Financial Confessional: “We Used to Blow Our Money on Motorcycles & Airplanes”

by Guest Writer - Published March 3, 2017

plane in the field with mountains in background

[Welcome to another Financial Confessional! This time Amnesty stops by from Primal-Prosperity.com to share how drastically different her old life of buying toys compares to her recently found freedom. While I doubt all of us have bought planes or home music studios, I’m pretty sure we can all relate at some level ;) A good thing to think about as we head into the weekend!]

To the outside world it appeared we had everything.  My ex-husband and I were were bringing home a combined $200k (mostly that he made) and boy did we have our toys…

  • his and hers motorcycles (plus a third for off-roading)
  • airplanes (yes, real ones and yes, plural!)
  • a room full of musical equipment (so that I could have my “garage” band)
  • and more cars than drivers – including buying and selling a car almost every single year

We were having a lot of fun, but spending almost everything we made. We had no extra savings or an “oh $hit” fund, and it was starting to take a toll on our relationship.

It hadn’t always been that way though.

I was raised to be very financially responsible and started maxing out my IRA and employer matched 401(k) since my first corporate paycheck out of engineering school. I always had a couple of thousand dollars in my checking account. My now ex-husband on the other hand, who was 31 when we met (I was 25), had never participated in a retirement fund. He told me once that he didn’t want to save too much of his money, “because he wanted to enjoy it.” It took awhile, but I finally got him signed up for his employer 401(k).

Even though we continued to put money away for retirement, we barely saved anything else. Work was inconsistent for me in the area where we lived, so I no longer had the option of a 401(k). I even switched from contributing to a Roth IRA to a traditional IRA just so that I could get some of the tax money back to have on hand. One year I didn’t even have any funds to put into an IRA at all.

At first I tried to be the reasonable one and suggest that we don’t buy every last toy. But, well, you know how that goes over in a marriage when you’re not financially compatible. And since I wasn’t the main bread winner and couldn’t control how anyone wants to spend their money, I decided to get in on the action and surrender and just have fun.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right? :)

Here’s where all our money went…

Let’s start with the airplanes.

small plane mountains

Our first plane was actually pretty reasonable. It was a Cessna 150 that was selling for only $10,000. We went half in with another couple that ran an airplane maintenance shop which was an added benefit. It was the perfect little trainer for me to take lessons and solo around in. However, it seemed to always have maintenance needs so we never really took it too far and especially overnight. And being a 2-seater, we couldn’t take up other people with us either.

I know… first world problems.

So we got out of our half of the C150 and then bought a Stinson with another partner. It was a 4-seater, we affectionately called “the station wagon”. This was more in the $30,000 range, but still not too bad as we had a partner.

As an aside, I want to mention that many people are surprised to find out that a small, older airplane can be bought for the price of a car. But I remind them that it is the maintenance and upkeep that will always be the worst part from both a time and financial perspective. Hanger/tie-down fees, insurance and maintenance can easily add up to $500 or more per month, for just a small airplane. And that doesn’t even include gas!

As the saying goes… “If it flies, floats or f*cks, it’s cheaper to rent!” Although, you can ignore the last ‘F’ with the right partner and financial compatibility :)

After awhile, we just really didn’t want partners anymore, so we sold this airplane and then went back to a two seater and got a Cessna 140, by ourselves. This plane was in great condition, and with no partners, we were actually able to use it to fly on multi-day trips.

This cost us in the upper $30,000 range, so we did what any good little consumer would do – we took the money from our HELOC! We had bought our house during the boom years where housing prices doubled in a very short amount of time so we had some good equity. And, really, what good is the money just sitting there if we can’t access it?

(As all you readers know, that is not the way to use HELOC money.)

Onto the motorcycles

bright red motorcycle

While my husband had always rode motorcycles, I got tired of being on the back of one. So, I bought my neighbor’s Enduro bike for cheap, at less than $2,000. It was a blast to ride, but it really didn’t go much over 45 mph, so I couldn’t use it to commute to work because I took roads that were 55 mph posted.

So, we kept that for off-roading, and then I bought a used Kawasaki Ninja 250 for a little less than $3,000. Still fairly affordable, and I LOVED that bike. I’m 5’2”, so it felt very comfortable. Even my bigger guy friends loved taking it out because it was so much fun to ride.

