This is a guest post by Tracy Kellermeyer, from The Money Smart Nomad. Tracy and her husband Dan are nomadic entrepreneurs and personal finance experts. When we first connected with Dan and Tracy over a FaceTime chat, we instantly hit it off with our mutual love of full-time travel and budgeting. We knew they’d be the perfect fit for a guest post during our “No Pay May Challenge” this month, as they share lots of great money saving and management tips on their blog and have a really unique way of traveling affordably!
As budgeting nerds ourselves, we love the #nopaymay challenge that Dan and Lindsay have started! It’s been so great to see everyone’s beautiful boondocking posts. What a great way to slash accommodation costs and try something new.
In honor of #nopaymay, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to share a different way of cutting out accommodation costs when you travel!
This is how my husband Dan and I started traveling full-time and reduced our cost of living by two thirds, since cutting out accommodation.
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Discovering full-time travel
When Dan and I first found out about the digital nomad lifestyle in December 2015, we were desperate to be a part of it! We loved traveling together and always looked forward to planning our next trip.
We had worked hard for 18 months prior to that paying off all our consumer debt and saving money in cash to pay for our wedding and honeymoon. We had just signed a 2-year lease on a townhouse in the suburbs of Chicago and we purchased all new furniture and décor with some of the gift money we received from our wedding.
Needless to say, bowing out of our lease, selling everything we just purchased, and finding a new job to pursue full-time travel seemed unrealistic at the time. After all, we had just settled into our first place together! We just kept living vicariously through other travel bloggers while we kept pondering how and when we could do it ourselves.
The day that changed everything
February 18, 2016 is a day I’ll never forget. I arrived at work, a little late I might add, passing my boss and one of my co-workers in the hallway. “Good Morning,” I said. They just kept talking to themselves, which was odd.
I walked into my office, set my stuff down, and turned my computer on. When I pulled up my email, there were two urgent meeting requests from our Director. One was with her and my department only, starting in about 20 minutes. The other was the entire office, immediately following our department-only meeting.
My heart sank. I called Dan right away. “I think I’m about to lose my job,” I said. A few minutes later, my colleagues and I were gathered together, talking about what else this could possibly be. But we were right, our department received notice that morning we would be losing our jobs at the beginning of May.
I didn’t love my job, it’s true, but I loved my co-workers, my boss, my PTO time (hello, 4.5 weeks vacation!), and the familiarity of it all. I was devastated. I felt lost. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do after May.
All of my experience had been in one particular field. Did I even want to continue doing what I was doing for another company? If not, how would I land a different role in another field, at some other company, with no experience?
Making the most of it
Six days after I received the bad news, Dan found our silver lining. We had been dreaming and scheming for months about trying full-time travel and THIS was our opportunity.
Dan was already working remotely, and now I was in a position where I wasn’t tied down to my job in Illinois. We decided I would only apply to positions that would allow me to work remotely so we could pursue full-time travel.
This was the hand that was dealt to us, and we were determined to make the most of it! You could say my lay-off was the catalyst for our own detour.
Weighing our options
We had made the decision to travel full time, but we weren’t exactly sure how yet…! Remember how I mentioned Dan and I worked really hard in the 18 months prior to our wedding paying off all of our consumer debt?!
We loved the idea of RVing around the country, but we were hesitant on taking out loans (that we just worked so hard to pay off!) to buy an RV, especially after I had just lost my job.
And we didn’t want to wait a number of years to save up to be able to take a gap year around the world. Let’s be honest, Dan and I are way too impatient for that!
We started researching other ways we could travel, and then stumbled upon house sitting.
If you’ve never heard of house sitting before, you’re not alone. House sitting is actually pretty common in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, but it’s still gaining popularity in the United States.
House sitting is when a homeowner goes away for a certain period of time and needs a house sitter to take care of their home and pets. There are websites dedicated solely to house sitting, where homeowners can post an ad for when they will be away and house sitters can apply.
The best part? This is a completely FREE exchange of services.
That’s right. I said FREE!
The house sitter watches the home and pets for free while the homeowner is away, and the homeowner provides a free place for the house sitters to stay while they’re away.
Dan had this brilliant idea. And trust me, we aren’t the only ones who have come up with this, but we thought it was pretty brilliant at the time! He said, “If we were able to string together house sits back to back, we could travel full-time without paying any rent or utilities.” What?!
The selling factor for us, though, was we didn’t need to buy anything to get into house sitting. We had a vehicle to get us from house sit to house sit and that’s all we needed! That’s it!
Too good to be true?
You’ve heard the saying, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Well, we’re here to tell you that it’s not.
We packed up our townhouse and left Illinois in December 2016, and we’ve been house sitting full-time in the US ever since.
Because of house sitting, not only do we get to travel the country, but we’ve reduced our cost of living by almost TWO THIRDS. No, you didn’t read that wrong. How is that possible?
We only had 18 nights our entire first year where we needed to pay for accommodation. The rest of the year was completely FREE, thanks to house sitting.
You can see a breakdown of the rest of our expenses in our first year of travel here.
There are more benefits to house sitting other than free accommodation, though.
Because of house sitting and our reduced cost of living, Dan and I were both able to leave Corporate America and start our own businesses. Now we get to wake up every day and help entrepreneurs build a solid financial foundation in their lives and businesses!
We’ve lived in Colorado, Arizona, Oregon, and Texas. We’ve seen 19 National Parks. We’ve driven through all of California and all around the Southwest. And we’re headed out to the East coast this summer!
We’ve developed such amazing connections with some of the homeowners we’ve house sat for, some of whom have become like family. And the pets! Oh my gosh, I cannot forget all the adorable pets we’ve had the honor of caring for!
House sitting has changed our life, our work, our marriage… all for the better. And we love the opportunity to share this way of living with others.
Get in on it!
Whether you’re interested in traveling full-time or you are RVing already and want to use house sitting as a way to save some money on RV parks, it’s a great option for traveling and saving money simultaneously!
Yes, you might have some limitations on where you can house sit if you have a big rig, but don’t let that stop you from trying! We’ve landed house sitting gigs on an 80-acre ranch in Durango, CO, and a 90-acre ranch outside of Austin, TX, both of which had plenty of room to accommodate a big rig!
Feel free to head to our website for resources on how to get started with house sitting, or simply to connect with us! We love hearing from other full-time travelers. Good luck and have fun with the #nopaymay challenge!