#26 – Michael Joseph – Why You Should Live Small and Do More in Your 20’s

The transition from college to full-time work is a big change. It’s a major change in identity from young adult in college to full grown, full time adult.  For most people, it’s the first time in their lives that they are making reliable income.  However, with more income, comes more temptation.  

The temptation to buy a new car, to live alone, to buy all of the things you never had money for as a broke college student. 

These temptations are normal, but also a huge mistake financially!

Here are my reasons why you should be more financially conservative in your 20’s:

Low Income/ High Debt Ratio 

The average entry-level salary in the US for someone graduating college is between $26,000 and 35,000.  That’s not very much money. A mistake a lot of people make is getting their own place or buying a new car.  An entry level salary cannot cover these expenses.  If someone can make it work, they are most likely “house poor”.  Being house poor is living paycheck to paycheck due to being held down by spending too much on housing / vehicles.  It is extremely difficult to save when over 50% of your income Is going toward these expenses.  That also doesn’t include your student loans….  At the beginning of your professional career your income is at its lowest, and your debt is at its highest. 

Most College Graduates with debt take advantage of the 6-month deferment post-graduation.  This gives grads 6 months to find jobs and save a little money before that additional expense kicks in.  The smart thing to do in this situation is to incorporate that expense into your budget for the time you start your first full-time job.  If you do this, then it is a lot more difficult to justify luxury expenses because you simply cannot afford it. 

This is the reason a lot of grads move home after college.  It’s not the most ideal outcome for someone who has lived outside of their parent’s home for the last four years, but it provides a huge advantage in terms of saving money until a promotion or better paying job is available. Rent is your biggest expense, period.  

For those who don’t have this option, the best thing you can do for yourself is to lower your cost of living.  You can do this by living exactly as you did in college, like you have no money. Live with roommates, don’t eat out, save what you can. 

My first job out of college, I was only making $28000 per year. I lived with 5 people, which only made my rent cost around $300.  It wasn’t ideal at times, but I was able to pay my student loan payment, rent, other expenses, and save a little money for myself.  If I lived alone or in a more expensive house, I would have been BROKE…

A utility mindset post-college will help you save money and cover all your responsibilities until you can get a promotion or better job because you have more experience.  With low income and high debt, living as small as possible will get you through this time.  

Get a Side Hustle / Second Job

You should have a side hustle or second job, at least in the beginning of your career.  I say this for 3 reasons:  

  1. You most likely have very little money

This falls under the low income / high debt category again.  Post-College is survival mode. You are doing whatever you can to get by and get out of debt. A second form of income can lift some of the pressure that comes from covering all of your expenses with a low salary.  The more you can earn early on, the quicker you can eliminate debt and grow your financial portfolio.

  • You have more energy than you will ten years from now

You are young! The older you get, the less energy you have to grind for extra money. 

My first 6 months of working full time, I worked a part-time job on my days off.  I didn’t have a day off for almost 6 months, but that part time job afforded me an extra 600$ a month and gave me room to breathe financially. 

  • You have less responsibilities

When you are in your 20’s you have way less responsibilities!  All you have to worry about is keeping yourself alive.  By the time people are in their 30’s, they most likely have a family or own a home which creates additional time obligations that a side hustle or second job may not warrant.  Do it while you’re young so you can save more for your future.

Build Savings / Retirement 

This is really hard to justify as a young person with little money.  Retirement is 40 years away and it’s very easy to say I have time….  Yes, you do, but every month you wait, that’s potential gain lost over 40 years.  Every dollar you put towards retirement/ investments in your 20’s will pay you far more than your 40’s.  Why?

  1. Interest / Market Growth! 

For retirement, as long as you are making under $60000 per year you should consider opening a Roth IRA. A Roth IRA is a retirement account that charges your income tax upfront.  This means that all of the interest that accumulates over 40 years will be tax free. 

 If you only put $50 per paycheck into your Roth IRA for 40 years, you would have $318,000 tax free.  

If your company provides a 401k, with a matching option you should do that as well! A 401k Is a retirement plan where you put in more money upfront, and then you are taxed as you pull money out. 

A lot of companies will match your investment per paycheck.  If you have this option, do it!  This is free money, and the more money in your account over the course of 40 years, the more savings you will have! 