But then, my ego got to me and I wanted to move up into the big boy bikes. My husband had just made a recent upgrade, so I felt it was only fair for me to upgrade too. I started looking around and fell in love with a Honda 599 that was a flat black finish. While it was technically a sport bike, it sat more upright and was a ‘naked’ bike, so the Harley crowd didn’t turn their nose up at me… too much.

Out the door, it was $8,000. We were making good money though, so why not treat myself? I had been able to sell the 250 for almost the same price I bought it at, so that was something! And of course, since I went from a red bike to a black bike, I had to get all new gear to match. That was easily an extra $1,000 spent without batting an eye.

But as cute as I must have looked on that bike, with my matching gear and all, the thing was a monster for me. I knew it didn’t quite fit before I bought it, but I was told that I could have the seat cushion shaved down and re-upholstered and have the bike lowered – just to get to the point where I could barely put both toes on the ground at the same time. Sure, just about another extra grand… why not, sold!

Even after the modifications my body size to bike size still made me feel like I didn’t have quite enough control. I missed my little 250 terribly, and I didn’t ride the new 599 nearly as much as my old 250. When I finally did sell the 599, only several months later, I was able to get about $5,000 or so for it, and I was stuck with the $1k in gear since there aren’t many 5’2” female riders where I lived.

That was an expensive lesson. Did I mention that I never actually test rode the bike before I bought it either? I didn’t want to until it got lowered – another dumb lesson learned.

The music room

I love all kinds of music and have played multiple instruments throughout my life. So while we were buying airplanes and motorcycles, why not go for music equipment too? That was just a drop in the bucket as far as costs go.

So I went all in and bought drums (both an electric set and an acoustic set), then a weighted full size keyboard, guitar, amplifiers, bass, you see where this is going…

I wanted my music room so that I could play with my “band,”and the costs certainly added up. Probably to the tune (pun intended) of more than a couple thousand dollars. We never did make it as a real band, but a friend did let me play with his onstage occasionally. and at least my neighbors loved listening to us… Until one of them had a baby, haha.

Other splurges

In addition to all the toys we bought, we also went on a few spending sprees… Top of the line appliances, even though most of the current ones worked just fine, $2,000 for a dining room table, even though we hardly even entertained that much, it was crazy. Though I’ll take the sole blame for these decisions.

We also each had a car, but we still bought extra ones that cost a few grand, just for fun, even though they spent a lot of time in the mechanic’s shop. And, I insisted on expensive vacations. Let’s not forget the thousands of dollars I spent on flight training for both powered airplanes and gliders over the years too!

At one point, I even got an extra apartment to rent so that I didn’t have to commute to a new job I took. I hated long commutes, so I got a tiny studio so that I can live closer while my ex was traveling a lot for work. Only it never really felt like home, so I rarely spent any time there and would just drive back to my real home every day instead.

More money wasted thinking it would bring me happiness.

My husband still wanted and dreamed of more

All the purchases above were things we actually bought. But my husband still wanted more and more, while I was starting to want less and less as time went on.

He wanted a boat.

When I asked why he wanted one so much, he said because all his friends had one. In fact, that is the BEST reason to NOT get a boat! Why? Because people with boats love to have guests go out with them!! We always brought food and drinks for everyone, paid for gas, etc….

But, my husband still felt like a free-loader and insisted that we should have our own. We both loved to sail and we rented boats often, but that was still not enough. He wanted to ‘own’ one. Boats are a blast, but the thought of cleaning, maintaining, trailering, etc was just too much. Remember the rule of the three ‘F’s?

Luckily we never did get the boat.

I left the relationship and started fresh

When I finally ended the relationship, at 32, I needed to purge. I wanted to start fresh, so I packed up my paid off car with only what would fit in it and left everything to him.

Yes, everything.

We had an easy split of finances. We both kept our own retirement funds, I took my car and he took all the loan payments including the HELOC and all the toys. All I asked for was half the equity in the house, which he paid me over time.

I walked away from this situation fairly unscathed financially, but it was the luck of the real estate market that saved me in the end; not my own choices.

I was still far behind the curve ball when it came to saving and investing too. Even when I was on my own and making a great salary, I still had the habit of buying more than I really needed, and saving less than I was capable of accomplishing.

Sometimes habits take a while to break.

