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!


Where in the World are Guy & Tracy???

Hi there, everyone!  Just wanted to let you know that Guy & I are alive and well and thriving in Boquete, Panama.  A trip to the States in March (alas, never made it to CA this trip!) and dealing with a bad cold on our return has left me waaaaaaaay behind on blogging.

In an effort to catch up, I want to let you guys see a few things that we’ve visited since the beginning of the year.

Boquete has an annual event called La Feria de Las Flores y del Café (The Fair of Flowers and Coffee).  They work on getting the fairgrounds ready for several months.  My camera was off being repaired from a fall onto the sidewalk (oh yeah, not a happy moment!)  So I only got a couple pics with my cell phone.

La Feria was started in 1950 and held intermittently until the 1970s.  Following a devastating flood, it was decided to make the fair an annual event to celebrate the strength of the people during this difficult time.  Since then it has been held every year in January as a 10 day fair.

We, though, were not overly impressed with the fair.  For being a flower festival, the gardens were planted almost exclusively with marigolds.  The flowers that grow here wild as well as in gardens are so beautiful and exotic.  To have only marigolds on display was really disappointing.  There were a couple of coffee stands.  At one, Guy tried a coffee liqueur that was produced by one of the coffee fincas (farms).  Dozens of food stands were scattered throughout the fair.  But oddly enough, they all sold the exact same food.  BBQ chicken, 2 types of Panamanian chorizo grilled on sticks and fried plantains.

The biggest and most modern structures were the discoteques.  There were 2 very large ones.  Even though we lived a couple miles and up a mountain from the fairgrounds, we could hear the music like it was next door.  Till 4.  In the morning.  Every night.  Crazy.

The Boquete Jazz & Blues Festival is during February.  It is a charitable, non-profit annual event begun by the local expats to support and promote musical education in the local schools.  One of the songs was sung by a young boy who had voice lessons because of the Festival.

The venue was in Valle Escondido, a beautiful golf community in Boquete.  It was an open air facility with grass and concrete seating.  They provided small seat cushions as well.  Food and drink were available for purchase.

The Festival is a week-long event, with a parade, mini concerts throughout the town, an art exhibit and a lot more.  We were only able to attend one day.  And it did not disappoint.

We heard 4 different groups and each had a very different and unique sound.  There were 3 Panamanian groups: Sin Ensemble Jazz, Idania Dowman & The Emotions and Rigoberto Coba Big Band.  One American, Chris Thomas King, performed.

It was a beautiful day with gorgeous weather, good food and wonderful music!  If we are still here next year, we’ll definitely be going again.

We went to Coronado, Panamá, to see my friend, Maudy.  She’s a great photographer.  Check out her Facebook page.  For the trip we rented a car from Cowboy Dave again.  Coronado is about 6 hours away so we decided to make it a mini-trip.  Maudy suggested a bed and breakfast, Morgan’s Paradise.  It’s a large home that’s been converted to a B&B.  What a beautiful place!  The room was very comfortable with an ensuite bath.  There was also an air conditioner in the room, which is absolutely necessary.  Coronado is on the coast at sea level and is very hot and humid.  We were going to do some sightseeing.  But we were so tired and the backyard was such a paradise, we ended up just relaxing with our fellow B&Bers and new Canadian friends, Moe & Brenda.

In March we took a trip that was instigated by a wedding.  Our niece and brand new nephew, Alicia and Chris, got married in Las Vegas.  It was, as these things go, a mini family reunion.  And Vegas is always good times and good food :).

Since the greatest cost for us is flying back into the States, we extended the trip to include visits in 2 other states to visit more family.  After Vegas we headed to Bedford, PA, to see Grandma Lorie, Aunt Cindy & Uncle Dick, Uncle Don & Aunt Eileen and Aunt Dee.  We had a great time, even though it was still snowing and freezing.  The trees, though leafless and brown, created beautiful landscapes against the hills, homes and sky.

Bedford sits on Highway 30. Highway 30 is part of the Lincoln Highway, which is the first transcontinental highway and is in the National Register of Historic Places.  It extends from New York to San Francisco.  Interested in more info?  Check it out here.  All along the highway are various historical markers and places.  We drove along for only a few miles right around Bedford.

While in Pennsylvania we got to see the United Flight 93 Memorial.  It was sooooo cold that I basically ran around snapping photos as fast as I could before my fingers got frostbite.  Although construction isn’t finished, it was a nice though rather sobering place.  The beautiful farm countryside around it made for a very stark contrast to what happened there.

If you are ever in Pittsburgh, you’ve got to try Primanti Bros.  It’s a sports bar with awesome sandwiches.  We ate at the one near the airport, but I believe they have one downtown as well.

From PA we flew into Houston to visit our old stomping grounds in Conroe, TX.  We stayed  at our old “home” with Ray and NeeCee.  While there we visited the Prison Museum in Huntsville near The Walls Prison Facility.  The museum though not large was well laid out and had some really interesting displays.  There we met Jim Willett, former warden at The Walls unit.  Great guy who had also written a book about his 30+ years of experience within the Texas Prison department.  Ray got the book for Guy and Jim was kind enough to sign it for him.

Finally we flew back into Panama.  We stayed a few nights in the City to enjoy some rest and relaxation in the tropical warmth.  I finally thawed out after our Stateside visit.  This time we stayed at the Hotel Riu.  The Riu is a beautiful hotel with a great pool area.  The food was decent, though I think I liked the variety of the restaurants at the Hard Rock Hotel better.

When we made it home to Boquete, we both came down with a nasty cold.  My symptoms and fatigue lasted about 3 weeks.  In the middle of that we moved.  In my next post I’ll show you some pictures and describe where we live and our cost of living in our new place.

And I will try not to make it months until my next post :)!