On A Mission: Getting Out Of Debt

As most of you know, over the past months Dustin and I have mentally committed ourselves to finding a way to get all of our debt paid off in the next couple of years so that we can afford a simpler life, buy a boat, and sail around the Caribbean for a year or two, or possibly make it a permanent lifestyle change. In fact, that is why this blog came into existence in the first place- to document our progress towards this dream, share our learnings with people who might be interested in doing the same thing, and eventually once we bring our dreams into fruition, it will be a means to be able to share our daily adventures with the world. I know what you’re thinking… “If it were that easy, we would all do it!” Trust me, I get it. A lot of people shoot for the moon but instead of reaching their goals or “landing among the stars” when they fall short (as the saying goes), life has a way of bringing them crashing back down to earth. Even as I write this, I am a little hesitant to be too bold with my claims of what Dustin and I “ARE going to do” because I don’t want to look silly if it doesn’t pan out exactly as we hope. In fact, I know we will most likely change directions with our plans a few times before we make it happen. But that’s ok.  Dustin and I are fortunate to know God and we know that in him, we can do anything we put our minds to so long as it is his will for our lives. Mark Batterson said, “Bold prayers honor God, and God honors bold prayers. God isn’t offended by your biggest dreams or boldest prayers. He is offended by anything less. If your prayers aren’t impossible to you, they are insulting to God.” I absolutely love this passage taken from his book, “The Circle Maker”. God wants to make our wildest dreams come true. All we have to do is ask for his help and have faith in him. So that is what we have done and will continue to do daily.

We thought we would update you on some of our progress so far towards this “crazy” dream of ours while also giving you some ideas that you could use to pay off your debt so you can live a simpler life as well:

WAYS WE HAVE SAVED MONEY/CUT DOWN ON EXPENSES

  • Dustin and I used our tax return this year to pay off a credit card that we foolishly opened so that we could buy a brand new Tempurpedic bed. Dumb yes, but at the time we just had to have it! We learned from this mistake and cut up the card. This got rid of one monthly payment for us
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  • Dustin bought and installed brand new LED light bulbs for our entire house to cut down on some of the costs of our energy bills
  • We drained and turned off our hot tub early this past spring to cut down on energy costs through the spring/summer months
  • We have made an effort to start cooking meals at home versus eating out all the time. We both hate cooking so this has been a challenge but it will help us to be healthier too which will prevent added healthcare costs in the long run. We really like grilling in the summer months because there aren’t as many dishes!
  • We have been renting out a room of our house for the past two years to help pay for the mortgage and utilities
  • We got bikes so that we can ride into town when the weather is nice and save on gas

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  • We have stopped going out as much and started hanging out at home a little more (i.e. bonfires, grilling out, going for walks on the beach, going for bike rides, relaxing in our hammock, etc.)
  • My sister, Karly, works at a bank and she asked me to come meet with her financial advisor there so that she could get a referral bonus. I agreed with the intention of doing it just so she could get her bonus. But I found that it was actually very beneficial for me to speak with him and the things he said to me resonated so much that the next day I cancelled the order I had just placed for a brand new iPhone. I have never had an iPhone so for me it was a BIG deal to cancel this order because I really wanted it. Instead, I replaced my broken phone with a slightly older iPhone model for $199 through StraightTalk and am absolutely satisfied with it and my decision, which saved me about $400!

 

 WAYS WE HAVE MADE MONEY

  • In the past, I have taught myself some basic ideas in graphic design for some personal projects, so my dad asked me to create and set up a website for his business and paid me for my time spent on it.
  • Then a couple months later, my dad decided to sell his business. Due to some tight deadlines involved with the closing of this deal, he sought out my help to organize his client files and database, and again paid me for my time. In fact, he paid me more than I make at my day job to help him with this! Thanks Dad! 🙂 Sometimes you can actually make more money with side jobs than you can at an hourly job if you have enough of them lined up.
  • Before summer arrived I contacted a family that I had cleaned cottages for in the past and was hired again to clean their vacation home once a month, which is located in our hometown.
  • We sold a lot of the decorations as well as the tents that we had purchased for our wedding last year to recoup some of the money spent on that
  • After lots of arm twisting, I finally convinced Dustin to forfeit a weekend of boating so that we could have a garage sale which we soon dubbed our “Get Out Of Debt Sale”. It was a ton of work preparing for it but we were extremely blessed and made about $1500 in two days which was enough to pay off another credit card. Woo hoo!
  • We also regularly post items for sale on garage sale sites within Facebook or on Craigslist. (This is actually how I paid for Dustin’s wedding ring but that’s another story! J ) I sorted through my closet which was way too full and got rid of a ton of clothes! Many of them I sold on the garage sale sites and many I sold at our actual garage sale

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  • And obviously, Dustin and I both currently work full time jobs. He is an electrical engineer and I work in HR for a large retail company.