But I did gain some pretty valuable lessons, and over the next few years, in my 30’s, I started to become much more financially savvy. Through simple living, a high savings rate and real estate investing, I was able to achieve “financial flexibility” in just a few short years.

Now I live in a 320SF condotel with my current husband and I don’t even own a car. We have several rental properties with 4 owned outright, including the unit we live in. Life is good. I still continue to have first world problems, but like most people, we just need to change our mindset and realize how very fortunate many of us really are.

I’ve since learned that non-essential stuff actually makes me less happy. I don’t want to own things anymore that weigh me down and keep me trapped and location dependent, and I really don’t want to be stuck in the corporate world seeking a steady paycheck. I no longer want emotional attachment to “stuff.”

As the commercial says “if you’re going to own something, own the experience.” No maintenance costs on that!

Do I regret any of this?

in glider plane

Not. One. Bit.

Would I have been financially independent by now had I just saved more money and focused on a steady income? Absolutely. But while I’d never recommend that people spend with reckless abandon, I believe in living a life with no regrets. And I can’t deny that I had a blast!

I learned to be assertive, take risks, face my fears and get out of my comfort zone. These are things that money can’t buy.

One thing I will never forget is that my second glider solo flight was on September 10th, 2001. I was on a high that day, and then at a very low the next morning. It is an important lesson to remember how quickly things can change in life.

Now at 43, these are the things that I really don’t have a desire to spend a lot of time and money on. So I’m glad I got it out of my system when I did.

I also met some really amazing people, and surprisingly, I got a lot of “free” experiences out of this lifestyle too. When you hang around a small airport, you get to know people. So I got to get free rides in all sorts of cool airplanes including private jets, open cock-pit bi-planes, experimental aircraft, trikes, and on…

I got some free flight instruction, and I got to experience maneuvering (and crashing!) a hang glider that was winch-towed. I even posed as a ‘runway model’ – quite literally – for an informational poster!

runway modeling literally

[I had my bathing suit on underneath!]

All said, however, I’ve also learned that a life with minimal stuff and low spending can also be very adventurous. While I still enjoy adventures, I find that getting outside of my intellectual and emotional comfort zones can be just as fulfilling and exhilarating as physical ones.

Now I strive to seek a life of freedom, and not just financial freedom. I want freedom from location dependence; freedom from defining myself by “what I do”; freedom to give back generously; freedom to think slow; freedom to experience vulnerability; freedom to love unconditionally; and most importantly of all, freedom to know I have enough.

Thanks for letting me share!

********
Amnesty blogs at Primal-Prosperity.com, where she describes herself as “FIRE’d up, wild and free”. She has developed a workshop program called The Real World M.B.A.: Creating a Life of Meaning, Balance and Abundance which focuses on a multitude of topics like sustainable real estate investing, decluttering, location independence, and the art of setting D.U.M.B. goals. Say Hi!

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{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Smart Provisions March 3, 2017 at 5:41 am

Wow, Amnesty! Thanks for sharing your experiences!

Being able to ride your own bicycle, pilot an airplane, and even be a runway model (can you even do this as a guy?) for a short period are all experiences I haven’t had yet, but it seems like it was worth the experience for you!

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2 Primal Prosperity March 3, 2017 at 9:44 am

Well, the nice thing is that you can actually experience these things for a lot cheaper than I did. if planes fascinate you, $200 can get you a nice long lesson where you can take hold of the controls. And there are motorcycle tracks where you can rent bikes. So, the sharing economy is a great way to have experiences without having the stuff weigh you down.

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3 Fulltimefinance March 3, 2017 at 7:04 am

Wow that’s quite a ride with all the toys at once. I can’t imagine, nor I think would I want, havinmore then one or two of those even if I were a speedy person. Still as you said it’s made you the person you are. If it influences the person you are today in the right manner perhaps it was a good thing.

