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We all know the saying “You gotta spend money to make money.” I’ve never bought into that but with this major change we’re making, I’ve really got my fingers crossed that it’ll run true.
You see, my family and I made a big decision not even a month ago. We’ve decided to wrap up the lease to our apartment here in Ohio later this summer, put our stuff in storage, and travel around the country with an RV travel trailer for 8-10 months.
That’s a pretty big change, right? But it’s all about living your best life, my friends, like I just talked about recently in my post, Limited Time, Unlimited Dreams: 3 Steps to an Extraordinary Life. You only get one ride on the roller coaster of life so you’ve got to make your dreams a reality.
And doing slow travel across the U.S. was something on my bucket list as well as Lisa’s so why not make it happen now? Faith’s going to homeschool for possibly her last year next year (time will tell) so we want to take advantage of our time together.
This all came together extremely fast and we honestly didn’t realize just how costly this will all be. We started by buying an RV travel trailer, which rolled into buying a better towing vehicle, and then realizing the costs of everything else needed to do this trip right.
But in the end, we’re gonna find out with this trip if you really can spend money to make money!
- Why are you doing this?
- You gotta spend money to make money… what we bought
- Um, what about the "make money" part of the saying?
- Where we're going
Why are you doing this?
What the hell, Jim?! You guys just moved back last year after living in Panama for 3 years and you’re already leaving Ohio again?
Yup. Here’s what happened…
I was thinking about several things one night. As I’ve said several times over the years here, we have enough money to live comfortably for hopefully the rest of our lives without needing to work if we don’t want to. The term “comfortably” is where it becomes a little subjective though.
With our investment and withdrawal strategy, we can easily take maybe a vacation or two a year and live happily ever after. The problem, however, is that we’re loving the traveling we do and we want to do that more than once or twice a year. Yeah, I guess we’re a little greedy on this.
And, if you’re a regular follower of this blog, you know that I don’t like winter… like at all. This was absolutely a mild winter here in Ohio but it was still just too much for me. I need to get out of here next winter.
I was tossing around in my head the idea of us disappearing for winter next year like snowbirds. The problem is that we can’t afford to do that, especially if we do other traveling throughout the rest of the year.
I kept going down the rabbit hole in my head and, out of curiosity, I created an account on Indeed and started digging around for part-time jobs. My thought was that I don’t make a ton of money on this blog (but I’m grateful for your support through using links like those on my Recommendations and Credit Card pages!) and as other bloggers in the community have mentioned, that income seems to be declining a lot lately anyway.
The blogging income has always just been gravy for us because I really do enjoy writing here (over 8 years now!). But… if we had a little more money, that could make more traveling easier to do. Though I will say, that can be problematic too because depending on the job, taking time off to travel all the time isn’t something most employers appreciate. And when we’re on a trip, I don’t want to be working either so remote work isn’t necessarily the solution either.
All that to say that when I mentioned my job-hunting thought to Lisa, we paused to discuss it. Faith walked into the room about that time and the three of us started talking. If going to work part-time isn’t the answer, what is?
After brainstorming some crazy ideas, Lisa came up with the idea of us letting our apartment lease lapse, buying an RV, and traveling around the country for close to a year. We all liked it. If that was all the traveling we would do for the year, we could likely come out well financially and we could be somewhere warmer in the country during the winter.
What a win!
You gotta spend money to make money… what we bought
This whole idea became a reality very quickly. In fact, it happened so rapidly that we couldn’t process everything in our heads fast enough. And that’s when the spending part of “you gotta spend money to make money” came to fruition.
The first thing we decided is that on this trip, we wanted something more livable. And by that, that means that Lisa wanted a bathroom in it.
Our first big road trip in 2020 was just us and the 2012 Honda Pilot and, although it was good, it was a pain moving stuff every time we set up in the evening to sleep in the back.
With the second big road trip in 2022, we brought along a small trailer. This made for a much better time and made life on the road dramatically easier.
