1Q14 Update on the Smoky Mountain Planning

It’s been a while since I mentioned our plans to move to the mountains and start a life of living off the land with mud in our toes and the wind in our hair . . . or something like that. I figured I’d try to give quarterly updates if only just to keep me on track of what needs to get done and how we’re working on those things. And maybe you’ll all find it interesting as well.

Grab some popcorn – this is a LONG post.

So the 4-fold path that we’re working on was as follows:

  1. How are we going to afford it?
  2. Where do we want to live?
  3. What do we want to do as a career?
  4. How physically fit can we get before then?

We set a tentative 2-year plan, originally based on the fact that Jess is going to be in Savannah at least that long and we’d like to keep as close to her as we can until she figures out what she’s doing after she’s done with school. That 2-year limit is extremely tentative and at this point will actually have more to do with something that Justin is working on that I’m not allowed to talk about yet. Sorry! Once he gives me permission to talk about it, I will. But the timeline is probably closer to 3 or 4 years at this point.

That’s not a problem, though, mostly because our financial situation isn’t getting cleaned up very swiftly. We’ve been doing pretty well on our budgeting, though! It’s astonishing how much money we save just by setting a menu for the week and shopping to that menu. Instead of going in to the grocery with no idea about what we’re eating each week, we have a plan and we stick to it – unless we see deals on things that we know we’ll use and then we take advantage of those. But for the most part, we stay under our grocery budget.

We just haven’t quite figured out how to hammer down these credit card bills as quickly as we’d like. They’re going, just not fast. And now and then we find ways to throw a lot of money at them all at once and that helps, but it’s going to take a while before we’re out.

For the sake of transparency, we have 5 credit accounts and a car loan (and I actually have an additional 2 credit cards for work, but those don’t count here – I just have to keep an eye on them). And then we have 3 school loans that we’re not concerned about just yet because the interest rates are very low.

Starting at the beginning of September, three of those credit lines were at a $0 balance and we’ve maintained that $0 balance – we might use the cards, but we pay them off. On the other three accounts (2 credit cards and the car loan), we’ve managed to pay off a total of $3,399.14 in 4 months. We’ll have the car paid off in July, which is going to free up a bunch more money each month right there and we’re excited about that!

But, like I said, it’s going to take a while before we’re out of this hole we dug for ourselves.

Once we’re out of debt, then we’ve got to start throwing everything that we can into saving up for a down on some property. I’m especially looking forward to that part! I’m tired of seeing my money sucked away into the septic system of credit card debt.

So, we’ll keep on living under our means, throwing as much money as we can toward our debts, looking for more ways to bring in money, and looking forward to the day when we’ve got a big chunk of change that we’ll take and exchange for a slice of the world that we can claim as our very own. Put up a sign on it and everything.

Meanwhile, we’re still looking around for where that little slice of the world could be located. Justin and I are planning a trip up to Chattanooga later this month. Justin is actually planning it, as it’s going to be sometime near my birthday, and I have no idea what we’re doing since he’s trying to make it all a surprise. But we’ll head up that way toward the end of February and check out the city and see what it’s like up there and get an idea about whether that’s a place where we’d be interested in moving.

In a post talking about this earlier, I mentioned that our friend Julie might also move to the mountains when we move, but she’s since changed her mind on that. She’s not going to stay where she is currently, but she’s thinking about moving back to Wisconsin to be closer to her family. Her sister is expecting a baby at the end of May / beginning of June and Julie would like to be nearby while the kid is small. She’s also considering joining our other friend Becky, the one who travels around the country in her camper trailer, and spending a year traveling. So she’s got some options she’s considering. She’s completely free at this point – she’s got a cat and very few expenses and a job that’s applicable pretty much anywhere (vet technician) as long as she passes the certification testing for the state. We’ll miss her, but we completely understand.

And the last two points (career planning and physical fitness) are still so far from being done that I’d be worried if it wasn’t going to be such a long time before we actually move. I’m still not sure what I’d like to do as a career and I might just find a similar job to what I’m doing right now, just in another town. I’m versatile, so I’m hirable. There’s a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga that would work just fine if that’s where we end up. And Justin is still exploring his options and isn’t that much further than me on this whole thing.

And as for fitness, we both lost motivation over the holidays and then fell into the slump of January. We’re getting back into it and I’m very pleased that my legs seem to be doing much better and I’m not experiencing the significant calf pain that I was back in the fall. Unfortunately, Justin is having some troubles with his foot and ankle that we haven’t gotten resolved yet. I finally weighed myself this morning for the first time since before Christmas and while I did gain some, I was pleased that I didn’t gain as much as I suspected that I had. And for me, the weight isn’t really the goal anyway. It’s the fitness – I want to be able to run again. And not just a little 2 or 3 mile jog; I want to run a half-marathon. Competitively. The weight will come off as I start training regularly and start consistently eating food that makes my body function better than sugar and fat does. And this isn’t something I’m putting a deadline on, so it’s not like I have to run the half-marathon before we move to the mountains. But the time off over the last couple months definitely cut my fitness level down and I’ve got a lot of ground to make up. My stamina is way down, my flexibility is terrible, as well as my balance, and I’ve got a lot of work to do.

And I think that covers it for the first quarter of 2014 update! I realized that last year disappeared on me without much of an impact and I’m trying very hard to make this year feel like it counts for something. I’ve got all these plans for things I’d like to be able to do in the future, but I’ve done badly at finding ways to accomplish those things by starting now on the small parts. I’m working on pulling together my short and long-term goals so I can start working on figuring out those steps that will eventually get me to the larger goals. I’m sure you’ll see a post about those things very soon. If there’s one thing that I did learn last year it’s that if I don’t set small goals for myself, then I’ll never make any progress anywhere. This year is going to be different. And I’m pretty sure I’ve said that before, but I don’t care if I failed last time. I’m going to try for it again.