Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Our Job

Some people may wonder how we are able to just pick up and move in our line of work.  Well first let me explain what Cody and I do for a living.  We are manufacturers' representatives.  We specifically sell high voltage electrical equipment to energy companies for transmission and substation applications. 

The only reason we moved to Indianapolis was because many of my customers are in Indiana, most being in the Indianapolis area.  Cody quit his job in Illinois and completely changed careers to start doing the same line of work I do.  The reason we are able to move and keep our same jobs is because we work remotely.  It is not necessary to be in physical proximity of our customers however we do have to travel to go visit with them often. 

Originally when I got into this line of work Cody and I were not together so I was a single mom needing to go see my customers when the kids were at school so living closer to them was imperative.  Now that Cody is involved with my business he is able to do most of the traveling that is more than just during the day when the kids are in school.  Him coming aboard allows me to no longer need to live in Indianapolis because one of us can travel and one of us can stay with the kids, as long as him and I do not need to travel to see different customers at the same time.

Our business is all commissioned based.  If we sell a product the factory pays us a percentage of what we sell.  We represent four manufacturers as of now but we are always trying to pick up new product lines.

This line of work can be a bit unpredictable.  Some months we bring in only a few thousand dollars and other months we can bring in over $10,000 in commissions.  Sometimes we work really hard to make a sell and it falls through, while other times we just get an email from a customer saying they want to buy something and we didn't have to put in any work to make the sale.  Sometimes an energy company will order many products at once and then we won't hear from them in a few months.  We never know how much money we will make any particular month so we have to budget for the not-so-profitable months.

Many people have careers that allow them to work remotely so living a nomadic lifestyle is very doable now-a-days.  For us we do not need to have a job where we work remotely because we want to start planting roots in the town where we will be building a house after this adventure of living in a fifth wheel is over.  We are grateful that we do work remotely though because it allows us to spend more time together as a family and it allows us to travel extensively in the summer, like we did last summer, which you can read about here.







Paying Off Student Loans

The dreaded student loans!  Ughhhh!!!  Our student loan payments each month are a killer and that is mostly my fault.  When Cody and I met I had about $75,000 in student loan debt while Cody ony had about $13,000.  His monthly loan payment is $161 a month and mine was $808.

As you may know by now we want to be debt free in 10 years and that includes our student loans.  If we pay the monthly payment each month we will have them paid off within 7 years.  However, as with any loan, you also pay more interest the longer you have the loan so we knew we had to pay them off earlier than 7 years.

We were at church one Sunday and the pastor showed us a Dave Ramsey clip about debt.  You have to watch the whole thing but below is just a clip.


This video struck a cord in me. I knew God was calling me to pay off my debt.  Luckily for Cody and me, neither of us have credit card debt nor a mortgage; we only have student loan debt and his truck loan debt.  We paid cash for Ruby, our fifth wheel.  We paid cash for my engagement ring, so when Cody gets around to proposing we already have the ring and we have no debt on it.

If you watch the whole video Dave Ramsey suggests taking all your debts and writing them on a piece of paper in order from the smallest to the largest and displaying it in a prominent place in your home where you will see it often.  I did just that.  Rather than write the total amount of my student loans I actually wrote them as each individual loan.  Cody's student loan is second to highest, while the rest are mine.  We did not include Cody's truck loan because we want to first focus on our student loans. 

We still make the monthly payments that are due on the student loans however we are paying a little bit more when we can.  For example, when we received our tax refund this year (we claim zero all year so we receive a refund when we do our taxes) we used all of that money to pay off my smallest student loan.  It is a small victory being able to cross off one of those loans. 

By paying off the smallest loan my loan payment each month went from $807.83 to $726.28, which is a $81.55 savings each month. Since our budget already includes $808 for my student loan we are now paying $80 more each month to the next smallest loan amount.  If we had just made the minimum payment to that small loan it would have been paid over 89 months and would have cost us $7257.95 rather than the $5765.84 lump sum, so we saved $1492.11 by paying it off when we did.

