5 Keys to Enjoying All the Benefits of Money Without Actually Having Any

Mogollon Monster 100 Trail

This year, my boyfriend and I took the dog, the cat, and walked away from our home and our jobs. We moved into a tiny Rialta RV, relinquished our possessions, and gave up many of our luxuries. In exchange, we opted for a life of endless travel, complete freedom, and all the time in the world to do exactly whatever.

Neither of us had ever lived in an RV before, and we’ve both worked hard all our lives. We had “normal” office jobs with 9 to 5 hours, and lived for the weekends just like everyone else we knew. We believed that to enjoy some aspects of life, money was required. We didn’t have the financial luxury to do what we wanted 100% of the time… but oh, if we ever won that lottery… THEN we could really live!

What we’ve found after some time on the road is that everything we wanted was there all along, and it didn’t come with a price tag. Here are the principles we embraced to retire into a wealth we didn’t think was possible for us.

1. To be twice as rich, halve your expenses.

The 9 to 5 rat race is a bum deal. It requires you to work yourself thin to afford things that you never have the time to enjoy. You kill yourself to own a big home that you can never spend any time in. Your PTO piles up with vacation time which you never use because work is too demanding. You’re too busy climbing the ladder, earning money to afford those vacation. Which you never take. See the pattern here? You live for the weekends, except by the weekend you’re so exhausted that you have limited energy. So you mostly just rest. It’s an awkward cycle.

It doesn’t work this way for everyone, but for us it did. We decided to opt out by drastically cutting our expenses. Giving up the home was a big one. Mortgage was a money suck. So was maintenance, things to fill our home with, and cleaning.

I gave up my cell phone and replaced it with a free Skype number. By installing solar panels on the RV (in progress), our electricity expenses will be big fat zero. No money spent at RV parks either, since we need no hook-ups. If we don’t feel like driving, we can self-support at a remote trailhead with no amenities for weeks at a time.

We use free wifi, which we can find on pretty much any corner these days. And when we want to, we disconnect by parking on a mountain trail somewhere, embracing isolation. Our water use is minuscule, as we use creeks and waterfalls to rinse off or hand wash our clothes with biodegradable soap. We have no cable or television, but we like going to the movies!

We have one small pot and one small pan, which we use to make food in the RV. Living is simple and extremely cheap. With our family of two adults, one dog and one cat, we can live very comfortably like this on $1,000/month or less.

With our current savings, we could live for about three to four years without working at all. But I still do the work I love, which is writing. I’m currently writing books and articles. The life of a writer is more a labor of love than a way to get rich, but since our financial needs are so low, I can support us all through writing.

I have a laptop where I do all my writing, and then drop into town for a wifi connection to email things or make a post. I also have a Kindle with over 300 books on it, which I pull out before bed for some good quality reading. I get free Kindle books online on thousands of topics. Since everything interests me, I don’t think I’ll ever finish all the books I want to read. Without a 9 to 5 job, I can do more writing (potentially more income), more reading (higher quality research for writing), and more living (many more experiences with so much more to write about).

Want to be twice as rich? Halve our expenses. You’ll be surprised and how little you actually need to feel happy and fulfilled.

2. You don’t have to own something to enjoy it.

This principle blew my mind. There are so many things we can get for free, or for very minimal payment that others work tirelessly to own. Some of them I have already mentioned, like cable,  internet access, and e-books. But also other things:

Instead of owning a pool, we can park at the ocean for days of free water play.
Instead of a gym membership, we can spend weeks playing on endless miles of trails.

We can also enjoy activities like kayaking, fishing, or scuba diving (to name a few) via rentals, for a fraction of the cost of what it would take to own the gear for these activities. Not to mention that the things we value most – fresh air, travel, and the freedom to enjoy life, don’t cost us cost a single penny.

3. Lack of money buys freedom.

If you’re filthy rich, you can enjoy limitless freedom. But when you’re dirt poor, you can actually enjoy pretty much the same freedom. If you happen to be somewhere in the middle, that’s when you’re tied down. In the middle, you need to work to pay your debts and expenses. You’re not rich enough to stop working, and not “poor” enough to give up those expenses and luxuries. You’re stuck indefinitely.