Summary 

Jumping into the workforce can be tough.  You are underpaid, you have a ton of debt and it’s stressful.  But you can make it work!  Living small, taking advantage your extra energy,  and investing, you can set yourself up for a successful financial situation for the rest of your life.  

#25 – Alexis Doerr – Solo Travel On a Budget

Alexis Doerr is an English Teacher based in San Antonio,Texas.

In this episode Alexis discusses her month-long road trip to 8 national parks.  She discusses the planning, budgeting, and freeing part of the whole experience.


Follow Alexis for photos from her trip/travels :
Instagram: @alexis.doerr

#24 – Michael Joseph – 4 Steps to Pay Off Your Student Loans in Under 5 Years.

Find yourself 2 years into paying off your loans from College, and no progress has been made?

I found myself in the same situation.  After 2 years, I couldn’t believe that my 375$ per month payment wasn’t making a bigger dent.  At that time, I was letting the Student Loan Company pull $375 each month to pay of my total balance of 35k.  But after two years of making what felt like zero progress, I did a little digging.  I realized there was a far more efficient way to pay my loans down.  So, I made major life changes.  I moved from Seattle to Austin Texas to lower my cost of living, I built savings, got organized and payed off my student loans in under 2 years.  Looking back, it was not terribly difficult.  I just got organized, created a plan and executed that plan.  

Here are my 4 steps for paying off your student loans in under 5 years:  

Lower Your Cost of Living:

“As long as you are in debt, none of your money is actually yours” – My Mantra 

in order to pay your loans off more quickly, you need more income.  Student loan debt is “dead debt”.  This debt will benefit you in no way financially in the future.  It is best to pay off this debt as quickly as possible to save yourself money on future interest.  So how do you do that? 

By increasing your relative income!

This happens by lowering your cost of living as much as possible.  People have this assumption that they need to make a ton of money to get out of debt and live their ideal life.  Not True!  It’s about living within your means or below your means while in debt to increase your income. 

What can I do to lower my cost of living? 

You can do this by cutting your rent down, selling you expensive car and buying a cheaper on with cash, stop eating out/ cook from home, and don’t but anything nonessential.  You can also pick up a Side Hustle! While in Austin, I drove for Lyft, Uber and Fasten for over a year to make a little extra cash! 

Remember, this change does not happen overnight, but It’s arguably the most important step.  If you’ve just recently graduated college or have the flexibility, it makes a huge difference in getting a leg up towards eliminating debt.  

Build Savings

Shoot for 6 months income or expenses (your choice)

This is why step one is so important! You cannot pay your loans faster if you don’t have savings.  It’s really hard to allocate extra money when you are barley getting by. 

Once you have your new system (lower cost of living) set up, it’s important to prioritize saving money while continuing to make the minimum payment on your loans.   Your goal should be 3-6 months of expenses.  If you are living small, this should not be too difficult.  You want this safety net in case of emergency.  Once you have your desired savings, now the pressure is off.  If you lose your job or something unexpected life event happens, you are covered.  

Now you can allocate the money you were putting into savings towards your loans. 

Lower the Overall Interest.

Now that you have lower cost of living and savings built up, it’s important to start paying more than the minimum payment.  You want to do this lower your overall interest.  If you are someone who took out at least 4 individual loans in college, there is a good chance, they have all been collecting interest since you borrowed each loan. That means that each loan will have a significant amount of interest on top of the amount owed.  Together the overall interest is the biggest challenge to paying off debt.  When I began paying my Student loans, my interest was about $150 per month.  Meaning of my $375 payment, only about $56 was going to each loan per month.  That’s less than 700 per year per loan…. 

The more you pay early on, the faster the interest will drop, meaning more of your payment will actually go towards the principal of your debt and not interest. 

Make Bigger Payments on Higher Interest loans

This final step elaborates more on the previous step.  All of your loans are different amounts and have different interest rates.  Meaning they charge you different amount of interest based on that amount and interest rate.   

Most loan companies want you to set up a reoccurring payment and apply that payment across all of your loans.  

DON’T DO IT! 

The Loan companies want you to set it up that way so they can collect as much interest as possible.  It is far more efficient to pay significantly more on your highest interest loan and double the interest amount or more on your other loans.  

