2016-The Year of Freedom
As I closed out 2015 I realized all of my hard work had paid off and it was a wonderful feeling. I reached a goal I had been working to complete over the past 5 years, most of which was accomplished since I started this very blog. Over the past month I realized I want to go in a new direction in 2016. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, in fact I essentially take the month of January off and let those who are sprinting to unrealistic goals get tired, January is the month of evaluation for me. My initial thoughts lead me to investing because after you pay off debt the next step is to invest and build wealth. While you won’t hear any arguments from me on this strategy, I have much if not all of this in place*. I went back to 2015 and started to think what I would have done differently if I would have been out of debt, besides invest and save money of course. It came to me right away; I realized I skipped out on a couple travels destinations and seeing friends and family. Some of this was because of limited vacation, but most of it was I wanted to keep my money and pay off my debt. I know I sound responsible, if you could only have meet me when I was fresh out of college: playing poker and blackjack for hours, sleeping in my car out of exhaustion, standing in line for cash advances on my credit card, you know the opposite of responsible. So do I want to be the opposite of responsible and go on late night casino nights? In a word, NO!!!!!! I however want 2016 to be The Year of Freedom.
If you have ever listened to Dave Ramsey, which I do every morning on my train ride to work, the quote “you should live like no one else so you can live and give like no one else” is a favorite of mine. What this quote means to me is that I have done things that many people in our keeping up with the Joneses society would not do. I gave up my iPhone and Verizon for Moto X and Republic Wireless, I cancelled DirecTV and the NFL network to switch over to Comcast and an internet plus package with a Roku, and I sold my Mercedes Benz in exchange for a Chicago CTA train/bus pass. The fun thing about all of my changes is I like each and every choice better than my old more expensive choice. Really, it turns out I really like some frugal weirdo ways. I want to live like no one else today in a small part of my life, I want to enjoy 2016 and the new found financial freedom I have.
Last April, I had an opportunity to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. I would have had the privilege to meet and hang out with 1500days (ok take back the privilege part on that and throw it back in with Mrs. 1500days), Mr. and Mrs. POP, Income Surfer, and I’m guessing thousands of other smart frugal value based investors and a chance to peek into the carnival of Berkshire Hathaway led by Mr. Warren Buffett and Mr. Charlie Munger. As time came closer to finding a well-priced flight out to Omaha or Kansas City, inexpensive accommodations, and daily food costs, I found myself spending more money than I would have cared to.
I had a choice to have a great trip to the Woodstock of investing and instead I chose to direct that money right at my student loans. It did help that my BIG goal was intended for the end of April and the conference was in the first week of May, which essentially I would have told myself, it’s ok not to reach your goal and then go celebrate for striking out.
2015 was the year of Debt Repayment, 2016 is the year of Freedom. This year I am going to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway conference! I decided that I was going no matter what, which to me meant driving out in our SUV and sleeping in the car for the night. After sharing my plans with the wife this did not get the rave reviews I expected. After getting some advice from Mr. 1500days he mentioned that Iowa and other places a little further out from Omaha could be had for pretty cheap if you didn’t mind the drive. I immediately started looking at Air BnB for some places off the beaten path as my parents would say. During my research I found some places over the border for a nice frugal price, under $50! As I dove into my research a little more I came across some places that looked fun to stay at, everything from a Coca-Cola themed apartment, beautiful lake house, winery, and a tiny house(teeny house per Mrs. Even Steven Money). All had the potential to be our Omaha home for the weekend, but it was just too hard to pass up living in a tiny house for the weekend. So we are all set for a travel weekend away visiting Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger, Tiny House, and a few frugal friends.
That’s just one of many travel plans for 2016; I don’t plan on expensive excursions or long vacations that I cannot afford, I’m looking at a drive to Omaha and a tiny house for example, I picture the Griswald’s and our family vacation to see Wally World. Visiting family in Arizona where the costs are reduced because of the spare bedroom in the back of my parents’ home and the sweet driving mini-van that I cannot wait to get my hands on. If we are lucky and I think that we will be our thirst will be quenched with a cold beer in the fridge and an occasional home cooked meal after a long day of being out in the Arizona sunshine.
The year of freedom will also involve something else we enjoy and that is going out to eat, highly frowned upon in the personal finance community even by myself. While we have an eating out budget that we do our best to keep in check (add link for eating out link as a leak). This year we are embracing eating out more in 2016, but even a step further than that we are going to visit one new restaurant a month. There are so many great places to eat in the city of Chicago, now I’m not talking eating $200 steak with a la carte choices and bottle of wine, I’m thinking more like a new sushi place in our neighborhood that opened up recently and we haven’t been. Guess where we went in January? This was not my intention going into the 12 new restaurants proclamation, but we ended up paying cash for the meal, which for me has a special place in my heart. It’s a year of freedom and this particular move to freedom actually doesn’t affect our budget because we are already eating out within our budget, instead we are making the conscious effort to take our budget and make sure we check out something new that we haven’t had before, tastes like freedom I hope. The $25 that we spent on sushi is not going to break our budget and in fact I think it’s going to reduce are spending. It’s very easy to grab a pizza at the local place up the road that delivers or is within walking distance, but however if you have to take the extra time and possibly travel to check out a new restaurant that makes it just a little harder. Plus It’s not like we eat out every day and eating at a new restaurant when we do eat out** in the grand scheme of things won’t break us by any means.
After spending my 2015 searching for every extra dollar to get rid of my personal debt forever, speeding down the highway passing cars going 80 mph, I feel like 2016 is going to be spent in the right lane of the highway going 55 mph with the cruise control on. I look forward to a little extra travel, meeting a few new people, a new restaurant, and an occasional gift to a family or friend that is in need. It’s the year of freedom for Even Steven Money, I hope to see you along the way in my travels.
*80/20, we certainly could be doing better but maxing out our 401k, H.S.A., paying off the FL rental this year, and foggy plans(the 20 part of the equation) too max out our Roth IRAs makes me feel good inside.
**Exception is coffee on our way to work, you have to pick and choose your budget battles, and we choose coffee