So we’ve been living in a tiny house now for the past week-and-a-half and many of you have been asking, “what does it look like?” and “how has it been living in a smaller space?” It’s been awesome. (Note: It’s not our tiny house. We are just housesitting and dog-sitting for a couple of weeks while our good friend is off on an adventure.) Continue reading “An Introduction to Tiny House Living: Pictures”
A Book Worth Reading
When my friend shared 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess with me, I could see why she thought I’d be interested. But for some reason, I put off reading it. It sounded like work. Was I ever wrong. Now that I’ve finished the last page, I’m ready to read it again. That never happens.
There is something about the way this Texas-pastor’s-wife writes that is both hilarious and inspirational. Author, Jen Hatmaker, is witty, authentic, and bold as she takes you and her family along on a 7-month “experimental mutiny against excess.”
About the 7 Experiment
For one month each, Jen and her young family of five creatively fasted from: Food, Clothes, Possessions, Media, Waste, Spending, and Stress. For example, in month one they could only eat 7 foods (spinach, sweet potatoes, wheat bread, eggs, avocados, apples, and chicken). Month two, she kept a rotation of only 7 items of clothing. Month three, they gave away 7 things from their home every day. For Waste, they recycled everything possible and started eating unpackaged goods from their new backyard garden. Spending involved limiting their purchases to only 7 locations for the month; and Stress month led them to take 7 daily pauses for prayer and start practicing Sabbath.
In each chapter, I literally laughed out loud. Then I’d turn the page and become either passionately fired up or emotionally choked up. As she shares her struggles to “walk the walk,” you can’t help but feel a fire under your butt to make some changes of your own.
If anything, this book is a call for American Christians to wake up and shape up. But it’s also addressing the needs of our society at large, which applies to anyone. Our lives are getting excessive – more busy and more cluttered – but it’s not making us happier, and it’s affecting our ability to be Christ’s hands and feet among the suffering of our world.
This book is not about making you feel guilty. I wish I could explain, but you’ll just have to give it a try for yourself. In the meantime, here’s a quick promo video for a corresponding Bible study where the author gives a brief overview of the 7 Project:
When people ask us this question I think they are trying to understand two fundamental things:
1. How are you supporting yourself financially to do the things you love (ie. travel) and
2. What exactly do you do?
Explaining to people where we currently live seems simpler to answer (in case you are wondering: it’s with family in Oregon when we are not house-sitting or traveling). Still complicated, but simpler.
Living this unconventional,”digital nomad” lifestyle is difficult to explain. It’s based on core values and principles of wanting to live a life that is simple, intentional, relationship-based, and flexible (regarding time). Whenever we are faced with any decisions about what we want to do with our lives, we use these principles to guide us.
Whereas someone with a more conventional life could say, “I live in __” and “I do ___ for a living” and that might not change for awhile, our lives are lived in a much faster, more fluid pace (which has it’s benefits and challenges). I just spoke to a good friend recently (whom we served with in the Peace Corps) and she told me, “Jedd, I couldn’t do what you guys are doing. I need to be in one place for awhile.” I get it.
Currently our unconventional lifestyle is a better fit for us in regards to where we are and what we want in life. Somedays we do think about having a more “settled” life. But for now, the benefits of travel, discovery, and experience outweigh security and predictability. However, we also realize that earning an income is a necessary part of life. Thanks to technology, the sharing economy, the support of family and friends, we are able to do a couple of things that help support us financially. How do we do it?
It can be broken down into two simple concepts: Expenses and Income.
Ideally you want fewer expenses and more income, and not the other way around (a concept I learned late in life, thanks to Michelle and maturity).
We were hanging out with some friends recently (a couple) where one of them said, “I saved a lot of money from this 50% off sale.” Their significant other looked at them and said, “That’s not saving. That’s spending.”
I laughed at this conversation because I would have been the one thinking that I had saved a lot of money. Michelle has the other perspective where money spent is not money saved.
The truth is that life does have a cost, whether we like it or not. There will always be expenses. But one of the best practices I have learned is how to lower and cut out unnecessary expenses. This is important because the more expenses you have, the more income you need to make. When expenses start piling up, it creates a lot of stress and pressure. More importantly, it takes away flexibility and freedom. You may not be able to leave a job that you don’t like. You might not be able to travel as often as you’d like. And what I found was that I was spending more time at work than I was with Michelle.