For Ex.  These are your loans out of college

Loan 1: $8000 – 6.3% – $42 per month

Loan 2: $7000 – 6.3% – $36.75 per month

Loan 3: $5000 – 3.6% – $15 per month

Loan 4: $4000 – 3.6% – $12.60 per month 

Total Debt: $24,000

Total interest per month $106.35

By paying equally across all loans, your payment per loan is much smaller.  Meaning the interest rate reduces at a much slower rate.   Here is what this example looks like after paying a $400 minimum payment across 4 loans per month for 6 months.

After 6 months:  

Loan 1: $7592.99 – 6.3% – $39.86 per month

Loan 2: $6614.43 – 6.3% – $34.73 per month

Loan 3: $4485.39 – 3.6% – $13.45 per month

Loan 4: $3,468.61– 3.6% – $10.40 per month 

Total Debt: $22,161.42

Total interest per month $98.44

Here is an example paying $500 but focusing $300 on the high interest loan and 100 on the other high interest loan and 50 on each of the other small interest loans 

After 6 Months:

Loan 1: $6394.68 – 6.3% – $33.57 per month

Loan 2: $ 6614.43– 6.3% – $34.73 per month

Loan 3: $4787.49 – 3.6% – $14.36 per month

Loan 4: $3770.97 – 3.6% – $11.31 per month 

Total Debt: $21,567.57

Total interest per month $93.97 

By using this method of paying 100$ more, I was able to lower the interest rate faster and pay off almost 600$ more in principal. Not only did almost all the extra money go towards principal, but the interest is 4-5$ lower per month. The more you can pay on the higher interest loans, faster your debt will vanish! 

Summary: 

Remember to do what you can with what you have. If you can only pay the minimum for the first 3 years, that’s ok.  Everyone’s journey is different.

This system worked well for me with a little organization and accountability.  Before I knew it, I paid almost $20,000 in two years.  

Good luck on your journey! 

#23 – Erin Flynn – Essentialism – Keeping Your Closet Sustainable

Erin Flynn is the CEO and cofounder of Cladwell. 

Cladwell is a smart app that helps you learn how to appreciate what you have, do more with less, and clear out the clutter in your life. Get dressed easier, each and every day.

In this episode Erin discusses Cladwell, Essentialism, and Defining your style to save money and enjoy all of your clothes.

Get started with Cladwell:

https://cladwell.com/


Link to the Show Notes from this Episode:

https://sustainablesavings.org/podcast/

#22 – Michael Joseph – 3 Tips For Realistic Minimalism

3 Easy Tips for Realistic Minimalism 

In early 2017, I found myself staring into an overflowing closet with absolutely nothing to wear.  I thought how is this possible.  This realization lit my curiosity flame on the trending concept of “Minimalism”.  As I learned more about Minimalism, I realized there was a very negative connotation around owning too much.  You had to be all in, or you weren’t really being minimalistic.  In my own experience, I found that doing what you can and what makes sense is far more important.  I think the first step to approaching realistic.  So, here are my 3 tips for downsizing (realistic minimalism) without going totally insane. 

Define your style

 Remove yourself from fast fashion!  This may take a while.  A lot of fashionistas will disagree with this point because the fashion industry is constantly changing.  However, the articles of clothing are not.  By defining your style, it is much easier to make the most out of all of your clothes.  Why?  Because once you have designed your ideal style, the days of donating a ton of clothes and replacing them are over.  Its more replacing items as they no longer fit or have worn down from wear.  You are replacing your items with similar items. 

Companies like Cladwell are an awesome resource for this.  This smart app helps you take inventory of all your clothes and gives you meaningful data based on what you wear.  You can determine the types of clothes you like to wear, the color combinations, and also what you haven’t worn in the last 90 days. You can be way more intentional with your purchasing.