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4 Primal Prosperity March 3, 2017 at 9:47 am

Yes, I think all of our decisions make us the people we are today. That is why I suggest that no one live with regrets and just look as experiences as lessons, even if expensive lessons. :)

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5 Band of Savers March 3, 2017 at 7:38 am

Thanks for the story. We have been pretty fantastic at not splurging on toys and unneeded luxuries in our marriage, thankfully. Once the precedence is set it becomes hard to stop. But the problem that we’ve been trying to overcome is the willingness to accept free things, just because people offer them to us. Because we look so poor on the outside and people love our boys (and probably feel sorry for them) we are constantly being offered the stuff that people are getting rid of because their kids/family have outgrown them. I’ve never bought any baby clothes and I think we’re set with clothes till our boys are at least 9 years old. But all those boxes and stuff take up room and lead to a feeling of constant clutter because our storage areas are filling up. So recently we have had to really tone back on what we will accept from others because I don’t want to feel tied to my house just because I have too much stuff that isn’t even used.

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6 J. Money March 3, 2017 at 9:34 am

“Because we look so poor on the outside and people love our boys (and probably feel sorry for them) we are constantly being offered the stuff that people are getting rid of because their kids/family have outgrown them.” – HAH! Now that’s an interesting problem to have :)

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7 Primal Prosperity March 3, 2017 at 9:53 am

“Because we look so poor on the outside and people love our boys (and probably feel sorry for them) we are constantly being offered the stuff that people are getting rid of because their kids/family have outgrown them.” – This actually makes me sad that society thinks happiness comes with owning stuff. Really, once our basic physiological needs are met, what we really need (especially kids) is love, kindness, education, etc… If people are just giving you old stuff, I personally wouldn’t feel too bad about just turning around and donating the items back to goodwill or a church.

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8 Apathy Ends March 3, 2017 at 7:58 am

Thanks for sharing – that is a lot of toys to roll through but it sounds like you had a great time!

I have 0 interest in leaving the ground in a 10,000 plane or riding a motorcycle :) – but a boat is still tempting….. so many lakes…… boat..

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9 Primal Prosperity March 3, 2017 at 9:55 am

Well, I definitely think that if you really, really enjoy one particular activity and want to own something expensive to enjoy it, then it is ok to splurge. I just couldn’t make up my mind on what I wanted to spend my time and money on. :)

And, remember the three F’s…. you can always rent a boat! :)

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10 Money Beagle March 3, 2017 at 8:10 am

Quite a learning experience, and hey, at least you had a lot of fun while doing it. Glad that you got things turned around and found happiness without all the weights that you had previously.

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11 Primal Prosperity March 3, 2017 at 9:56 am

Yes, I have to say that not owning so many things, in general, is very liberating!

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12 Ms. Montana March 3, 2017 at 8:49 am

Your hair is so pretty! Your story is super interesting as well. There always has to a balance of enjoying each year, having great experiences and being financially responsible. I know I could be farther ahead if I would have skipped out on some cool experiences, but I wouldn’t trade them. :)

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13 Primal Prosperity March 3, 2017 at 9:58 am

Aw, thanks for the nice compliment! I agree that life is a balance. Fortunately, now that I’m older, I find excitement in a lot of intellectual pursuits that don’t cost a lot of money. The lifestyle I had in my 20’s would certainly be way too expensive for most people to have throughout a lifetime.

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14 Lisa O March 3, 2017 at 9:00 am

Thanks for sharing. I love the fact that you want to live life with out regrets! It sounds like your life journey has been a true ride!

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15 Primal Prosperity March 3, 2017 at 10:01 am

Yes, I definitely don’t want to have any regrets. Some people are afraid to try things or get out of their comfort zone, but my biggest fear is being on my deathbed and wondering ‘what if’…

I love the saying: The biggest risk in life is not taking one. Although, I could’ve had these experiences for a heck of a lot cheaper, if I knew then what I know now.

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16 Paul @ ABL March 3, 2017 at 9:47 am

Awesome story and great lessons.

You said “I learned to be assertive, take risks, face my fears and get out of my comfort zone. These are things that money can’t buy.” But didn’t money actually buy that? :-) I think it’s a good lesson that money itself isn’t the end – the experiences and joy it can give us is what’s important.

Thanks for sharing

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17 Primal Prosperity March 3, 2017 at 10:03 am

You said “I learned to be assertive, take risks, face my fears and get out of my comfort zone. These are things that money can’t buy.” But didn’t money actually buy that? :-)

haha… yeah, I guess you’re right! Although, I probably could’ve done all this stuff with much less spending and much more saving than I did at the time. :)

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18 Joe March 3, 2017 at 9:52 am

That’s a great turn around. Congrats!
Did all the toys make you happy? Sometime, I wonder if we’d be happier with more toys, but I’m too frugal to splurge much.