But peeing outside or in our portable toilet in the trailer was still an annoyance for the girls. Plus, this trip is so much bigger. So we decided to buy a travel trailer for this expedition. And we chose that over a motorhome because we liked that we could still go relatively small and then just drop the trailer and explore nearby towns when we wanted to.
We also wanted to go with a smaller trailer because we wanted something that the Honda Pilot could tow (more on that shortly). Even though we stayed relatively small on it, we do lose some of the nimbleness that was nice to have on our last two road trips. That said, because we’ll be living in this trailer for several months, that was a sacrifice we were willing to make.
As a side note, some of you will ask why we didn’t go with a pop-up. We briefly discussed that option but we didn’t like it for several reasons, but the clincher was that a lot of parks in “bear” country out west won’t allow you to stay overnight in a pop-up. Since we plan to spend some time in those areas, that ruled those out.
My goal was to keep the cost of the travel trailer down but give us a good resale value later. So I didn’t want to eat that huge depreciation cost when driving a 2023 model (or even a 2024 model) off the lot, but I still wanted something new-ish.
After doing some RV shopping online and at a few dealerships, we finally found the winner… a new and unused 2022 Jayco Jay Flight SLX 7 184BS. It’s about 21′ long, has a single slide-out, a queen bed, bench seats that convert into another bed, and bunk beds (Faith’s one wish for it!). And it’s got all sorts of other bells and whistles that make this a good trailer for us newbies.
Here’s a stock image of our new Jayco travel trailer…
I showed you that one first so you can get a better idea of the length. Ours was parked between all the others on the lot at the time so I couldn’t get a good photo. It looks ridiculously small from this angle but I swear it’s not…
My photos of the inside aren’t wonderful either, but if you want to check it out (you do!), go to https://www.jayco.com/rvs/travel-trailers/2022-jay-flight-slx-7/184bs/ and click on the play icon on what looks like a video. That’ll let you click and drag around to see the inside in all its glory. You can also see more of the specs on that page. Once we pull the trailer off-site and start doing our thing, I’ll be sure to share more photos.
After taxes, title, and all that fun, we paid about $20,500 in cash.
Here’s something awesome though – as part of the negotiations, we were able to pay about $5,500 on our new Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card with no extra fees from the dealer. That put us over the top to give us the 90,000 point bonus on the card that was offered (plus all the points for the spending as well!). Gotta love those credit card rewards! Here are some posts I’ve written about rewards travel if subsidized travel is something you’d love to get into:
- Master the Art of Anticipation: How Travel Planning Can Double Your Vacation Fun!
- A Month-Long Panama Trip for 3 for an Unbeatable Price of Less than $1,500!
- We Got the Chase United Explorer Card… Again. Boom! Easy Free Travel!
- Is It Worth It to Open a Credit Card With a Huge Annual Fee?
- The #1 Best Way To Track Credit Card Rewards
- The #1 Easy Way We’re Getting the Southwest Companion Pass
- Our Travel Perks Are Drying Up and That’s Big $$$!
- Free Nights – We’ve Had 5 at Hilton Hotels Recently
- We Got Turned Down for a Credit Card… Ok, Four!
- Travel Rewards – 12 Free Flights Earned in 9 Months!
Now, here’s where things get interesting. I spent a lot of time working on the math for this, and in a nutshell, I wasn’t liking what I was seeing. Per the specs, our 2012 Honda Pilot could pull this trailer even with the water tank full. But even so, it would be pushing it close to the max and I didn’t like that. Besides that, we’d have to be way too cautious about what we could bring – we’d be limited to just a few hundred pounds if we maxed it out, which was something I wasn’t comfortable with anyway.
You gotta spend money to make money, right? So, we then bought another car as well… ugh. After a lot of searching, we bought a 2012 Ford Expedition XLT that’s in really great shape. And with a max GCWR of 15,000 pounds and a max trailer weight of 8,700 pounds, this bad boy ain’t gonna have any problems towing this travel trailer even if we maxed the trailer to its rated capacity!
That makes me feel a lot more comfortable for all of our safety as well as taking the burden off our Honda Pilot. However, there goes another $7,500 in cash after taxes and title. Like the Jayco travel trailer though, I hope that we’ll get back most of our money when we sell it next year… crossing those fingers again!
