Staying Put: Finances

List of post in this series

I’m going to get the heaviest and most emotional post in this series out of the way first. This is the post I know a lot of you have been wanting, based on comments here and on Facebook, as well as emails I’m received, because it’s the post where I am going to flat out tell you the real principal reason why I lost interest in blogging. If this post offends you, then that’s the second reason why I lost interest in blogging and not the subject of this post. 🙂

Let’s go back to the early summer of 2008, when I’d made the decision to buy Miranda and hit the open road in an RV. At that time, I was almost debt-free (just a car payment) and had savings and investments. There were some rumblings in the financial world, but no real hint that the bottom was going to drop out. My financial advisor at the time told me to finance Miranda rather than buy her outright based on the current interest rates.

The plan was to live off savings for a few months, then I would start getting jobs and eventually build some sort of passive income through blogging. Within a year, I was flat broke (minus my investments) and my credit was maxed out. I was never able to recover from that because of this blog. Instead of doing the sensible thing and just staying put somewhere warmish for a year to get a decent paying job that would let me pay off the newly accumulated debt, I put all my energy into trying to make the blog a business.

No matter how many times most of my readers made it clear that they would not tolerate any attempt to monetise the blog, including supporting me during times of financial crisis that I saw other bloggers got fundraisers for, I persevered and put all my creative energy into finding a way to make money from the blog. The culmination of that effort was the 2011 Early Bird RV Show, which was a major contributor in my hitting real financial rock bottom in July of 2011, the summer that I was in Lethbridge. I only made it to that point, and a little beyond, thanks to the generosity of the readers who invited me to park on their property or even just took me out for a meal while I was passing through town. If you gave me that kind of support, I have to stress how much it meant to me and that it was never taken for granted. You were the people that help me justify some of the energy that I spent on the blog in that time and that made me feel like I was part of a community.

It was in Lethbridge that things would start to slowly pick up as I built my transcription business. But again, I was faced with the challenge of being a digital nomad in a country whose ideas about internet access are twenty plus years behind that of the rest of the world. Even when I got mobile internet, there were months where I was paying 500CAD for bandwidth in order to be able to make barely more than that in income. The only way I could see out of the mess I was in without compromising my desire for mobility was to start spending time in the US for its better weather and lower cost of living. So that’s how the decision came about to buy Haven, so that the US would see I had a real home base in Canada. But then, life continued to throw curveballs, most especially the accident in 2012 that made me feel more isolated than I have at any time in my life. I ended up getting one wonderful winter in the southern US and then, it was time for Miranda to limp back to Canada to be berthed permanently at what would become, although I had no idea of it at the time, my beloved Haven.

The winter of ’13-’14 was really hard, but I emerged from it in a financial upswing that made it possible to go to Mexico for that first winter. For the first time in six years, I stopped increasing my debt load and was able to meet my monthly expenses every month. But I wasn’t actually paying off debt, just living month-to-month.

In January of ’16, the most amazing contract I will ever have ended without warning. The client went above and beyond for me and gave me an incredible severance package that they absolutely did not owe me. I was blown away by their generosity. I had a choice — make a huge dent in my debt or give myself one last hurrah before settling down in Mexico for a few years to actually start paying things off. So that’s how my year in Europe happened. Even though I had to steal from my European budget to fund my preempted move to Mérida, I have no regrets. I ended up where I knew I needed to be, just sooner than expected.

A bunch of Balkan currency leftover from my adventure

I thought a lot about what I would rent when I finally got here. I could have gone with a crappy little studio type apartment for 1,000 pesos per month so that I could really slam my debt. Or I could find myself a real home, somewhere that I’d be happy to live in long-term. I’d have initial move-in costs, but after that, I could settle into a budget and coast, especially if I decided and was able to renew the lease after the initial contract was up. That latter option made the most sense to me. I wanted a place where I could wake up in the morning and be happy to go to work there, a place where I could receive people and build a new life instead of feeling like I was in suspended animation waiting for life to restart. It would be easier to focus on a debt repayment plan if I still felt like I could live a decent life (I’ll go into that in more detail in another post as this one is getting too long). Anything else would feel like I was punishing myself for my previous choices when I did not regret them one bit.

And it’s not like the amount of debt is that huge — once I figured out my real budget for living here, I knew I could knock that debt out in two to three years at my current income levels or even sooner if I increased my income. So that’s the mode I’m in right now, my schedule wholly centred on work, where, for quite a few years, work was scheduled around life. I just need to get through over this hump and then I’ll be able to dramatically cut back on my work hours without affecting my quality of life. Or I’ll be able to really increase my support of my “adopted family“.

I’ll sidebar here to say thank you to Contessa for all her hard work promoting my Amazon link to earn commissions that go directly to this family. This is such an effortless way to help people at no cost to yourselves, but no matter how much I’ve promoted that link over the years, no one else has bothered to bookmark and use it. 🙁

One of the things I’m working on is taking a course that would let me move into legal transcript proofreading. If I’m successful, that will double my income and get me out of debt even sooner. But I never make my plans on financial maybes, just the budget of the day. And unlike what a lot of people have told me, no, I can’t just coast until some long lost relative dies and leaves me their millions! Or I win the lottery. Seriously, what world are people living  in?! 🙂

It helps your finances when this is an expensive taco meal!

I’m actually in really good financial shape for someone my age — between investments, my Canada Pension Plan benefits, and Old Age Security, I will have a comfortable retirement here in Mexico. Property values in Saskatchewan are increasing steadily enough that it is not unrealistic to think that I may one day be able to sell Haven to buy something modest here. So it’s not like some people think, that I’ll clear off the debt and have to start over in my forties with a net worth of zero.