When you’re too poor to afford a lot of the “luxuries” that are so common in that middle space (like, furniture and lawn care for example), you have complete freedom to spend your time doing whatever you want. Just as if you were rich. You don’t have to work as much, or not at all. You have no one to report to. You can come and go as you wish. No home to maintain. No rooms to clean. You can pick which opportunities and activities you want to be involved in, and you can actually be picky about it. Your range of choices in life is significantly wider.

These days, many people consider a good travel trip a resort vacation, which of course implies money. But I’m convinced the reason we crave resort-type spots is because we’re exhausted from working so much that we need a quiet place to rest and unwind. However, when you’re working less, you’ll be amazed and how much energy you have. Suddenly a resort vacation sounds boring. You want to run. Hike. Move. Swim. Travel. All of which we can do indefinitely, and free of charge. And if you still want to rest, try lying on a beach like a sand bum for… as long as you want. And that’s the life we’re living now.

4. There’s free stuff everywhere.

Sadly, we live in a society where so much is wasted. We waste food, products, and energy. Fortunately for RV bums like us, this also means we have an endless supply of free goodies at our fingertips. We can get our hands on anything from food to travel products to personal hygiene products… and the list goes on.

In this consumerist society, we could easily survive on samples alone. And if that’s not possible, we are happy to offer manual labor or personal service in exchange for the goods we need. No currency exchanged.

Between the two of us, my boyfriend and I have a wealth of bartering services at our disposal. He has an engineering background and is awesome all those “boy” things like manual labor and figuring things out and not needing directions. I’m more creative and great at anything related to writing, PR, editing, publishing, promotion, online, etc. This, combined with my journalism background, gives me additional access to limitless products in exchange for reviews or help with promotion.

For example, we don’t always pay for running gear or races (unless we want to, and we still do when we want to support certain products or events). I get free pet gear for our dog and cat – things like food, leashes, running harness or packs, etc. The most common things I get for free are clothing, running shoes, and sunglasses. These are the three things I regularly have to turn down because I either don’t have enough space for them in the RV, I’m not interested in the product, or I don’t want to put in the time to write a review.

The product benefits extend to my boyfriend as well, and this aspect alone has saved us thousands of dollars. I often joke that my boyfriend and I are the best dressed hobos out there, testing all the latest “stuff”. I should also mention that not having a job means I have more time to put lots of miles on all this gear, promote what I like,  and produce many more reviews and videos, making the freebies much easier to get. Yet another aspect of freebies we enjoy is sponsorships. Over the years we have been sponsored by SportKilt, INKnBURN, and GORE-TEX.

Despite the fact that I’m not currently “working”, I am definitely indebted to all my previous jobs in journalism in both editorial and writing positions. All of these gave me the skills that I am now freely living on. I smile when I remember my first day of journalism school, when my professor scared the crap out of everyone by telling us that there was no good living to be made in journalism, and we would be poor for the rest of our lives. If you’re an aspiring hobo, study journalism. I took a chance and studied what I loved, and now I have all the financial freedom in the world. And yes, I’m still money-poor.

If you’re not a writer , these same freebie possibilities are still open to you. One common misconception is that you have to be an elite in order to get sponsorships or freebies. Untrue. All you need is to be noticed. To have some clout. To have a personality or an appearance or a following that makes you stand out from the crowd. Anything at all. You could wear a costume. You could cover yourself in tattoos. You could have a popular blog.

This only works if you do something that fits with your personality, and stay true to yourself. Staying genuine is key. It’s very obvious when someone is doing something outrageous just for attention. People don’t follow fake people.

In the world we live in now with endless blogs and the opportunity to self-publish, it’s easier than ever to “be a writer”. But keep in mind – you still have to be good in order for people to follow you. You have to offer something. Here is a great post by Jason Robillard to get you started on the road paved with freebies.

5. Movement buys happiness, not money.

We’ve all heard variations of the saying that money buys (or doesn’t buy) happiness. I don’t know too much about that, but I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that movement definitely equals true happiness. I have this epiphany every time I’m running on a deserted trail in the middle of the week when everyone else is at work. I am happy when I’m moving. And I don’t think it’s just me.