I used to find myself in the mornings staring at my closet trying to figure out what to wear.  I had so much stuff, surely there was something I would want to wear.  Why was this so difficult?  Because I had not truly asked myself what my style was.  My closet was full of things I had accumulated over the years.  Former selves, Former Fad styles.  I had enough.   I chose to turn on netflix to try to find a documentary about downsizing, and I found exactly that., a documentary called “The Minimalists”.  The documentary featured a woman who did a 30 for 30 challenge. This challenge was picking out 30 total items from her closet and only wearing those 30 items for 30 days (1 month).  She described the process as picking out only the things she liked or could match with for work.  After two weeks, she realized that none of her coworkers noticed that she was wearing the same clothes in different arrangements.  She also noticed that she didn’t miss any of her clothes that were in storage.  I thought to my self, I have to try this.  Now, I took a little more of an extreme approach to this challenge.  I went straight to my closet and bagged up anything I hadnt worn in the last year. I looked at my closet and still saw a TON of stuff. In that moment I realized It wasn’t about what I wore in the last year, It was about what I liked wearing over the last year.  Another round of bagging began.  Before I knew it, 75 % of my closet was going to be donated. I had one pair of blue jeans, one pair of brown pants, a variety of button up shirts for work and a variety of tech tees and shorts for exercise.  I made this decision 3 years ago and never looked back.  Over the last three years, I have always been able to pack up my wardrobe in two bags or less!  How? Because my inventory always stays the same.  I am rotating new items in and old items out according to my style. Identifying your style and what you realistically need will help you enjoy what you wear and not be overcome with the indecision of having too many options. 

Downsize Sentimental 

Too often we lug around too much throughout our lives because these items have sentimental value.  Its an honerable reason to keep items, but also an inconvenient one.  More often than not the purpose a sentimental item is kept is due to a fond memory associated with that item.  When an item is associated with a memory, but serves no function in your home, it just takes up space.  This is why there has been such a boom in the storage unit industry.  Everywhere you look, there is somehow another storage business being built.  Why? Because we can’t get rid of our stuff. 

We may use it later or we like the idea that someday we may need it.  That “idea” is typical sentimental attachment.  We can’t justify the use, but we like to think someday we will.  Decluttering sentimental items will help simplify your home space and potentially save you on the cost of a storage unit.  “But how can you expect me to get rid of something that has meaning to me?”  

By taking pictures!

I am a sucker for memories too, but I don’t let them take physical form.  Ask yourself, how often you you look at these items and bask in the memory associated with that item?  For me, it was everytime I moved into a new place.  I would procrastinate packing and remember why I kept these specific items.  I realized after three moves in two years that these items were only serving a purpose when I was moving.  It was nice to remeninsc, but It was purly an emotional connection and not physical.  So, I took pictures of all of my sentimental items and donated them.  Now I can still occasionally take out the photos and remember, but my physical space at home is not comprimised.  It’s the memories you love, not the items! 

Realistic Use When Purchasing Consumer Goods

Another trap we fall into in our society is justification of purchasing items we don’t need.  A lot of times when we are looking to purchase something on sale or on impulse, we tell ourselves a very specific situation where we can use this item. We never use it.

It’s the justification of buying a new rain jacket because then you can have one for rain and one when you go ski.  

The old jacket works fine…

 It’s buying a special gadget for your kitchen that may or may not save you time peeling a carrot.  

The old peeler works fine…

When I worked in the footwear industry, I was overseeing multiple shoe stores.  I constantly made excuses to justify more shoes in my life.  I once told myself I could use a specific sports sandal for fording a river and bought it. What!!!?  GET THIS, I justified spending money on a sandal specifically for the simple instance of backpacking and crossing a river with shoes on.  It was crazy.  I had way too many shoes and I only wore 25% of them.   

When buying anything now, I have a mandatory waiting period to evaluate and ask my slef 3 questions:  Why do I want this Item?  How do I intend to use this item? Do I have something already that serves the same purpose?  If I can answer all three questions correctly, I buy this item.  

Summary

Having too much can be stressful and overwhelming. There’s no shame in wanting to simplify your life.  Just remember that you don’t fit into a box.  Everyone’s journey towards minimalism is different! 

Remember!  The purpose of downsizing is not to have less, it’s to have only the things you enjoy in life.  

#21 – Ericka Young – Getting Started With Personal Finance

Ericka Young is the Author of  “Naked and Unashamed – 10 Money Conversations Every Couple Must Have” and Owner of Taylor Made Budgets.

She’s been working as a Personal Finance Coach for over 15 years. 

In this episode Ericka shares her story and discusses best practices to getting started on your personal-finance journey.