We will not be able to pay off our debts overnight but it is our hope that with the money we save from living in the fifth wheel that we will be able to pay them off much quicker.






Monday, March 14, 2016

Pray, Pray, Pray

If you know anything about our story then you may know that the idea of moving into a fifth wheel just came to me one day. At first I thought it was a silly idea but over the course of a few days it kept popping up in my mind.  Finally I decided to tell Cody about the idea.  We were making one of our twice a week drives to central Illinois, which was a two hour drive there and then a two hour drive back that we made twice a week.  I pretty much just told him my idea without really thinking of how I should set it up.  I don’t think he really thought I was serious.  I think he was thinking I was just saying it as a fun idea that would never actually happen.  A few days later I brought it up again and I could tell he had been thinking about it since I mentioned it.  We discussed it several times, the practicality of it, the benefits of it, the downsides of it and, finally, we decided it was the best idea for our family.  You can read all about the reasons we decided to move into the fifth wheel here

This may seem like we just made the decision and that was that but it is so much more complicated than that.  When I couldn’t get the idea out of my head the first couple days I simply prayed about it.  At first it was just a quick prayer asking God to put it from my mind if it wasn’t something that He wanted for our lives.  Obviously that didn’t happen.  I felt like I was being pulled in that direction.  When Cody and I first started talking about it we would pray about it together, and let me tell you, Cody prays about everything, every day.  I love when we pray together.  He always thanks God for all we have and asks God to continue blessing us.  So it was no surprise that our prayers together ended up consisting of praying about the decision to move.

Although God didn’t open up the heavens and speak directly to me I knew He was calling us to do make this decision.  Everything about it was consistent about what the Bible says.  The whole goal of living in the fifth wheel is to save money and pay off debts, which is a biblical practice.  It also aligned with the previous things God had been working on in me: being materialistic, paying off my student loans and becoming debt free by 40 (read about those here).

If you or your family are deciding to make the change from a house to a fifth wheel, or travel trailer, or RV or whatever it may be, make sure you take the time to ask God if that is really what He wants for your life.  It is not the life for everyone and God doesn't call everyone to do it.  Pray diligently and be obedient.




Meet Ruby

We have decided on a name for our fifth wheel.  She has been named Ruby.  Cody gave me five names he liked: Walter, Wilbur, Sparty, Rudy, and Voltron.  I narrowed it down to Walter, Wilbur, and Rudy however I also added the name Ruby (I added Ruby because when Cody wrote down the name ideas I couldn’t read his handwriting very well and thought Rudy was Ruby and I particularly liked that.  I took the narrowed down names to the kids and they liked Ruby.  Cody thinks that the fifth wheel should have a boy's name because of the sheer size of it, 40 feet.  I think of a home as feminine so I preferred Ruby and the kids agreed.  So I am pleased to present Ruby, our home on wheels.


"My House"

Have any of you heard the song “My House” by Kacey Musgraves?  Oh it is so fitting for our adventure. 




Why I Decided to Live in a Fifth Wheel

There are many reasons why we decided to move from our home outside of Indianapolis to a fifth wheel parked in central Illinois (you can read about all the reasons here) but I also have personal reasons as to why I decided to make the move.

Here are a few reasons that downsizing my living space will benefit me as a person (and I must apologize for how lengthy this post is):

I'm Materialistic!

In the summer of 2015 God started to reveal to me some of my many flaws.  Specifically the fact that I'm materialistic.  It started when Cody and I were on our coast to coast road trip (which you can read about at The Smart "Coast to Coast"er) and we stopped by a mall in Seattle, Washington.  I bought a couple Michael Kors purses, which many of you may know are quite expensive.  A few days later I was on Pinterest and saw one of the exact purses I had just bought in a different color.  I had bought a light gray one and the picture I saw was of a white one.  The moment I saw it I just wanted it so bad.  Even though I had just bought two new purses and hadn't even used them yet I so badly wanted the exact same purse in a different color. 