My boyfriend and I can indulge this thirst for movement on a daily basis and sometimes several times a day. The joy we feel in being able to physically move our bodies all day long is unparalleled.

I’ve watched our dog make a transformation as well. In her old life, she stayed at home and waited for us to get home from work. She got long runs on the weekend, and sometimes a shorter run or ball play during the week. We tried to take her out as much as possible, but her outdoor time didn’t compare to what it is now.

As soon as we put our dog in the RV environment, she transformed. She is more well behaved and, for the first time since I’ve known her, genuinely tired at the end of the day. She is no longer jealous of the cat (ha), and she used to be more skittish of other dogs. Now she wants to meet them. Her doggie self-esteem has improved too.

As soon as we wake up in the morning, Ginger and I step right out on the trail to run or hike. Then it’s breakfast. Then more playtime until it’s time to go to bed. Yesterday she was prancing through a creek with us, jumping and barking playfully while we all splashed around. Ginger lives a better life now than some humans do. And I believe that this is how all humans are meant to live.

The truth is, we belong outside. Our bodies, our skin, our organs, were built to be outdoors. We belong to the trails and the mud and the streams. Yet these are precisely the things that we have built walls to keep out. We sanitize ourselves agains the very things that scrub our souls clean, and then wonder why our bodies are breaking down along with our spirits.

Our minds were not created to be satisfied with the repetitive motions of menial jobs. We are not stimulated that way. We are not happy. But here on the trails is where we find ourselves.

All this is all free. I could run a new trail every day from now until my dying day, and never cover all the great space that this beautiful country has to offer. So much of it we will never seen. And yet during the week, we are all alone on this great land. We run and laugh and play and wonder where everyone else is. And then we remember – they’re all at work.

So What Can We Do?

I understand that not everyone wants to do what we’ve done. And some people actually enjoy their jobs. But there are small things that we can all do to live more richly and spend less money. Especially if you work at a company that is not your own, or in a menial job that is not your career and not your passion, try some of these tips:

1. Cut expenses.

No matter what your budget looks like, there’s probably something you can cut out that you don’t need. I can’t tell you what that is, but you may know. Trade that extra money in for free time and rest.

2. Take a vacation.

Screw work. You earned every single one of your vacation days, so don’t let them pile up into meaningless hours. Nobody will ever remember the extra hours you put in at work, but the memories you make on a vacation are truly priceless.

3. Take lunch.

Stand up. Get out of the office. Go for lunch. Literally – eat lunch. Go for a walk. Do not ever, ever, ever work through your lunch hour. Unless you own the entire company, you’re giving away your time for free. Your time is worth much more than what they are paying you.

Take the entire lunch hour, and don’t come back early. Take every break too, and make them count. Run around the block. Do burpees in the hallway. Run sprints to the lunch room. Do whatever it takes to make your body move and don’t waste a single opportunity to go outside.

4. Sleep soundly.

The worst thing you could ever do for your health and family and wellbeing is to lose sleep over work. Either by working later than you should, taking work home with you, or just losing sleep thinking about work problems. Learn not to give a crap about work when you’re not there. The world isn’t going to end.

Unless you are the president of the universe, they are not paying you enough to lose one single minute of sleep over your job. Your job does not own you. Take your full eight hours of sleep. Especially if you’re living for the weekends, you need to be well rested during the week so you can actually enjoy your days off.

5. Redefine wealth.

Remember that there are countless ways that you can be rich with no money. You can have a wealth of experience. A wealth of knowledge. A wealth of resources. A wealth of personal contacts. There is so much in this world that can be lived and experience and enjoyed with no money at all.

This is hard to believe for us because we are conditioned to believe that we have to BUY and OWN in order to truly live. This is a lie. Change your view of the world. It’s a big world out there, and we are truly rich when we can explore it.

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How I Retired by Age 30

This past May, I sat in the lobby of my office building waiting for Shacky to pick me up. It was the Thursday before Memorial Day and many of my co-workers were excited about the long weekend. One guy passing through the lobby felt especially excited:

“I took Friday off as well, so I get an extra long weekend! I can’t wait for the time off!”