Get in touch with Ericka:

https://www.tailormadebudgets.com/https://www.nakedandunashamedbook.com/

#21 – Michael Joseph – 3 Steps To Manage Your Finances Like A Small Business

Do you have trouble saving money? Can’t seem to get out of the paycheck to paycheck loop? It’s not because you are incapable. It’s not because you have low will power. It’s because most people assume that all of the money in their account is for whatever they want. Whether it be rent or eating out, money is money.

WRONG!

All of your money is not for spending. Money is not just something we have. Money is something we use. It’s a tool and should be used as such. In this article, I am going to tell you how managing your finances like a small business will change your perspective around money and help you save.

1. Identify your cost of living — If you can’t track it, what’s the point?

Too often people lack the ability to save due to lack of understanding in terms of their spending. The lack of awareness causes them to spend more some month and less other months. It’s not sustainable.

Excel Is a great resource to figure this out yourself. The program has a couple free budgeting spreadsheets to give you a snapshot of where you’re currently at!

A great way to divide your money is into three categories: Fixed Expenses, Variable Expenses, Savings.

2. Set up 3 bank accounts — Money movement

  1. Small business account — Income — Fixed expenses / Reoccurring payments

2. Employee/ Labor — Variable expenses/ Spending money

3. Savings/Equity — Emergency Fund / Investments

This is where the small business piece comes into play. Dividing your money into 3 accounts will allow you to prioritize how and when to use your money.

The First Account you should have is called your “Small Business Account.” For most of us, this is our primary checking account. This account is your income flow account. You will direct deposit into this account and run it like a small business. You (your small business) earn for example ($4000) per month, but you have to cover your overhead, your labor, and miscellaneous/ emergency expenses.

Examples of expenses

– Rent, utilities, car payment, insurance, phone, retirement, (anything on a reoccurring payment)

– The only nonfixed expense coming out of this account should be your student loans or credit cards. This is due to making a monthly payment but having the option to pay down more on debt if you choose.

The Second Account you should have is called your “Employee / Labor Account.” This is a secondary checking account. This account is your spending account (variable expense account). This is the account you use to pay yourself. Based on your detailed budget, you should have a set amount that you transfer from your Small business account: weekly, biweekly, or monthly with a set amount of money. I do this every two weeks so it mimics my pay cycle. This account is anything you swipe a card for. It’s anything you choose to purchase or consume. This mostly includes food, alcohol, gas, groceries, consumer goods, clothing. The amount you transfer each cycle is all you get.

For Example:

If there is something expensive you want to buy, you should not use money from the Small Business Account or Savings. In a business, an employee would not be able to pull money from the business or assets of the business. Unless they are stealing! Your finances should be looked at the same way. To create a healthy system, you have to operate under the rules a business would.

By doing this, you will consistently save by transferring money to your savings and not touching it

OR budgeting within your employee account to save over time to purchase things you want.

For Example:

You want to purchase a new mountain bike for $2000. Based on your budget you have 1000$ in the Small Business Account, $1000 in Employee/ Labor, and $5000 in your savings account.

Even though you have the money in savings, you should not use that money to buy the bike. Each account has a purpose, and the purpose of the Savings and Small Business Accounts do not warrant that type of spending.

In order to purchase your mountain bike, you will need to find another area to cut back and save within your Checking 2 account. For Example: If you are spending $600 per month eating out or going to bars, there’s a good chance you can scale that back to $200 per month. This will allow you to cater to eating out but save for what you ultimately want to purchase. Yes, it will take 5 months to save up for your new bike, but this is how you can consistently save to build up 3–6 months of expenses in your savings account without compromising your financial security.

Too often people fall into the trap of thinking they have the money to purchase something and not planning accordingly. Then, when a real problem arises, it puts the individual in a very tough and stressful situation.

The Third Account you should have is called your “Savings / Investment Account”

The purpose of this account is solely to build an emergency fund. If the worst-case scenario came to pass and you need money in a hurry, this account is here to help.

Examples of worst-case scenario are: Losing a Job, emergency/ expensive fixes on home or car, family emergencies, etc.

The goal for this account is to have 6 months’ worth of expenses or income saved (individual choice.)

When you have hit your 6-month limit you must look at that amount as your new minimum. Any time you dip below your priority must be to move money back to maintain that amount ASAP.

Anything over the 6-month amount should be allocated to investments, retirement or eliminating debt.

This should be done will the goal to turn your money into more money.

