Mashley’s Adventures – The Day To Day

Current Location: Fayetteville, NC

You can lose yourself watching rain as easily as you can watching a fire. Both are deliberate yet whimsical, completely engrossing in no time at all.
~ Jonathan Carroll


(This week’s edition brought to you by Ashley)

This week has been filled with lots of good food, learning, and adjusting to a different way of living. We’re enjoying our spot here at Lake Waldo’s Beach Campground. Most of our neighboring RVers are also in the area for some sort of transient work like us. Everyone has been very nice and it’s quiet during the day which makes for good sleeping. I seem to have adjusted (or reverted I suppose) relatively well to the vampire life. Matthew, on the other hand, just couldn’t handle the challenge (I’m quite a bit tougher than he is after all ;), so he’s back to normal human existence and sleeping at night. To be honest though, it is working just fine being on opposite schedules. He chauffeurs me to and from work on the motorcycle everyday, always has breakfast waiting when I wake up and has dinner ready when I come home. He even packs me a lunch bag every evening. He’s a very good house husband and makes working at a hospital again a much more tolerable experience. Knowing we’ll be done in 2.5 more months and enjoying the beaches of Biscayne and Dry Tortugas National Parks also helps.

We had a lovely Thanksgiving, although it was just the two of us. I worked the night before, so while I slept, Matthew slaved away. I awoke to an RV full of delicious ribeye steaks, pesto stuffed mushrooms, mashed potatoes, bacon wrapped green bean clusters, deviled eggs, and a homemade apple pie. It was wonderful! He’s turning out to be quite the cook.

As I mentioned above, I’ve been brainstorming the next leg of our journey once February rolls around. We’re in a great location here to begin moving South, hitting all the Southern Florida Parks (Biscayne, Everglades, Dry Tortugas, Big Cypress Preserve), then following the gulf coast into Texas. Quite a few of these Parks require some advanced planning, so it’s great we’ve got some time to do that!

We’re looking forward to spending Christmas with family in Tennessee and to some overnight trips over the next 2 months to explore nearby Conagree National Park and Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. Until then, we’re settling in, seeing what there is to see in Fayetteville, and making new friends in the area.

Adventuring away,

Matthew & Ashley

P.S. – We found tea biscuits! Really been enjoying the treat and reminiscing about our time in Ireland.

Maximize Your Money

I have been accused of being a bit frugal. As a recently married college student whose wife is also a full-time student, I generally do my best to live up to that accusation. 😀 As a man of limited means, I try to get the most value out of any money that I spend.

This doesn’t mean that I always buy the cheapest that I can find. In fact, it often means that I will pay more in order to get better quality. This works out when the higher quality item doesn’t break and I don’t have to go purchase a replacement. It all depends on how I will be using the item: a one-time user can be cheap and disposable, but something I want to last generally needs to be better quality. So before making a purchase, I have to determine what I want the results to be.

This theory also works for other expenditures. I go white water rafting every year. There are two different rivers equally distant from my home. I have never been to one of the rivers, and have been going to the other for over a decade now. This is a simple decision for me to make each year. While I would love to visit the “new” river, which has a 4/5 rating, it will cost as much just to hire a raft as it does to spend an entire weekend at the “old” river, which has a 3/4 rating.

For less money, I can drive down to the old river, stay in a campground for two nights (or backpack and camp in the state forest for free), hike up into the mountains and go rock climbing/rappelling (free, since I have my own gear), explore a local cave, go white-water rafting, and then return home. All this for the cost of rafting the new river, and that doesn’t include food, transportation or any lodging.

All in all, I feel that I get much more value out of my money for the weekend trip, as I get to take part in a number of favorite activities and spend a longer amount of time doing it. I know what is more important to me in this case, and how to best reach my desired outcome.

Do you put much thought into your purchases? Do you only look at the price-tag or do you consider other, more important factors? Next time, whether it is something as small as paying an extra $1 for a preferred chocolate bar or going on a slightly less exciting trip that lasts much longer, picture your desired outcome as you decide what to purchase.

A Free Tool that can Help You Take Charge of Your Finances

You might be wondering, “What does personal finance have to do with adventuring?” Everything. Your personal finances affect not only which adventures you can afford, but also how long you get to go adventuring and how much you get to enjoy the experience. By being in charge of your personal finances, you can maximize all three of these areas.

