Recently I received an e-mail from a want-to-be full-timer who wasn’t too far off from retirement age, but wished they could hit the road early. They said money one was one of the factors that kept them from going now, because “you can never have enough”. Allow me to point out that you can, in fact have “enough”. I proceeded to write out a lengthy but quickly written e-mail about how to decide what “enough” was, but I thought others would benefit from this term I picked up from a lifestyle design blog (AoNC) called sufficiency.
While I’m sure the RVing community at large means well, it can be frustrating for a prospective RVer to try to pin down how much they need to go full-timing because every full-timer they ask is going to give them a different number. This is because while one dollar has the same value for all people, how much money equals ‘a lot’ or ‘a little’ (or enough to go full-timing) is relative.
The adult years before retirement are referred to as ‘the rat race’ because of the predominant theory in our culture that one can never have enough. That there is a finite amount of wealth to be had, and to avoid falling behind your peers you’d better keep working as hard as you can as long as you can. And so, no matter how much money we might have, we look at our bank account and are never satisfied.
While it wasn’t always the case, since I decided to go full-timing I’ve lived by the idea that we can have enough, that life should not be just about scrambling to get the largest piece of the pie (although if we’re talking about a physical instead of a metaphorical pie, then yes there might be some scrambling for the largest piece, ahem).
Some people I talk with who still live in the ‘real world’ speak to me as though I must have given a lot up to live like I do. I make quite a bit less now than I did working in my field at a ‘real’ job, so while I may have gained mobility, I had to sacrifice in other areas of my life to accomplish it.
Never judge your quality of life by another’s standards. While I may have less living space and a smaller paycheck, I don’t feel like my options have been significantly limited. It’s all relative. I prefer to spend my money on gas to travel than on fancy clothes or lavish home furnishings. I’ve never been particularly impressed by the expensive tourist traps that can cost travelers a lot of money when they’re on vacation. I just don’t need as much money as some folks do to live life the way I want to.
How much do you need to achieve sufficiency? It can be broken down into something as simple as this: Figure out how much money you need, for items like food, gas, personal care, insurance coverage, etc. If you’re planning on going RVing, figure out how much you’ll need for the initial RV purchase – if you don’t know how much you need for that yet, it’s time to research what kind of RV you want, and how much it’ll cost. Then add in how much money you want: for gas to travel, for entertainment, for modifications you’d like to do for your RV, and you’ll also want a little extra coming in to set some aside for an emergency fund and/or a retirement fund.
Once you have that number, that’s it. There’s no reason to run yourself ragged to earn more than that. At that point, earning more isn’t going to be increasing your quality of life, it’ll be hindering in actually with the added stress of work and less time to do the things that light you up.
In the name of transparency, I haven’t quite mastered the concept of sufficiency, but I’m getting closer. I calculated it out and knew what my number was before taking the RVing plunge, but I left about $1,500 short of my original savings goal due to burn out at my job. That money was what I had intended to set aside for solar equipment for boondocking, and through picking the work camping gigs that would give me the most money for my time and with your use of my Amazon affiliate link (thanks!) I’ve been slowly closing the gap. While I still won’t have enough to spend part of this winter down in the deserts of the southwest and check out the scene at Quartzsite, I’m pretty hopeful for next winter.
If you want another way of looking at it, I’ve also heard of the concept of sufficiency as living a life of abundance. Living and working as though you can never have enough is operating under a mindset of scarcity, and it leads to a constant state of unease. Unease because you’re always worried about the future. Unease because you’re weary from over-work and not taking enough time for yourself. Living abundantly is being self-aware enough to throw off the mantle of scarcity that kept our early ancestors alive in hard times. It’s taking deliberate action to decide for ourselves what enough looks like and learning to trust in ourselves that we can handle what the future holds.
Right now I have everything I need and most of the things I want, and I sincerely hope you’ll join me in abundance – it feels good.
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