Additionally, we’re putting a weight distribution hitch (WDH) on the Jayco trailer to make for some smoother sailing. I believe the model we’re having installed is this Equal-i-zer 4-point Sway Control Hitch.
Then you’ve got all sorts of things to consider such as:
- A generator and/or solar
- A composting toilet since we’ll be boondocking most of the time
- An upgraded battery – maybe lithium if we can afford it
- A bike rack to install on the trailer
- Periodic RV park stays (you can’t boondock all the time!)
- Fuel throughout the trip
- Propane refills
- And a multitude of other costs!
Plus, we’ll need to have a storage unit for all our stuff from the apartment as well as the cost of storing the Honda Pilot.
Yeah, this is going to be tight right now. I’ll likely need to dip into some of next year’s “paycheck” to be able to cover us throughout the rest of this year.
Um, what about the “make money” part of the saying?
Yeah, I do hope that the “you gotta spend money to make money” adage is indeed valid for us. We’re spending a lot of money right now (like uncomfortably too much money for my liking!). However, the hope is that when all is said and done, we’ll have actually come out ahead over where we would have been if we had just stayed here in Ohio and continued doing what we were doing.
Although we have a lot of upfront costs, we’re anticipating our monthly expenses to be lower than they are now. We won’t have rent or utilities to pay for and the slower we travel the lower our monthly costs will be on the road. That’s because we’re planning to boondock most of the time, which essentially means we’ll be staying in areas with no utilities, hookups, or other fun amenities.
We learned how amazing boondocking was on our last road trip. So not only do you have a lot fewer people, but you can have some extraordinary experiences in breathtaking areas of the country.
The best part… boondocking is free, which is great for the wallet.
And finally, when we get back, the plan is to sell both the Jayco travel trailer and the Ford Expedition. We’re not planning to get back what we paid for them, but if we do get the majority of our money back in our pockets, that would be a blessing. It’s extremely possible that we’ll come out ahead over where we would have been just staying in Ohio and doing the normal traveling that we’ve been doing.
Where we’re going
Ok, onto the exciting stuff! Where the heck do you go over an 8-10 month period of time?
While we haven’t laid out all the specifics yet, we have a general idea of the game plan. It involves a test run and three different segments…
We wait… patiently
We bought our new travel trailer a little prematurely. What can I say, we found the one we decided we wanted and didn’t want it to disappear if we waited.
That said, that gives us an opportunity to prepare everything the way we want it to be. I found an inexpensive camera system (DoHonest RV Backup Camera) that is supposed to work with the Furrion pre-wired connection on our Jayco trailer. So I want to get that installed.
Plus, I want to change out the toilet to a composting toilet. With us planning to do longer stints of boondocking, we won’t need to worry about a black water tank at all. I’ll talk more about that down the line, but to answer your first thought… no it’s not smelly so that’s a huge plus. From everything I’ve read and watched so far, it’ll actually be a lot less gross than the black tank sewage stuff we’d be dealing with otherwise.
I’m still comparing, and although Nature’s Head toilets like this one seem to corner the market, right now, I’m leaning toward the Air Head Composting Toilet. It seemed to be designed a lot more thoughtfully and might be the right choice for us.
There are a few other changes I want to make as well like installing a bike rack and some other fun. But for the most part, our new friend, Jake, the Jayco travel trailer, will just sit in storage for a few months.
We’ll be in Panama for a month-long visit starting at the end of June through most of July. Then when we get back, we’ll need to get a storage unit and move out of our apartment. Moving is never any fun but at least we got rid of so much stuff when we were planning our move to Panama back in 2019.
Then we just wait.
Test run… and save a little rent money! (Late September – late October)
Now for the fun! We’re planning to take the trailer to a local RV campground from late September through late October (when the campground closes for the season).
This will allow us to test everything, get a feel for living in the travel trailer, and work out all the kinks. With any problems, we’ll still be in the area so we can handle what’s needed without too much stress.