Many adventures can be had for free or for only a minimal cost. Why don’t more people take advantage of them? Many people just don’t have the time; they’re too busy working to pay the bills. Others might have the time but are too stressed about their finances to enjoy an adventure if they were on one.

Are you one of those people? Do you spend too much time worrying about your finances, or working to pay off debt? I can help you. There is one small secret to taking control of your finances. Once you are in charge of your money, you can pay off your debt and then save up to afford the adventure of your dreams. It will take time, and it will not be easy, but you can afford any adventure that you can think of. Are you ready for the secret?

“Spend less than you make.”

It’s not impressive, and it’s not complicated. However, it can still be quite challenging, especially in today’s credit culture. Applied correctly, this one idea is enough to get out of any amount of debt and build up substantial savings, while providing great peace of mind.

Let’s start with a couple of important questions, whose answers might surprise you. Do you know how much you spend each month? Do you know where that money goes? I know that my wife and I did not expect the results we got when we started tracking our expenses after getting married. We discovered that 20% of our grocery bill is spent on individual $1-5 purchases. This means that if we were to create a weekly menu, buy all of the necessary ingredients over the weekend, and quit making ice cream runs, we could save that 20%. That dollar amount is more than it costs us to go camping all weekend, including the tank of gas. The ice cream wasn’t that good!

We have met many people who are surprised at how much they spend eating out. A $5 coffee every day adds up pretty quick! ($5 * 30 = $150 a month in java!) Add in another $5 for lunch and that’s $300 a month, not including suppers and snacks. We purchased an expresso machine and carry our lunches most days and save a couple hundred dollars a month. Once we saw how much it costs to eat out every day, it was a no-brainer for us; we have more important things to spend our money on.

It’s not hard to track your expenses and discover how much you spend where. All you really need is a sheet of paper and a pen. Write down how much you spend, and what on. Keep the “what on” categories separated, and at the end of the month just add up all of the numbers. Viola! Now you know how much you spend.

While it doesn’t get much simpler than that, it does get easier. When I first started tracking my money, I did as stated above, but used a spreadsheet instead of a piece of paper. It wasn’t long before I started adding features to my simple spreadsheet. Eventually I ended up with a system that allows me to not only know where my money is being spent, but which account it comes from (while balancing those accounts), a budgeting system, and it keeps a running monthly average that helps me create an accurate budget.

Get your copy of this spreadsheet here (directions included), so that you can start taking control of your finances. I want you to go on that dream adventure of yours. All you have to do is simply keep your receipt for each purchase you make and enter the amount into the spreadsheet (I save all of mine for a week or so). Once you know how much you are spending and have identified some areas you can cut back, do so. It might not be easy to see these places, but they are there. After tracking for a couple of months, you can create a realistic budget (this might include cutting back on some of your spending) and then use the tracking to help you stick to it.

Once you have cut back on your spending, you can take that “extra money” and apply it towards paying off your debt (besides the mortgage). Pay only the minimum on all of your bills, except the smallest, where you will focus. Apply the rest of your money towards this smallest debt. Once it is paid off, focus on the next smallest. Repeat until debt free. This debt snowball (the payment amount grows larger as it keeps going, like a snowball rolling downhill) can reduce staggering amounts of debt in an excitingly short time.

Why pay off your debt first? You don’t only want to have the money for your adventure, but you also want to be able to relax and enjoy it. Once your bills are paid off, once you are free of debt, a stress will lift off your shoulders, a stress that you might not even know you had. Your adventure will be sweeter without the specter of debt hovering over you.

Since your expenditures have been cut back, and your debt is gone, you can now live on less money. This means that your time can be freed up by working less. Overtime is not necessary anymore! (Unless you want to save up for something.)

This is the point that my wife and I are nearly at and are striving to reach. We need work only a minimal amount of hours each week to meet our financial needs. Our only debt consists of student loans (which are not currently due). We have the time available to go on adventures because work does not take up our lives; through planning and working a bit extra we can afford those adventures; since we do not have loan payments due, we can thoroughly enjoy ourselves. Once we finish college, we will focus our energies on knocking out the school loans, then we’ll be able to apply that money towards even grander adventures. All that from counting pennies!

If you want more advice on taking control of your finances, I highly recommend Dave Ramsey’s books. Or you can pick them up at your local library. 😀