I got online and started to order the white purse right there in the truck while we were driving to our next destination almost immediately after seeing the other color purse on Pinterest.  It was in that moment that God spoke to my heart. It wasn't a whisper; God was yelling at my heart.  I feel like he just slapped me upside the head and was just like "what is wrong with you".  It was exactly what I needed.  I had become so wrapped up in having things and buying things that I wasn't satisfied unless I was spending money on something, anything, including another purse exactly like one I already had that I would hardy use because I already had too many.

I realized that there are two reasons why me being materialistic isn't good.  First, it is not a trait that God has, therefore it is not a trait that I should have.  "Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world the love of the Father is not in him" - 1 John 2:15.  I did not even have to look this verse up.  It is the first verse I ever memorized when I was a child.  How had I went from hiding this verse in my heart to completely ignoring it?  When did I become so materialistic?  Why was I so wrapped up in having things?  Second, being materialistic means I'm buying things, spending money on things, spending money on things that do not really matter, money that could be used for other things that do matter. 

It wasn't just the purse.  I mean that was the first time I really felt God telling me to work on this issue, but I wasn't materialistic because I wanted a white purse when I already had the gray one.  I was materialistic because I ALWAYS wanted something new.  And when I got something new I immediately wanted something else.  All I had to do was look around at everything I had and it was obvious.  Anyone could come into my home and see how materialistic I am.  This revelation (because it was definitely a revelation to me) was almost embarrassing.  Do people look at me that way?  Am I known as a materialistic person?  Is that one of the qualities that people identify me with?  UGHHH! 

I started to look at my life a little differently after God opened my eyes.  Why did I have over 100 pairs of shoes?  Why did I have 150 dresses?  Why did I hoard craft supplies?  Why would I buy new dishes when my old ones were perfectly fine?  Why did I always buy new household decorations?  The answer...I was filling a void in my life that could only be filled with God.  It's not like I wasn't a Christian.  We go to church.  We volunteer at church.  Our children go to a private Christian school.  We pray before we eat.  Cody and I do daily devotionals together.  We listen to Christian music.  I mean we are living a life that puts God at the forefront however I was allowing things to have a place in my heart when really all I needed to do was open that space up and let God fill it up.

I'm not saying I've completely changed.  I still struggle with wanting new things but the difference now is I really consider my motives before I buy something.  Do I need it?  Will I use it?  Why do I want it?  Can I get the same thing significantly cheaper?  These are just a few questions I ask myself before I buy something.

Now let me say that buying things for yourself is not wrong.  Not by any means.  However always desiring more is not the life I wanted. 

I Want to be Debt Free by the Age of 40!

I just turned 30 last month so that still leaves me with 10 years to go but Cody and I have discussed at length how we can be debt free in 10 years and we have a game plan to do it.  Now obviously we know life throws curve balls and things could change at any minute, like losing our jobs or illness or any number of things.  Maybe be won't be able to stick to the current plan but if God continues to bless us and we stick to the plan we have then being debt free is very doable in 10 years. 

Our first step is paying off our student loans.  Unfortunately for Cody, I came into the relationship with about $75,000 in student loans.  I got lucky in that he only had about $13,000 in student loans.  He had much more financial help from the government while pursuing his bachelors degree than I did while in graduate school.  My student loans are for my master's degree and the two and a half years I spent working on a doctorate.  So overall we had about $88,000 in student loan debt between the two of us.  For the first year we just made our minimum monthly payments and didn't think much about paying them off early until we started discussing becoming debt free by the time I am 40.  When we made the decision to become debt free we started working on a game plan to pay off our student loans early.  You can read all about our student loan payoff game plan here.

In order to be debt free we need to pay off our current debts and make sure that any future debts we acquire can be paid off within the next 10 years.

I Want to Move Back Home!

I'm from central Illinois and I always thought I would never move away however I had to move for work and I long to be back in central Illinois.  Although I don't necessarily want to move back to Champaign (where I grew up) I do want to move back to Champaign County.  My family and friends are there.

So those are my reasons for wanting to move from our house to a fifth wheel.