As you may or may not have been aware, the Triple M family has been on the road since way back in June. We had a blast. Everyone is sun-kissed and skinny from being outside playing so much all summer.
But aside from these obvious benefits, I got another surprise when we returned from this six-week trip: a healthy pillow of cash had built up in the bank account while we were away not working. Usually people have to save up to TAKE a vacation.. they don’t save up while TAKING a vacation. How did this happen?
As it turns out, it was just the usual combination of thinking about things in a new way, to shift the balance of life away from spending and towards earning.
The first factor was renting out my own house. When you own a house and you go away on a long trip, you’ve got a huge asset sitting there not being enjoyed by anyone. As my own trips grew longer after retirement, I started wondering if it would be practical to rent the house out to a trusted person or family so they could pay me for being away.
It turns out it WAS practical! If you know enough people, and combine it with a little social networking or even Craigslist searching, you may be able to find a fantastic tenant to take care of your house for you, and pay you handsomely for the privilege. In our case, another family we met through our son’s preschool lives abroad most of the year, but spends every July in the US. Our house is a good candidate for a short-term rental – fancy yet relatively uncluttered since I like doing renovations but not buying objects. So it was easy to sweep away embarrassing personal belongings and hide them in the basement and have the place looking like a classy hotel for our tenants. Net Income: $2000.
The next factor was finding affordable transportation. Since we live almost 1800 miles from our extended family, it is a hell of a drive. But the wife and son bypassed the driving by picking up a good sale on one-way flights to Canada. On departure day, I dropped them off at the airport, then continued East in order to drive myself separately (normally I would fly a distance like that, but for a long trip and with the requirement of bringing a vanload of tools, I found it more practical to drive). I camped out in the van for the first night (Iowa), and visited a friend the second night (Chicago). After that I reached Canada. So all accommodations were free. Including plane tickets, gas, and an allowance for wear on my older, self-maintained vehicle, we’ll say Net Travel Cost: $1000.
Once in Canada, I did the rounds of visiting but also helped various people out with construction projects. Because I enjoy the work, I ended up doing several thousand dollars of carpentry work on a cottage for free. The inlaws were so grateful, they gave us all food, drink, and even paid for the gas required to drive the tools to Canada and back. Net benefit of food, drink, and gas: $1000
Since we were so busy doing family-oriented things, we found we did not have to buy anything at all on this trip. No Disneyland tickets, no shot glasses, no high-heeled shoes. The things we brought in our backpacks were all we needed. But we did still make one decadent purchase: a $100 sushi meal with good friends in downtown Ottawa, where everything is rather expensive. Net discretionary expenditures during entire trip: $100
On the way home, the whole MMM family drove together, taking several days to do it and staying with family except the last two nights (note to self: need to make friends in Iowa and Nebraska to round out future trips). We got a little crazy and got pricey hotels both nights for a total of $250. Net travel-home cost: $250
So the vacation looked like this:
Income: $2000+$1000 = $3000
Expenditures: $1000+100+250 = $1350
Net Profit: $1650.
And meanwhile, while we were off spending nothing and enjoying life, the July and August rent checks rolled in from the rental house, adding another $4800. With no mortgage and virtually no credit card bill this month, all of these new employees get to stay. What a great vacation!
My point in all of this is not really to describe details of my own vacation, but rather to illustrate the mindset that can help any Aspiring Mustachian or Early Retiree get further in their own recreational plans. Although the vacation industry tries to encourage us to spend as much as possible, experiencing a new place actually does not have to be expensive at all. If you look at each step of the trip and figure out how to maximize the fun and cut out unnecessary costs, you too can probably travel virtually for free. And if you are taking a longer trip, I would definitely recommend using your home or apartment as an income booster for the duration.
What were your most frugal vs. most expensive vacations so far? Does the level of fun correlate with the level of spending, or is it actually an inverted relationship sometimes?