With 6 months of income saved, you are more than stable. This extra income will go towards relieving future financial stress that a lot of individuals deal with later in life.

Time is your friend with investments. The more time they sit, the more they will be worth in the long run.

3. Track Your Profitability / Make adjustments

Like all companies, it is important to make sure you / your business is profitable. It is important to keep track of your profits to ensure that you are using your money correctly, and your business / finances are healthy.

Summary: Following these steps will help you manage your money consistently, buy the things you want in life, help build savings, and reduce the stress and shame from your daily life.

#19 – Stephen Warley – Digital Nomadism – Designing Life and Work Around Your Values

Episode Summary :

Stephen Warley is the creator and host of the “Life Skills That Matter” Podcast

He’s been working for himself since getting laid off in 2000 as a sales trainer, digital marketer, freelancer, consultant, coach, online entrepreneur and speaker.

In this episode Steven discusses how work is changing, and the importance around designing life and work around YOUR values.

Resources Mentioned In This Episode:

Link to Steven’s website – lifeskillsthatmatter.com

Support Sustainable Savings:​ 

#18- 7000 Miles For Under $1000 – Week 3 and Recap

Week 3 Summary: 

Three days of driving west across the country, and I am back! My trip was unfortunately cut short, but I still managed to go over my mileage.  7,300 Miles! 

Mid way through week 2, while I was out in West Texas, I got the call that I would be returning to work at the end of the month.  I got back to Central Texas after a week-long trip in big bend and, I drove straight up to Illinois to see my folks.  15 hours on the road was no joke.  I was exhausted. 

I was planning to spend all of week three with them, but I had to leave a little early due to time constraints of returning to work. 

I had a great time with them. We went out on their boat and enjoyed their little lake community in South East Illinois.  It was super cost-effective being there, seeing that I wasn’t driving or camping.  I was able to just relax for a week and enjoy their company.  

Then, I high tailed it back to Tahoe. I drove 3 straight days to make it back in time for work. 

Overall the trip was amazing.  I got to see America’s natural beauty and reconnect with some really special people.

So….. How did I finish money-wise? 

I spent a total of $1068 on food, gas, lodging, miscellaneous, etc. I feel pretty good about that number knowing that I went 300 Miles over my projected mileage. 

The real reason I went over my mileage was that I decided to head to Central Texas early, and then I drove back out to Big Bend National Park.  This added roughly 900 miles to my trip.  So, even though I cut out the fourth week, my mileage finished roughly the same.  

Lessons Learned From This Trip:

  • Don’t Pay for Camping / Lodging – The most eye-opening thing for me on this trip was the realization that you don’t have stay where you’re “suppose to stay.”  So much of this trip was unscripted.  No reservations, No Spending.  I found so many cool places that cost me absolutely nothing!  Keep an open mind when road-tripping and lose the assumptions on your lodging potentially ruining your trip.  Just go with the flow and the savings will come.
  • Pack Your Pantry – Most of us have a TON of dry goods in our pantries.  Everything from rice, pasta, and lentils to sauces and soups. Bring It All!  I had so much food during my trip, I barley grabbed anything to go.  If you have a bunch of dry goods, it’s cheap to replace other things like: a bag of apples, bread, and sandwich meat.  Use what you have and spend minimally on the small stuff. 
  • The Power of the Baby Wipe – Baby wipes honestly saved my life on this trip.  I can handle dirty feet, but it’s really hard to not get a hotel after a week with a lot of physical activity and zero showers.  Baby wipes were super convenient for daily cleaning of the most important areas.  I didn’t notice too much of a smell.  Pour a little water on your head to wash your hair and you’re golden! 
  • Traveling Solo Saves You More – Through the first week and a half of my trip, I spent very little money.  I was camping for free, eating the food I brought, and enjoying free recreation.  I noticed when I was in a group setting the following week, I was spending drastically more.  I loved spending time with my friends, I just happened to notice this during and after the trip.  On group trips, it can be very easy to re-up supplies daily; such as beer, firewood, food, and gas.  All of these things add up.  So, if you are someone traveling on a really tight budget, you might want to consider rolling solo OR being super conscious of your spending in groups. 

In Conclusion:

This trip was truly amazing.  Not only did I get to enjoy our beautiful country and socialize with people who matter, but I was also able to get a break from the current pandemic we live in.  I was able to mental recharge and return relaxed and with clear intention.  I am a better person for this experience, and I encourage people to get out and do the same. 

