it serves as handy cushion. He also socked away the maximum amount he could into a Health Savings Account. This came in very handy when we had to get all of the routine medical stuff needed for travel, such as vaccinations and prescription meds for travel.
Chris is a maven and an incredible planner. He knows what to buy, where to get it and how much to pay for it. In June 2009, we purchased the truck camper in Idaho for $7300. We took a hit then, but kept plugging away. Over the next two years, we continued to plan, and we managed to sock away some money.
In March of 2010, we returned from our annual “escape winter to surf” trip to Mexico, and put the hammer down. That was it, we were ready to make a move. Chris set up various budgets in Excel, and we managed to save more each month. We calculated what our costs would be for the trip. We considered all the trip prep, gas, food, booze, plane tickets, health/travel insurance, mortgage, and everything we could possibly think of for expenses for a year. We included money that we know we will need when we get back and don’t have income for a few months. We literally tracked every expense, from a cup of coffee to our monthly grocery bills, so we could see how we were doing each month.
After returning from Mexico in February 2011, we finalized the decision. And here we are.