I was excited too, but for a very different reason. I knew that as soon as I left that building, I would never again work a single day of my life.

I was 29 years old.

How is That Possible??

Let’s start with the definition of “work”.

Technically speaking, we all work whether we get paid for it or not. We clean our houses. We raise our kids. We train for races. We go to our jobs. All of the above is work in the sense that it takes effort. We’re not sitting on our asses. And neither am I.

My definition of never working again is simple:

I will never again get paid to do anything that I wouldn’t be happy to do for free.

For many, that rules out most aspects of our jobs, and that was the case for me.

I did like SOME aspects of my job. I loved reading and writing and researching (I worked as an editor). When I went home in the evenings, I would do more of these activities for free. So these are all things I still do.

It’s not work because I absolutely love doing it, and I do it regardless of whether or not I’m being paid (sometimes I am paid, most of the time I am not).

Running is another thing that I do for free and also love. Some of my races are sponsored, and some are not. Regardless of whether or not I am sponsored, I will still run. It doesn’t feel like work.

Which raises the next question:

Where Does Your Money Come From??

After 29 years, I have $20 thousand in savings. Both Shacky and I can easily live on $15 thousand/year. This means I have a little over one year to survive without a job and without going into debt. This is what I consider my buffer.

Beyond that, it really comes down to a drastic change of perspective as far as how I view money.

1. Value time, not money.

I mentioned that $20 thousand equals a little over one year. For me, the ONE YEAR is what matters, not the monetary amount of $20 thousand. One year of complete freedom is far more valuable than ANY monetary amount.

This perspective devalues money to what it really is: a means to an end. What is it you really want? It’s not the money. It’s the freedom. It’s the time off. It’s the running mountains in the middle of the day, happy and carefree. Twenty thousand is a fairly cheap price to do what you want, when you want for one entire year.

But of course, burning through savings is not a permanent or realistic way to live. So this is only a buffer to give me peace of mind. My plan is NOT to burn through my savings. Which brings me to the next points:

2. Cut expenses.

There are really only two ways to have more money:

a) Make more.

b) Spend less.

Since making more would involve “work”, my only option is to spend less.

Our society is set up to keep us in a never-ending cycle of making more money so we can spend it on things we don’t need. Read Jason’s great post about this HERE.

We are marketed to at every turn, and convinced that we “need” the latest products in order to survive and be accepted in society.

The truth is that we actually need very little to survive:

We need shelter.

But we don’t need to buy a house, maintain a house, renovate that house, or pay rent. We also don’t need to buy a bigger house. An extra bedroom. A spare bathroom. Interestingly, these are things that many of us feel we “need”.

I have to credit the months I spent living in Cuba for permanently shifting my perspective on want vs need. These weeks I ate from the hospitality of the poorest families I have ever seen and bathed with a bucket full of cold water and a sponge. Believe me. There is very little we need to be happy.

Shacky and I are buying a small RV where we can live comfortably, never pay rent, and remain mobile. We won’t have a car, but we’ll carry a couple of bicycles in case we need more flexibility with transportation. The RV will be tiny enough to drastically limit our belongings. We will be forced to keep only what we are constantly using and truly need.

We need food.

But we don’t need fast food or eating out. We also don’t need a ton of food storage. Every day, we need food for one day. And that is all.

Shacky and I are semi-foodies, so chances are this is where we will splurge a little, occasionally buying things we don’t need but very much enjoy.

We need clothes.

And we already have them. More than enough. In fact, we are giving away most of our clothes and only keeping the few that we regularly use.

We have chosen INKnBURN to make up most of our wardrobe. These are high-performance, durable clothes that we know will last us for years to come. We are done growing. We don’t need to spend a penny more on clothes.

And that’s it.

Shelter, food, and clothes are our basic needs. Food will be the only on-going expense. Shelter is a one-time buy, and we don’t expect to spend more on clothing.