Here are some of the ways (and I’m sure there are more things we can do) that have lowered or cut out our expenses:
|Sold Our Car||Use public transportation, borrow, rent||No gas, insurance payments, repairs, etc.||Not having one when you really need it?|
|Housesitting||Living from a suitcase, simplicity||No lease, housing payments, utility bills. Ability to travel and live in different places (rent free)||Constantly on the road, nothing to call your own, always looking for the next opportunity.|
|Travel Hacking||Using miles instead of cash to travel.||Affordable travel.||Takes work to keep track of. Must be responsible with credit cards.|
|Help Exchange||Finding mutually beneficial arrangements.||Work for room and board. Additional benefits of networking, spending time with friends, knowledge and experience in different trades or skills, exploring new places for cheap.||Experience depends on your host and if it’s a good fit for both parties.|
|Family Phone Plans||Cheaper than individual plans.||Must remember to write a check to the person in charge of the bill.|
|Living Simply||Life without excess stuff.||No furniture to purchase or upkeep, less to manage when moving from place to place, easy to find things because there’s less to look through, etc.|
|Affordable Shopping||Shopping at thrift stores||Huge savings on things like clothes.||Takes more effort and time to find the things you want or need.|
|Dining Out Less||Cook on our own.||Huge savings on food. Much more fun and rewarding.||Takes effort, planning, and time to cook.|
Remember, it would be nice to eliminate all expenses, but we also know that it’s difficult. It’s also important to note that lowering or cutting out expenses does not mean cutting out value or quality. Eliminating unnecessary costs and expenses should be liberating and not a hinderance. It’s also important for everyone to find the right balance for their own lives. Owning a home or a car isn’t a bad thing. Please let us know if you have additional suggestions on how we can lower or cut more of our expenses.
Before we left the Peace Corps, Michelle and I did some forecasting regarding our first year back. What did we want to do in that first year? Did we want to travel? Where? How long? Then came the big question, how much would it cost? Additionally, when we weren’t traveling, how much would things cost regarding our monthly expenses? Food? Student loan payments? Phone and internet? We came up with some rough estimates and determined what we would need to make in that year between the two of us to live the lives we wanted. If we didn’t earn enough income, we’d have to tap into savings. Anything extra (the dream) would go into savings and retirement. This is how we determine whether or not the life we want to live is sustainable or not. We are trying it out until the system fails. If we feel that we are not earning enough income to meet our expenses with our unconventional living, then we’ll start to consider more conventional means.
It’s important to note that because we are already trying to live simply with minimal expenses, our income goal is a lot lower than most people. It’s what we think is doable and comfortable for us. This is not the same for everyone. As of right now, here is how we earn income:
Michelle and I started a business as soon as we got back from the Peace Corps. We serve small businesses by providing a wide range of online services that include but are not limited to: social media management, contracting online services, website development, brand and identity development, customer service/client management services, and website management. The key aspect of all of these services is that we can do them from anywhere in the world that has acceptable internet. Currently we have 6 clients from the west coast to the east coast. As a startup, we are still focusing our services and which clients we can serve best, but it’s been going well so far. This is our business website: J&M Consulting
Every now and then people ask us to help them with some sort of project- farming, yard work, housesitting, computer trouble-shooting, etc.. Most of the time we do these things without any expectation of payment but sometimes people do give us something in exchange.
Just like the expenses section, we of course would be more than happy for any suggestions regarding ways we can increase our income (without compromising our values and principles).
Hope this gives you a better sense of what it is that we are doing for the time being and how we try to live the life that we want. As always, we’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to leave any thoughts, comments, or suggestions below.
Happy New Year! As mentioned in our Year In Review post, we took some time off over Christmas to reflect on the past year and cast our vision for 2014. We followed the Annual Review shared by The Art of Non-Conformity and here’s what we came up with:
What went well this year? Continue reading “Annual Review Exercise 2013”
Our intention for living abroad and joining the Peace Corps was to take a “sabbatical,” a time set apart where life looks different from the normal and where we can grow, learn, and reflect. Throughout this whole journey, we’ve been asking ourselves: What’s next? Well, we have a lot of ideas. Turns out they all kind of center around two common themes. One: more travel. And two: making a change in first-world values.
It’s seeming more and more like our vision for a sabbatical may become less of a break-from-“real-life” and more of a long-term reality. That is to say, there’s a very good chance we won’t be going back to the 9 to 5 world and, instead, will continue to pursue an unconventional, nomadic lifestyle (maybe it will only last a year, maybe it will continue indefinitely). We even have dreams to grow Simply Intentional and make blogging part of our livelihood.
I think we’ve come to realize that the consumer-driven American Dream was pointing us in the opposite direction of our true values. We want to learn how to live outside the box. And we’re passionate about seeing more first-world people break free of materialism to embrace a simpler, happier, healthier, and more generous life.
Little by little, as we explore all of our various options for life after Peace Corps, I’ve been doing some research online by finding like-minded bloggers. Three sites stand out to me for the quality of their work and for showing me that a meaningful, “location independent” life is possible. Continue reading “America The Possible”