That also allows us to officially vacate our apartment at the end of September to save a month’s worth of rent for October. And once the RV park closes in late October, we’ll stay with my mother-in-law for a week or so before we get a move on!
Segment #1: Central U.S. (November – mid-December)
Off we go! For this first trip, we plan to head toward Texas to visit my brother and sister-in-law. We’ll adjust our timing to see what works best for them and make our way through the central U.S. slowly but surely.
After that, we’ll head back toward northeastern Ohio while changing up the route a little. The plan is to get back in mid-December to be home for the holidays. We’ll likely stay at my mother-in-law’s house again during the month we’re back.
Segment #2: South for the Winter! (Mid-January – mid-March)
But come early to mid-January, it’s time to get the heck out of dodge! I hate the winter and the cold and wouldn’t come back even for the holidays if I had my way. So I’ll be chomping at the bit to get moving again!
On this next trip, we’re taking my mother-in-law (MIL) with us as well as her small dog, Ralf…
She hates the winter almost as much as I do so she was more than game on the idea to get out.
This time will be a little more interesting depending on the weather. We’ll need to be careful making our way down south since it could already be miserable out. But we’ll either take our time when there’s bad weather ahead or push forward more quickly when the good weather shines in our favor.
The goal is to just keep going until the weather’s tolerable. South Carolina might be a place to dawdle but that’s still not going to be great weather either. Georgia? Maybe an improvement. Florida? Should be better. If not, I’ll put this trailer on a boat to Cuba if I have to until we reach warm weather! 😉
And that’s it. Chill out, explore, and enjoy our time as snowbirds for two or three months.
Then back to Ohio, we go… again.
Segment #3: Go West, Young Man! (Mid-April – July)
Another break at my MIL’s house for a short bit and then we’re ready to go for the next and probably the best segment… heading out west. This one will go back to just me, Lisa, and Faith.
We loved our time out west on both of our big road trips in 2020 and in 2022. This time, we’ll have a lot more time to stop and smell the roses at the places we’re enjoying. And we’ll have our home with a bathroom with us so we can do this round with a little more comfort!
Again, we need to work on the details as to what our stops will be, but the idea will likely be to do a loop similar to what we did in 2022. With this trip though, it might make more sense to go clockwise instead of counter-clockwise to help us with the weather. Mid-April might still be a little cool up in some of the northern states so why not mosey on down to places like Arizona and New Mexico before working our way up to places like Wyoming?
It’s even possible we make it to California or Montana – we’ll decide along the way!
The goal of this trip is to try to get to the more touristy places before kids get out of school and the summer road trips kick it up into high gear.
I’m throwing out July as a time to get back because if Faith decides she wants to start high school at a physical school instead of homeschooling, we’ll want to get situated first so that’s kind of the latest we’d stay on the road. But if she decides to continue homeschooling, that deadline isn’t as firm.
On the flip side, we could also end up wrapping it up much earlier. Months and months of being on the road and of being stuck together so much could push us to call it earlier. The upshot to that would be that would be selling the Jayco travel trailer and the Ford Expedition during the beginning or middle of RV season would likely be better and more lucrative than catching the tail end of the season.
So, we’ll see what happens. Playing it by ear and having flexibility in our plans tends to work well for us!
And if you want to stay up-to-date on how this new adventure progresses, be sure to sign up for our mailing list. You’ll be in the know, you can unsubscribe at any time, and I’ll also send you some cool spreadsheet freebies you’ll enjoy…
Ok, this is definitely not an example of needing to spend money to make money because we’re really not making any money, even if things go the way we hope. There’s no true income from saving money. However, the idea of spending money to save money is a possibility and that’s what we’re hoping to do.
If we don’t come out ahead though, I would guess we wouldn’t be too far off from our regular spending. And that alleviates being stuck in Ohio for the winter and checks off our desire to travel more, so this should be a win regardless!
Can’t wait to start exploring this country some more and taking in some of the magnificent wonders nature has to offer!
What do you think? Have we lost our minds (again) or is this adventure going to be pretty awesome?
Plan well, take action, and live your best life!
Thanks for reading!!