 

SEEDS WE HAVE PLANTED FOR FUTURE GROWTH OF CHANGING LATITUDES

  • During  breakfast at Big Boy one spring morning, Dustin came up with the idea for our blog/brand name: Changing Latitudes

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  • I created a logo for us instead of having someone else come up with it from scratch. It was more meaningful to us this way and cost about half the price of what it would’ve when we took it to a professional to have it drawn up digitally. First I drew the logo, then painted it, then had it digitally created by someone locally. The anchor represents Dustin and boating, the compass represents me and traveling, and the rope represents God intertwined in the midst of it all, keeping us centered and strong in him. A favorite verse of ours is Ecclesiastes 4:12 “A cord of three strands is not easily broken.”
  • Started this blog!!! And we have been working diligently to get it up and running and to create more traffic for the site!
  • Dustin had the idea to start making jewelry to sell since the materials for it are easily portable on a boat and we could make it from anywhere, so we spent our nights after work for a few weeks honing our skills and each made about 5-10 starter pieces and opened an Etsy shop together. It has been slow to start, but Dustin sold his first bracelet a couple of weeks ago to our first customer in Pennsylvania! (Congrats again, honey!) We plan to add more and more boat and travel themed items that are crafted to go along with our name, “Changing Latitudes” and the profits from this will go towards our boat fund and will act as another income stream once we set off on our voyage together. We will be slowly adding more and more to our shop so be sure to check back often!
  • Check out our shop at:  https://www.etsy.com/shop/ChangingLatitudes

 

UPDATE ON THE BOAT SEARCH

We live in Michigan and over the cold, dreary winter when the weather was too bad to go outside and do anything, we got inspired watching countless hours of You Tube videos about other couples who are doing what we are trying to do, paying close attention to what kind of boats they had and how they worked out for them, what kind of provisions they needed, etc. Since then, we have been scouring the internet relentlessly for contenders of our own. We have always been power boat people and it’s going to be a huge learning curve to switch to sailing but it will allow us to travel a lot farther with a much lower cost, and I think it will be fun! Luckily Dustin’s mom is a captain and spent many years sailing so we will have a good teacher when the time comes!

When the weather finally cleared this past spring, we couldn’t wait to start looking at sailboats to get a feel for the different layouts we had been looking at online! So far, we have looked at the following boats: (pardon my broken nautical language- Dustin is still teaching me the proper lingo) 🙂

    • 36’ Catalina: Beds were kind of small and the aft cabin felt like a cave-very claustrophobic
    • 37’ Hunter Legend: had a great deck with lots of walking space but not much storage space overall (inside or outside), had a centerline queen bed but it was still in a cave
    • 33’ Endeavour: really liked the layout of this boat but the v-birth was very tiny and we are not so sure it would work for us as I am 5’8″ and Dustin is 6’1″ and he snores. Any of you who have a spouse that snores can relate and know that close sleeping quarters together = no sleep at all for the other person.  The exact boat we looked at was way overpriced for the work that was needed on it and it hadn’t been in the water in several years, which is never a good thing
    • 29’ Ericson: We drove to Whitehall/Montague to look at this boat, which is about an hour and ½ drive for us. This was the same model sailboat that Dustin’s mom had when he was younger but they only used it in the Great Lakes. It would make a great beginner boat for us to learn on, but is not set up for a long distance trip like we plan to do. This particular boat was a mess and needed much more work than we were willing to tackle at this time.
    • We also plan to look at a 36′ Islander Freeport (Plan B layout) this coming weekend while we are in Canada at Niagara Falls for our anniversary. We found one for sale less than 20 minutes away and the rest are 15-20 hours away so this works out perfectly! I fell in love with all of the windows that this model offers and the natural sunlight they let in throughout the living space. We are a little concerned that there is only one bed though. We really want our family and friends to be able to come visit us once we start our journey and want them to feel like they have their own space (as much as one can on a boat!). From Niagara, we plan to drive over to Lake St. Clair near Detroit and spend the day looking at other sailboats. Wish us luck in finding one we like!