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19 Primal Prosperity March 3, 2017 at 10:11 am

No, the toys did not make me happy, the experiences did though. (just rent!) In fact, it was all starting to weigh on me. That might be why I’m such an extreme minimalist these days. I’m all for a little splurging to make life fun, but I wouldn’t go back to that lifestyle. In fact, if I ever get back into playing music, I would just start playing the harmonica. :)

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20 Fiscally Free March 3, 2017 at 10:47 am

When I do occasionally buy “toys,” I like them to be fully depreciated. If I can buy something and sell it later for basically the same price, like you did with your Honda, I don’t stress too much about the cost. I bought a motorcycle for $2500 and felt a little guilty about spending the money, but I owned it for five years then sold it for $3100. No harm, no foul.
I feel the same way about the ’94 Miata I currently own. It’s value isn’t really going to drop below what I paid for it, so I might as well enjoy it. Sure I have to pay for insurance and registration, but it’s a pittance for the fun I get to have.

I guess what I’m trying to say is you don’t have to deprive yourself of “toys.” Just make sure you buy smart. Why pay depreciation when you don’t have to?

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21 Primal Prosperity March 3, 2017 at 11:02 am

“I like them to be fully depreciated”- That’s a great mantra! Sounds like you might have a side hustle there…. you could buy cars and motorcycles from motivated sellers and then turn around and sell them for more money to desperate buyers… haha… and even have a little fun playing with them in the process!

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22 Mrs. BITA March 3, 2017 at 10:54 am

If you’re going to blow through a pile of money you might as well have a great time doing it. You certainly did, and seem to have sustained no long term financial damage, so yay. I had no idea the little bitty planes were so cheap to acquire. How far can you fly in one of those with a full tank of gas?

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23 Primal Prosperity March 3, 2017 at 11:09 am

The fuel is interesting… it is something that you have to calculate before you leave. You need to factor in things like the weight of the airplane with the passengers, luggage, etc… what the winds are doing. Of course taking off and climbing uses more gas than cruising at altitude, etc… You also want to be very conservative. Running out of gas in a plane isn’t the same as being stuck on the side of the road. :) The issue is probably more of how long do you want to be in the air. With small airplanes, you can fly for a few hours on a tank of gas, but you can’t up and stretch your legs and go to the bathroom, so most people plan fuel stops at airports along their route every few hours and maybe have a bite to eat… they call that the $100 hamburger. :)

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24 J. Money March 3, 2017 at 11:39 am

man, that is so SO fascinating. I wouldn’t have thought about ANY of that before getting into a plane! such a different world.

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25 Primal Prosperity March 3, 2017 at 11:48 am

Yeah, it really is a different world! Studying for the written test was one of the most fun parts of it for me. I LOVED learning about all that stuff.

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26 David Domzalski March 3, 2017 at 1:17 pm

Amnesty,

Wow, what a story! It truly is amazing what a hold “things” can have us and how “status” becomes the most important thing. Doesn’t matter how quickly we’re sinking, as long as we “look” the part — it’s all good!

My wife and I went through this when we were forced to sell our first home last year. We faced the fact that we bought too much house and she wanted to be a stay at home mom. A house purchased on two incomes couldn’t be paid for on only one! So, we bit the bullet and made the tough decision.

Thanks so much for sharing your story! Very interesting and enlightening.

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27 Primal Prosperity March 3, 2017 at 1:52 pm

Good for you for downsizing and prioritizing family! I know that can be tough. I think every young couple should learn to live off of only one income so that there is flexibility with work whether it is raising a family, going back to school, taking time off, etc…

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28 Mrs. Picky Pincher March 3, 2017 at 2:10 pm

Woowwwwzaaaaa. That’s pretty crazy. Way to go for extracting yourself from that marriage. It sucks, but it sounds like the right decision. Unfortunately life takes a lot of detours and you end up in places you never thought you’d be. But that can end happily, too. ;)

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29 Primal Prosperity March 3, 2017 at 2:56 pm

Yes, I always try to remind myself of the positives that might surface, even when thinking I made poor choices. I could sit all day and wonder ‘what if’ I had done something differently, if I let myself. :)

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30 bethh March 3, 2017 at 3:10 pm

I’m super curious what happened with your ex, though, since he was left with the debt and the toys and the real estate market didn’t stay kind forever! I would imagine he’s nowhere near stable and may have had to declare bankruptcy (I realize it’s none of our business and he may not want to have his story shared.)

