Freedom From Debt The Easy Way

“There are but two ways of paying debt:

Increase of industry in raising income,

increase of thrift in laying out.”

-Thomas Carlyle

The American Dream…ours had really become a nightmare.  Due to poor financial decisions and choices, our debt had become unbearable.  Before retirement, we could barely keep up with every day expenses, much less anything fun.

Several years ago we purposed to get out of debt.  We found books and various resources and began to learn lessons that we badly needed to know.  But try as we might, the Debt would grow larger not smaller.  Argh!

So when we began entertaining the idea of moving out of country, our research showed that living almost anywhere outside the USA would substantially decrease our cost of living and enable us to finally to pay off our bills.  Completely.  Finally!

Needless to say, with our desire to travel, this concept got us very excited.  The burden that is Debt was so great to bear.  We keep imagining ourselves screaming, “Freedom,” much like the hero, William Wallace (at least that’s what he did in Braveheart.)  Although at times it feels like it, thankfully we are not in prison or dying horrible deaths from our tormentor.

“So, now that you’ve been in Panama for 9 months, how’s the whole getting-out-of-Debt thing working out for you?” you ask.  Very well, thank you :).  And, since you’ve asked, I thought I’d outline for you what that looks like.

One of the first things that we decided upon when we moved here was our list of financial goals.  Numero Uno on the list was to get out of Debt.  With that established we discussed our spending priorities.  Now I am good with living simply but not with cockroaches or never eating out or foregoing having any fun.  I am too old to live in a hostel with shared baths or a dark, dank apartment in a creepy neighborhood.

So our first apartment, a simple studio in a clean building, was perfect for beginning our adventure.  It included a private bath, partial kitchen, electricity, gas, trash, wifi and easy access to a washer and dryer.  All for a rent of $500.

We loved our landlords but the apartment had no balcony or outdoor common area and we were a ways from town.  We started getting a bit stir crazy as well as frustrated since we seemed to sleep at home and live in town.  So after 7 months, we decided to move to a new apartment.  Our rent increased by $350.  But we have a large balcony and we’re right in town.  We are within minutes of everything and haven’t had to grab a taxi in weeks.  Love it!

A month ago we set up a budget that we chose to track on a daily basis to see how much we could actually live on per day for 30 days.  We started with $30 per day.  Now this per diem is food (groceries and going out), fun money, fishing trips, etc., basically everything outside of our bills and rent.

Before I reveal whether or not we made our goal, I need to explain a couple of things.  We took 2 PriceMart (Panama’s answer to Costco and probably IS Costco) runs and bought things like paper towels, toilet paper and other bulk items that will cover us through most of June.  We also treated ourselves to dining out (with drinks) 9 times, the best gelato ever 3 times and cigars from the Tuesday Market.  But even with all that, we averaged $42 per day, only $12/day over our intended budget.  We were pleased and decided to up our daily to a more practical $40.

So what is our current bottom line here?  Check it out:

Rent (includes: fully furnished [all furniture, linens, dishes] with maid service, electricity, gas, water, trash, wifi, cable TV, in-apartment washer & dryer) $850.00
Food and Extras (for 30 days) $1,200.00
Medical & Other Expenses (medical insurance, doctor visits, medication and other necessary expenses) $900.00

Isn’t that amazing?!  Now to maybe add a little perspective I want to add the following:

  • We don’t own or buy “stuff”.  After all, we are traveling around the world with 2 suitcases each. Period.
  • Our apartment is a luxury apartment.  Many expats have told us that these apartments are some of the best in Boquete.
  • We don’t own a car.  No payment, no insurance, no fuel or maintenance.  Sweet!
  • We don’t have health club memberships.  We walk everywhere and have a simple body-weight routine that we can do at home.  And I just started a Tai Chi class (awesome idea, Toby!!!) that is a pay-what-you-feel-is-right cost.  I usually pay $5 per class.
  • We don’t have any kids with us (they can be a bit pricey, can’t they?)
  • We didn’t bring everything and originally spent maybe $300 initially to get a few items that we “couldn’t” live without…kinda the “I’m old and like my comforts” thing.  Call it “moving expenses.”  An example is that we spent about $40 to purchase an electric wok.  The 2 burner stove thing was super limiting.
  • We do pay medical insurance every month, but we don’t go to the doctor or buy meds every month.  So the $900 is for as much as we might possibly need not what we actually spend each month.
  • We live simply but extravagantly.  Eating at higher end restaurants, buying alcohol, taking fishing and weekender trips…we really don’t skimp.  Even though we give ourselves $40 a day, it’s really only a reminder and a goal.  We could cut out quite a bit and do fine on $15 daily if we were really needing to cut down.

So that’s my life right now…at least the financial part of it.  We’re comfortable & happy, having a blast and looking forward to financial freedom before the end of 2015.  And, I might add, that includes 3 trips back to the USA and a wedding!


8 thoughts on “Freedom From Debt The Easy Way

    • Hey Toby! It’s kinda funny, but I never felt really brave. Mostly it’s a sense of fear that has subsided as we have experienced things and become more familiar with things. And then I’ve begun to enjoy and not fear the adventure 🙂

      I can hardly wait till you and Kim come to visit!


  1. This is so great! I love you guys and I love hearing about your adventure. And it is brave to believe in your dreams! Thanks for showing the rest of us how it’s done!


    • The hardest part, Becky, is missing our family and friends. You all have been such a support system that is a bit lacking here. God is good and we’ve met some amazing people. But I really miss your beautiful smile 🙂


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