         In the midst of the chaos of daily life, it is easy to lose sight of all the small things that are being checked off the list to get to our goals but I think it is important to keep track of the progress along the way because it is crucial for staying motivated. Every little step is getting us closer to our final goal! 🙂

4 Comments Add yours

  1. I love seeing people’s path to achieve a dream.

    It’s interesting that you are getting rid of the credit card though. We use the card instead of cash where possible only because of the frequent flyer points attached to it. We have a card that gets us points with a particular airline and its partners. We only buy things that we need (food & fuel) and know we have the money for – we have our utilities bills, internet access and mobile phones direct debited from that card. So essentially things that we have to pay for anyway, we pay for with the card.

    Fortunately, we do not have an ‘impulse buying’ nature. Already we only have one car, we ride bikes to work/farmers market/beach and we generally cook and eat at home.

    Using points, we have been able to upgrade to a more comfortable class once or twice for flights from Australia that are overnight or over 8 hours (almost everything is a long distance from Australia).

    I understand that some US credit cards actually give you cash back.

    We have found that ‘working the card’ has its own financial reward and with that extra cash/points we can pursue our travel dreams.

    Whichever way it works for you, you will never regret the decision to travel and expand our worldview. Go for it! I look forward to you posts from your boat around the Caribbean!

    P.S. I follow another blog written by a couple sailing around asia called https://trippinturpins.com/. You might enjoy it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for the encouragement! And I appreciate the perspective you offered on credit cards! We do plan to keep one card, but are paying off the unnecessary ones. I have often thought about using one to earn frequent flyer miles but any of them I have seen have such high interest rates. Maybe I’ll have to do a little more digging! 🙂 Free or discounted travel is always a good thing! Thank you for the blog suggestion! I will definitely check it out! We always enjoy reading what like minded individuals are doing! Where is your favorite place that you have been so far? I have always wanted to visit Australia!

    Like

  3. Hi guys,
    Thanks to you too for liking my posts on Italy. I’d have to say Italy is A favourite place of mine and I go there whenever possible. I have family there and have been learning to speak Italian for some years now. Understanding the language enriches the experience enormously and allows you to get off the beaten track. I prefer southern Italy because there are far less tourists and the associated ripoffs you get in tourist areas. But having said that, last year we ventured north again to Milano and Bologna and thoroughly enjoyed what they have to offer.

    It’s hard to pick ONE favourite destination. Places excite me for different reasons. I like architecture, art galleries, archaeology, nature, cycling, hiking and food. Many places tick most or all of those boxes! We love South America and have been there twice for 5 weeks each time. And I would go back in a heart-beat. so that would have to be high on the list. We have only been in the southern bit or South America – Argentina, Chile, Peru. I did a blog on our second trip called Mostly Patagonia which you can find here: https://mostlypatagonia.wordpress.com/ . The first trip, which included Machu Pichu, we documented here:
    https://mltatlarge.me/tag/south-america/ We do not spend money on tours and we hardly book anything ahead. Travelling off-season is our preferred time. Less crowds and less expensive accom. We stay in hostels, BnB type places, campsites (where the tent is already there to reduce our load!), etc and not resorts or 5 star.

    With the credit cards, the same here in Australia, the ones with frequent flyer points have a higher interest rate. However, WE PAY OUR CARD OFF EVERY MONTH (in fact it is direct debited from our bank account) and have NEVER EVER paid a cent of interest. We put the essentials on the a card that gives us the most points. Think about your ‘necessary’ spending (food, fuel, utilities, etc.) and think how much that adds up to in a year. Make the card work for you!

    I’m sure you’ll work out ways to save end enjoy your dream sailing trip.!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Italy definitely has a piece of my heart as well! I’ve been there twice, once for a college course when I was 19 and once with Dustin when we went back for our honeymoon. Such an incredibly beautiful country with such a wonderful way of life! 🙂
    I too, love to immerse myself in the cultures off the beaten path. We will still visit the well known tourist sights but we do not like booking many tours as we like to be able to go off on our own and explore.

    I would LOVE to go to South America! I’ll have to check out your posts on those areas! The furthest south that I’ve been is Costa Rica in Central America. I am also going on a mission trip to Guatemala in October this year, but I have always wanted to visit Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. We are hoping to spend some time there once we begin sailing!

    Thank you for taking the time to give so much insight as to how you travel! I enjoy reading your comments and posts! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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