Because we do already own a lot of things like iPods, Kindles, etc, we will be bringing these along. Whether or not we choose to replace them in the future will depend on whether or not we can afford it, or can get them for free. But we understand that they are not needs.

3. Just because you need something doesn’t mean you have to pay for it.

There’s one more point to be made here. Our society has set us up to believe that money is the only reasonable way to acquire what we want or need. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Over the years, we have gotten thousands of dollars in goods and services without spending a dime. Rather than paying money, we pay by exchanging other goods or services. Trading or bartering.

For example, I can help promote a product in exchange for free swag or a sponsored race entry. Because I am not making a huge financial profit, I am adamant about only promoting products that I truly believe are great and that I use on a regular basis.

Basically, I accept swag for products that I would (and do) promote for free already. I get free products such as clothing or race entries this way.

I am also a Registered Nutritionist. I am trained to work with individual clients to assess them, set up meal plans, and help them reach their health goals. This is a valuable service I can exchange for something else that I need. Maybe food.

Last but not least, manual labor is another option. Shacky and I have always wanted to help out at a farm. One possibility for us is to exchange farm labor for healthy, organic food. We’re both young, able-bodied, and eager to help work the land.

Between slashing our expenses to pretty much only food, and negotiating exchanges and trades, Shacky and I can survive on surprisingly little each month. And we’ll have everything we need.

That said, there are still some situations where you do need some cash flow.

What About When You DO Need Money??

1. Savings

I already mentioned this above. We do have a buffer that, if necessary, we can dip into.

2. Advertising

I have recently started selling some advertising on my blog. This will be a very small income, but then again the monthly income we can live on is minuscule.

3. Freelance Writing

Again, I don’t make a lot of money on freelance. But even selling one article a month is a good cash flow for us. Because I can afford to sell so few articles, I can really focus on writing what I want, and sell it to exactly who I want.

4. Book Sales

I am currently writing a book that I will be self-publishing. I have about three book ideas that some publishers have expressed interest in, but I am still leaning toward self-publishing for the freedom.

I want to be able to give my book away for free if and when I want. This is something that would be frowned upon through a publisher.

I expect book sales to be low, but trickling in. Thankfully, we need very little money to survive. This means that I could essentially be making money through book sales while I’m running in the mountains, and have the small amount of cash flow that I need on a monthly basis.

5. Dog Running

One of my favorite things to do in the entire world is trail running with dogs. I run my own dog Ginger on a daily basis and would run any dog anytime, anywhere. It’s such a rewarding experience (and one I do for free).

So we’ve just partnered up with a great dog running business based in LA to help expand their business to San Diego and run dogs for them. Getting paid to run trails with dogs? Pretty sure it doesn’t get much better.

I’ll also have the flexibility to choose my clients, as well as when and how often I “work”. The key is to seek a small income from doing the things that I already love and already do on a regular basis.

Why Would You Do This??

It’s simple.

I value freedom and self-sufficiency, and not much else.

I also want to enjoy my life while I’m young and healthy and full of energy.

The trade-off is that:

  • I will never be rich. The more I make, the more I will give away.
  • I will never have a home to decorate. The trails and mountains will be my home and they are already decorated.
  • I will never have a long-term plan. I will live day-by-day and pursue my whims as they come.
  • I will never have a bucket list. Because why wait? We’ll make it a “To Do” list.

And finally… I will never work another day in my life.

Special Mention

I should also mention that living the dream would be impossible without Shacky, who had done a lot of the legwork as far as researching our new lifestyle and finding us an RV for our purposes.

Also that fact that he’s willing to come along for the adventure is huge, and even more rare is the gift of finding someone you don’t mind living in very close proximity to for a really long time.

We’re currently in transition mode, giving away what we have left in the house and planning to be in the RV full-time this September. Neither of us will keep a job.

Lastly…

You CAN Do This Too!

It doesn’t have to be as drastic as giving away your possessions and moving into a tiny RV, but you can downsize. You can minimize your expenses. You can evaluate what it is you truly need. And you can have more freedom.

Work less and play more. Don’t be like the 90-year-old who is skydiving for the first time. By the time you’re 90, it should be your millionth time.

Take that leap today. Life is short.

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