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31 Primal Prosperity March 3, 2017 at 4:10 pm

Yeah, I’m trying not to talk about him too much. After the separation we stayed in touch for a few years. I know his salary kept increasing. I also was starting to invest in real estate and I wanted him to refinance and get me off the house loan and HELOC to that my credit score could recover and I could get a loan. He reminded me that the market wasn’t doing well and he couldn’t refinance. A few years later though, he finally did refinance and I think the housing value recovered. I’m sure he is doing well financially, but I’m not sure what his current spending habits are.

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32 Team CF March 3, 2017 at 3:57 pm

Cool story, glad you got out on the better end than your ex-husband did! Do you know what ever happened to him?

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33 Primal Prosperity March 3, 2017 at 4:12 pm

Actually, I’m pretty sure he is very well off now… more so than me. :)

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34 Gene Roberts March 3, 2017 at 7:05 pm

Wow, so many parallels. I was once the “proud” owner of a 1965 Piper Cherokee 180. Thankfully, that vehicle is someone else’s headache now. :)

I am not sorry for the experience, but could have rented for soo much less.

The only major difference between our experiences is that I got my toys sequentially vs all at the same time.

After the divorce (not due to finances), I just couldn’t rationalize the money spent on flying as a hobby. So I sold the plane and shortly after bought a used motorcycle.

I have had more fun riding motorcycles with my friends than I ever did flying. 100,000+ miles and counting! That has been a much more financially responsible hobby.

While I do plan on buying a boat, it won’t be until after I retire and sell my house. I plan on living on a sailboat in the Caribbean for the first 10 years or so of my retirement.

Great story! Thanks for sharing.

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35 Primal Prosperity March 3, 2017 at 8:59 pm

Cool! I like the Cherokee. I have actually never had the opportunity to take the yoke in a low wing airplane. Yes, motorcycles are soooo much cheaper… a lot of bang for the buck.

I LOVE your plan to live in a sailboat! I would definitely buy a boat if it were going to be my home.

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36 J. Money March 5, 2017 at 2:07 pm

I hope you do!!

There used to be a financial blog about living on a sailboat – let me see if i can find it real quick…

here we go! http://savingtosail.com/

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37 Gene Roberts March 7, 2017 at 10:20 pm

Thanks for posting the link J.

That should keep me busy for a couple of days. :)

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38 J. Money March 8, 2017 at 9:57 am

Don’t get sea sick ;)

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39 Go Finance Yourself! March 5, 2017 at 6:18 pm

Wow, thanks for sharing your story! I love that you point out that possessions just weigh you down and don’t lead to happiness. It’s the experiences that lead to true happiness.

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40 Stephen March 5, 2017 at 9:37 pm

Pretty crazy lifestyle. I see so many people like that where I work. Everyone has a jacked up truck, secondary vehicle, quads, sleds, boats, RVs, and everything else to go with them. It’s a place of crazy high incomes, but it’s O&G so it’s boom and bust, currently recovering from a bust so you can pick all that stuff up super cheap used now thanks to people over extending themselves!

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41 J. Money March 6, 2017 at 11:51 am

Would make for a nice side hustle eh? :)

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42 Kim March 7, 2017 at 9:53 am

Thanks for sharing! It was really interesting reading about the process from beginning to end. Also highlights the super importance of financial compatibility!

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43 Monica April 14, 2017 at 10:06 am

Man, this was a great post! I loved her comment, “I no longer wanted an emotional attachment to stuff”. For two years, I have paid $207 for a POD storage in another state. I have not moved it because it’s too expensive to ship. But in reality, I don’t need/want most of the items in there. I’m going out there next week to get rid of it.

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44 J. Money April 17, 2017 at 3:43 pm

GOOD!!!!

I just read an article about storage spending – I think you’ll like it :)

http://freedomisgroovy.com/the-one-monthly-expense-that-makes-you-a-chump/

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45 ZJ Thorne April 24, 2017 at 11:24 pm

What a neat story! We can learn so much from our mistakes, especially if they were fun-ish at the time.

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