And interestingly enough, I find there is a lot more financial security in being a freelancer than having a job — if a lose a client, I can turn around and get another, and while I’m doing that, I’m still getting income from the remaining clients.  I’ve come to understand a lot of things about myself in my decade out of the world (more on that in yet another post) and one of the most important ones is I don’t need anyone to manage me. I think this has to do with the fact that my parents were never that hands on and treated me like an adult from a very early age. If they didn’t feel I need raising and I did just fine on my own, how does it make sense for me to answer to a boss? Plus, I have had too many “Miranda Priestleys” in my life, bosses who thought they were superior to their staff and belittled them. I know my worth. When I get a client that acts like that, it is so empowering to just fire them!

So all that said, staying put makes financial sense to me. Instead of having to lay out big bucks again this year for deposits and time off to house hunt, I can instead put that money towards debt. I really don’t have any big expenses ahead of me until spring of 2021, when I’ll be able to move from my temporal to permanente visa. All my electronics are up to date; the house is as furnished as it needs to be; I have a furry reason to keep my nomadic tendencies in check and not take any big trips; and while I’m super eager to get a more city friendly vehicle with AC, Uber is ridiculously affordable. I’ve got two years of data now on what it costs me to live my life here, have set a budget that I can stick to, and as long as work holds out, there’s no reason that in 2021 I won’t be able to celebrate my 10-year anniversary of freelancing with an amazing trip, like I did my 5-year anniversary. I’m absolutely fine with where I am right now. Truthfully, I’m exhausted. I have not stopped since that moment in Bulgaria when I decided to preempt my move to Mérida by 18 months. It feels really good to take a breather (yes, there’ll be more on this subject in another post, go figure!).

I’m just waiting to find out how much the landlady is going to increase the rent. My rent went down the second year so I’m expecting a fairly drastic increase to make up for that and bring me back up closer to current market rents. That said, my landlady said it will be a “small” increase so I’m pretty confident that I’ll still be within my 10,000 pesos or less ideal price range. Such an increase would still be much less than having to take time off to house hunt, the deposits I’d have to put down, and the furniture I’d need to buy that is provided in the current house. I’m really a big picture thinker, so the rental increase isn’t concerning.

And that brings me to the primary reason I’ve stopped blogging: my job and blogging both take an enormous amount of mental energy. One pays the bills, one keeps me in debt. I’m mature enough now to know what my priority should be. I do miss having the personal journal aspect of the blog, but I make notes on pictures I take and I do keep a personal diary, both of which achieve a similar result and aren’t as mentally taxing. Would I start blogging again if I could suddenly start making with it a living at least as comparable as I do transcription? At this point, probably not, and that’s the other reason why I’ve stopped blogging. Maybe one day, I’ll address that reason too…

So that’s the heavy post out of the way. Heads up for those sick of the dog pictures — Bonita’s going to be the star of the next post in this series. 😉

10 thoughts on “Staying Put: Finances

  1. Pingback: Staying Put: a Series on Why I’m Renewing My Lease |

  2. Thanks. It’s very helpful to know all that. I look forward to getting to know you even better in your future posts about the ending of blogging for you.

    • I doubt I will be writing that post, to be honest. Will just keep doing like this, publishing my instagram photos here and doing the odd post when I’m in the mood.

  3. Kudos on putting together the data you needed to make informed financial choices and plans! I know that it’s lots of hard work (been there, done that, got the t-shirt too!) but it’s really the best example of the old adage that “knowledge is power.” I’ve tracked every cent & peso for quite some time, and am comfortable knowing that we can easily afford life in Mexico without worrying about the what-ifs. Buen suerte!

    • I’ve known where every cent has gone for over 10 years now. Even when I was living with a kazillion currencies, I made all the conversions!

      I only live here on about a third of my income. The rest goes to debt and investments. Retired expats with deep pockets have a hard time understanding that I could be on such a tight budget when I’m working as hard as I am. But it is what it is. And the only reason I have such a good quality of life (which I will talk about in a future post) is that it’s costing me so little, plus, of course, I’m not travelling in the shoulder seasons.

  4. Would monetising your blog be profitable? Is there a way to make it less intrusive or would you be at the mercy of whatever host you were with?

    • I tried every way of monetizing, both intrusive and not. I tried ads and selling things like ebooks and Amazon commissions and flat out asking for sponsors. Everything that I did was met with the readers treating me like I had no right to expect compensation for the job I was doing. After I was the keynote speaker in 2011 at one of the largest RV shows and even on the cover of an RV and magazine, I still had people insisting that this should just be a hobby for me and I shouldn’t be charging for all my knowledge. It took me way too long to realize it was the readers, not me, who were entitled. So this is one of the reasons why I am not a “Mexico blogger.” I’m seeing history repeat itself with people asking me questions and for advice. I’m not falling into that trap again of giving my knowledge for free.

      Once upon a time, I did have a couple of readers who bothered to use my Amazon link, and I was actually making several hundred dollars a month in commissions m. My bills at Haven, like power and water and garbage pickup we’re actually covered by those commissions for a couple of years. Now, I only have one reader who can be bothered to use the link and it gets a little donation to that family I try to help most months, but it’s nowhere near what it should be based on how many readers I have that I know use Amazon. This link is the only way that I even attempt to monetize the blog now as it is by far the most impactful without costing readers anything or making them look at ads, but, again, even accessing Amazon through a bookmarked link is too much work for folks. 🤷‍♀️

  5. I’m glad you have figured out exactly what your plans are. If only I could say the same! And Bonita is one lucky Dog!

  6. Just popped in after not stopping by your blog for a couple of months, life has been busy… Thank you for your update/story. And Bonita is so lucky to have you and this house/yard. Seems to me you’ve got your head on straight and are making really good decisions. Keep doing what you are doing!!!

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