How We Did It – 3 Steps to Heaven
Step 1 – An Accidental Purchase 8th April
We accidentally bought our 7.34m of caravan heaven. She is a 4 berth, so the dogs are sorted. We are not yet sure where we will sleep, however…!
Step 2 – Some Sums 9th April
Ooooh. My head. We are both suffering from CCS – Caravan Celebration Syndrome.
Shame, as the equation to describe the day today was Wind + Sun + High Tide = Winning Windsurf Combo.
Sadly, the equation to describe Jackie and Mark is E = MC2 , where E = Energy, M = Motivation and C = Coffee.
For us today, where Motivation = 0, the windsurfing math quite simply did not work out!
At some point last night, possibly some way down the second bottle of Celebratory Caravan Champagne, we had a ‘Eurika!’ moment. Caravanning is a cheap way to live and after all, taking off and travelling is something that we have long been talking about.
It’s a bit scary thinking about stopping the talk and walking the walk – and starting the walkies RIGHT NOW!!!! But we rationalised this;
If we were travelling permanently in the caravan and rented out the house, we would have no bills to pay and the rent would provide a small income. We had some savings and, with the rent, it might be enough to tide us over until we reached 55, at which point we could draw on our private works pensions. If we ran short, there was always the option of a short-term or seasonal job to top us up.
At Christmas, many businesses take on extra staff. As a worst-case-scenario, three months’ work at Christmas would still leave the summer free to travel. Other options would be consultancy or interim management, although having finally reached escape velocity from the corporate world, albeit not voluntarily, we were keen not to burn up on re-entry!
So How did we retire early?
We have been told so many times “We would love to do what you are doing!” and asked “You look very young to be retired. How did you do it?” Here, I will tell you our secret.
- If you want to retire at any time, never mind early, the first question you need to ask yourself is “How much do I need to support the lifestyle that I want?”
It has surprised me that not one person who professes to want to live the life that we now do has even thought about this, never mind been able to answer the question!
We had been very diligent in keeping a detailed record of our expenditure for over a decade. If you don’t know what you spend and on what, how can you know the minimum amount that you need to get by?
You also don’t know where you can make savings. Who would believe that we were spending nearly £100 per month on Costa Coffee? That is almost £1200 per year! I dare you to add up what you spend on the little things that you barely notice. You will probably get a £BIG surprise!
The big unknown in retirement planning is how long you will live. You need to ensure that you have a sustainable source of income to last you for the rest of your life – and you may be lucky enough to live beyond 100!
- Unless you are minted, the next question you need to ask is “What are you prepared to forgo to live within your means?”
Are you prepared to sacrifice big houses; posh cars; takeaways; fancy restaurants; expensive nights out; theatre trips; chic clothes; fab holidays; memberships; subscriptions; classy wines; upgrading your car or your tech every year – and the whole plethora of things that advertisers place before you to help you squander your hard-earned cash?
If it meant that we would never have to work again, we found that we were prepared to sacrifice quite a lot of life’s little luxuries!
You will need to be realistic about the lifestyle you want. If, like us, you have been wage-slaves all your life and haven’t won the Lottery, is unlikely to be “Champagne Charlie”!
We are fortunate in a couple of ways;
Firstly, as we worked hard and our careers blossomed, we didn’t fall into the trap of living to our means with an ever more extravagant lifestyle. We had modest cars, rather than gas-guzzling status symbols. We saved hard and paid off our mortgage early. Then instead of spend, Spend, SPEND, we pretended that we still had a mortgage and salted all of that money away. Over the years, it accumulated and now gives us a foundation for our life without work. Instead of buying a bigger house, we downsized into a 1 bedroom apartment. It was big enough for the two of us, cheap to run and with the hoover plugged into the lounge, I could vacuum the whole flat without unplugging it!
I don’t know about you, but I have never heard of anyone claiming on their deathbed that they wished they had done more housework.
Secondly, we are fortunate that we like the simple things in life – the outdoors, windsurfing, cycling and walking. We already have all the sports equipment that we need for our hobbies, so most of our pleasures cost little or nothing. We still want to enjoy life – nobody wants to live like a pauper – so we budgeted to replace major items when necessary; our windsurfing kit, our van, Big Blue – and we could allow ourselves the occasional treat, like a meal out. We calculated that while wouldn’t be rich, we would have ENOUGH – and ENOUGH is all you need!
We came up with our final equation; U + A + R = S where;
U = Unexpected Unemployment :
A = Accidental Caravan Purchase
R = Rent House Out and
S = Sustainable Way to Remain Unemployed!
Do you know, even now that we’re sober, we think THAT math might just work out!
Step 3 – and…PANIC!!!!!! The Rest of April
Wow! So much to sort out; we couldn’t collect Kismet immediately, because she had just come into the dealer, Webbs, who had to give her a service and pre-delivery inspection. While we were massively excited, we persuaded them to hang on to Kismet for as long as possible, to give us time to get prepared. We hadn’t expected to be caravan owners. Our only vehicle, Big Blue, didn’t even have a towbar!
Webbs kindly gave us a month. A caravan is a large item to store for free, so we really appreciated their patience. C day was 10th May; before then, we had to pack up and rent out the house; sell unwanted possessions (ie most of them!) – and get to grips with a bewildering array of unexpected hurdles, most of which were acronyms that we didn’t understand. We had to sort out;
- Caravan Insurance – be prepared to deliver the weirdest information about the technical specs of your caravan, like whether the ALKO stabiliser is electronic or manual. What IS an ALKO stabiliser?!
- Then, what are VIN Chips, CRiS, ALKO and CASSOA storage sites? We needed all of those to get reductions on our insurance.
- We needed a towball, obviously, but single or twin? 7 or 13 pin?
The towball was a particular highlight for me. We had never expected to own a caravan, but I had never even DREAMED that one day, I would be the proud owner of a Fixed Flange Ball – with Electrics!
As you get to know me, you will find out that I love a double entendre. You will come to realise that I had no choice but to slip that one in.
Luck = Planning + Opportunity
People often tell us how lucky we are and I absolutely agree. But what they don’t always appreciate is that getting this lucky didn’t just drop in our lap – it did involve quite a bit of work!
We were certainly lucky that the opportunity came along. As for spotting that both of us losing well-paid jobs, suddenly, at the same time was an opportunity, rather than ‘Game Over’ – then grabbing that opportunity and making it work – well that was down to us.
The luckiest people that we know are the ones who work hard and make brave but calculated decisions. This opportunity was was something that we had been seeking and planning for over 10 years, so when it came along, we were ready; it did not pass by!
So that, dear reader, was our 3 steps to Caravan Heaven and Living the Dream without working. If it is something to which you aspire, there is no time like the present to start planning, ready to make yourself some luck!
Next time, you can read about the trials and tribulations of our maiden voyage…
- ALKO Hitch Locks & Wheel Locks
- Caravan and Motorhome Club – Insurance & advice! Other insurers are available.
- CASSOA – Secure Caravan Storage
- CRiS – Central Registration Scheme and VIN Chips
- Towball Electrics
Useful Links on World Wide Walkies
- Click here for tips on de-cluttering and here for my tips on selling clutter on eBay
- To find out how we accidentally bought a caravan, click here.
- 10 Tips on Letting Out Your House to Fund your Travels
- How to Cram your Life into a Box on Wheels!
- The Perils of Proximity – full-time harmonious living in a small space!
Photo Credit – Nick Jones Photography for the picture of me windsurfing in Prasonisi, Rhodes on a windsurfing clinic with windsurfing guru Jem Hall. For more information on windsurfing clinics with Jem, click here and to find out how Jem rocks as a coach, click here