Traveling on a budget is possible! You just have to change your expectations.  You will be far better for it! 

#16 – Michael Joseph – 7000 Miles for Under $1000 Challenge – Week 1

It’s been quite a busy week so far… The first night away from home, I drove a short distance down to South Lake Tahoe to meet up with some friends.  They were planning on camping along the Carson River.  I figured it was perfect timing for me to tag along. 

We left my car at my friend’s place and began making the trip.  It was really nice.  According to the map it was only an hour away and then were told by some people “beware of the road. It takes way longer than you think.“ Needless to say it only took an hour to drive the 40 miles to “the road.” Once we hit the road down to the river, we were overwhelmed with how rocky it was.  I’ve been on bad roads in my life, but nothing like this.   In an FJ cruiser it took us roughly 3 hours to navigate a 17-mile road. 17 miles!  It actually took 4 plus hours because we got into a pretty tricky situation.

After facing the brunt of the rocks, we emerged into an open meadow with mountains on either side. We couldn’t believe how beautiful this area was.  Then we approached” The Puddle”, and by puddle, I mean 2.5-foot-deep watering hole.  We had crossed all prior water features on the trail with little issue, but this one deceived us.  As soon as we entered, we came to a sludging hault. We all looked at each other and said “uh oh.”

 I look down in a panic, and see water coming in through the passenger door.  We both rushed and got out as fast as we could and unloaded all of the gear to make sure the FJ wouldn’t continue to sink.

After we got all of the gear out, we were relieved about two things.  The FJ’s Engine wasn’t submerged, and we still had a little day light. So, we made a plan.  We decided that two of us would hike up the trail to hopefully find the campsite and see if someone could help us or worst-case scenario if we didn’t find anything, camp where the car was and hike back out.  So, one of my friends stays behind and the other goes with me to find camp.  To our relief we had made it 15 miles before hitting “the puddle.“ We made it to camp just before sunset, and to our luck, a giant truck was leaving at the same time.  He told us he would give us a ride back, and tow us out.

We got back to the FJ, towed it out, and made it to our camp site all within the next hour.  It’s funny how obstacles and tricky situations make for the best stories.  It tests your leadership and validates your success! 

Long story short, we had a blast on the Carson River.  We camped, we cooked, we hiked out to hot springs. It was the longest 24-hour trip of my life. 

This was only DAY 1 OF WEEK 1 !!!!

I left that night after getting back to my car completely exhausted.  I made about four hours up I-80 before pulling off in some BLM land in Carlin, Nevada. I found my campsite using a free campsite app called iOverlander.    It was dark and I was dead tired, so I didn’t really pay much attention to my surroundings.  When I woke up, I realized I had found a super nice spot with beautiful rolling hills “For Free.” 

After that, I was really motivated to find cool, free camping spots every night for my trip.  After waking up I hopped in my car, grabbed a cup of coffee and headed straight to Bryce Canyon National Park. 

I’m in Colorado now, but so far, Utah has blown my mind.  It’s the most unreal landscape I have ever seen.  The entire state could be a national park. Seriously! 

So, after camping a night outside of Bryce Canyon, (found another cool spot!) I made my way up to Arches and Canyon Lands National parks for the day.  Again, HOLY CRAP am I on another planet? Where am I?   Standing on the overlooks of Canyonlands, I thought to myself, “this looks fake.”  How can something be so beautiful that you think it looks fake?  Blew my mind for the rest of the day.

View this post on Instagram

Canyon Lands 👌🏼👌🏼

A post shared by Michael Joseph (@sustainable.savings) on

And that brings us to today, Wed 6/3. Today I got up and drove straight to Eagle county to hopefully receive an email that I could ski at one of the last open ski resorts in the U.S.  Unfortunately, you can’t just show up and ski.  You have to request a reservation and they pull names, like a lotto. And I got the Email saying….. drumroll, “ sorry try again”


So, here I am in the Arapahoe National forest trying to figure out what to do next. As I was reading my national parks book, I saw there Is a park in southern Colorado! Great Sand Dunes NP.  I think I am going to make my way there tomorrow. Then off to New Mexico and Texas! 

What a week!  I have only spent $110 going 1500 miles.