Eliminating a job is kind of a big deal. Eliminating a job and starting a life of travel as self-employed digital nomads all in the same year…really big deal.
Yes, we’re leaving Lancaster County in December to head out on a road trip south to see national parks we haven’t yet visited.
While we won’t know everything we need to know to prepare for this journey, we’ve done all we can. We read as many blog posts as we could. We asked as many questions as we could think of.
Here’s the highlight reel of our preparations.
Below are steps according to the big buckets in our budget. Here is a link to our household budget spreadsheet.
We’ve paid our car registration fees and insurance for the year. We take our vanlife minivan in for oil changes every 5,000 miles. At 40,000 miles, we have a long life ahead. No special preparation required here, except paying our bills for a year.
We’re in “use it up” mode. Half-empty bottles of various soaps, sprays, and shave creams are being used up to stretch every dollar while we adjust to our new cashflow situation.
We’re also in “pare down” mode. Those tattered and worn pieces of clothing beyond repair are gone. We have more than we need already and we won’t be able to fit as much in our van when we hit the road later this year. We did replace a couple of pairs of shoes for me, since I’m so tough on shoes.
All of our utilities are on auto-pay, automatically deducted from our checking account (except the garbage bill). Since we have house/cat sitters coming this year, this is important to keep the lights on. 🙂 Garbage is paid annually in May via check, but we’ll be back in Lancaster taking a break from travel by then.
We will need to change one of our Xfinity cell phones to serve as “unlimited” so that we can hotspot on the road and keep our business running. At only $45 per month plus fees, it’s a cheap way to be a digital nomad.
We’re in “use it up” mode here, too. A few bags of frozen vegetables, rice, rice paper, and cans of sardines are largely what’s left, some of which we need to consume here because they won’t travel well — don’t want to run the risk of dumping sardine oil in the van.
Insurance / Health / Medical / Dental
We’ve paid our home, auto, and life insurance policies for the year in full and we also have these set up via ACH for future payments.
Regarding medical, we checked with Garrett’s health insurance company before he quit in August to make sure past medical bills have been processed so we didn’t have any surprise bills later. Keeping this health insurance would cost us no less than $1,000 per month, so we checked into other healthcare and healthshare options.
Healthcare.gov said we had to estimate our health insurance costs based on this year’s income, so we wouldn’t qualify for any subsidies. We’re in “increase income” mode, so it is too early to try to lower our income in order to qualify for a subsidy.
Today, we’re members of a healthshare. Thus far, the customer service has been great, but we haven’t had to process any payment, so not much else to report. We contribute $399 monthly for $1 million in incident coverage plus $1,750 uncovered annually.
On the dental side of things, we continue with regular appointments every six months, fix cavities, and replaced our nighttime tooth guards, which at $500 a piece, we expect to last quite some time.
We kept our camper and the Darwin Outdoors project in a storage unit a couple of blocks from our house — cheap garage comparing to when we lived in our big house.
Garrett also stored hundreds of power tools and hand tools in this storage unit, most of which has been sold. Paring down continues on this front.
With our cats staying here with our house/cat sitters, we’ll have to order an ample supply of cat litter and cat food before we leave or set up auto-delivery to make life easier for our sitters.
We’ll also take the cats in for their annual check-up appointments and vaccinations before we leave.
Local taxes for school and property are paid twice a year, March and July. So that our house sitters don’t have to mind the mail, we’re having our mail forwarded via The Escapees mail service while we travel.
March is also when we’ll file federal taxes because of the business. We use QuickBooks Online, so we don’t need to do any special prep work here — everything is online, waiting to be printed when it comes time to submit our documents to our accountant. We’ll have only one W-2, which will arrive in February because of mail forwarding. In subsequent years, we won’t have to wait for W-2 forms, so can send in all of our documents on January 2 if we wanted. YAY!!!!
Entertainment / Travel
This is the budget category we’ve been working hard for these last few years.
It’s time for some fun! It’s time for slow travel.
Rather than acquiring a ton more gear before we go, we’ll use the gear we have and then buy more outdoor gear locally as needed. Without a roadmap for exactly where we want to go, gearing up would only add unnecessary expense (and weight). We’ll take our backpacks and whatnot, the stuff we have today.
There were some internal and external maintenance items to tackle. On the exterior, we had to paint the deck. I painted the deck last year, but the paint peeled in high-traffic areas. So, I took a couple of half days to clean, prep, and repaint the deck. Much better. Worth the can of paint and my time.
I also sealed the driveway. I read new driveways can be sealed after a couple of years and since our driveway is 3 years old, it was time.
Garrett repaired a couple of drywall cracks and painted a few spots in the house so that our interior looks as good as new.
Before our house/cat sitters arrive, but after we move out the majority of our stuff, we’ll take time to do a deep clean, top to bottom.
How We Organized Our Various Kinds of Preparations
If you didn’t listen to this episode of the Side Hustle Show, you might have missed me profess my love of Trello.
Trello became the dumping ground for all of our ideas to make this lifestyle change. We have boards for all of our various adventures.
Inside our “personal” board for our personal life, we had cards for each month of the year.
Since we’ve been planning this epic road trip/major life transition since January, we had cards for all 12 months that we used to organize tasks.
Things like “transfer 401(k) to Vanguard SEP IRA” is one of those tasks that couldn’t be accomplished until after Garrett put in his notice, so that task went to August’s Trello card.
Things like “replace nighttime teeth guards” was something we could accomplish earlier in the year, so that went to the card for May.
You get the picture.
Our Google Calendar is synced to both of our computers and our iPhones. Nothing happens without checking the calendar first.
Holding and participating in events for the business is my focus since it is the top of our marketing funnel. Because of winter weather and summer break, most of those events are in the fall and spring seasons.
As time permitted, we crossed as many items we as could off our to-do list before the busy season of fall events kicked off. Everything is going so well and sharing calendars makes it easy to manage it all.
Those random thoughts I have in the car on the way to the grocery store go to the Notes app on my iPhone. From the Notes app, I put items to Trello cards for later.