The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Reliable Car for Less Than $5k

We just bought a “new” used Prius for $3,250. It has high miles, but is in mint condition. We grabbed the car the day it popped up on Craigslist. Sometimes it’s hard to remember everything to check in the heat of a transaction, so I decided to create this used car inspection checklist and buying guide.

Our new $3k Prius, Bluebutt.

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Checking Out a Retirement Destination – Catalonia, Spain

Boasting a Mediterranean climate, delicious tapas, afternoon siestas, and a cheap cost of living, Spain has long been on our list of destinations. After years of waiting, we found an opportunity to go to for free by travel hacking. After flying into Barcelona, we rented a car and spent 16 days exploring the beaches, cities, vineyards, and mountains of Catalonia. What we found was a premium lifestyle at bargain prices.

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How We Went to Europe for Free

In 2016, travel was one of our biggest expenses. Every few months, we get a hankering to see new things and taste different cultures. For us it’s worth it because we always return from our adventures with new perspectives, recipes, and ideas. I thought our travels would be limited after I gave up my cushy salary, but thanks to travel hacking, we’ve been going on more trips than ever. Over the past year, we’ve travel hacked close to $10,000 in flights and accommodations. Just recently, we flew to Barcelona and road tripped around Catalonia – our flights and Airbnbs were all free.

Cruising though the Pyrenees in Catalonia, Spain

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What It’s Like One Year After Quitting My Job

Last year, after working 20 years in jobs ranging from cafeteria worker to engineer, I came to a new milestone. My wife and I had been saving for years, and with our net worth exceeding a million dollars, we were financially independent. Tired of chasing money, I wanted to be able to pursue new hobbies, travel, and learn. So I quit my job. A year later, I can say this has been the most incredible experience of my life.

Happy hour with my new co-workers

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My Journey to Financial Independence

Growing up, my parents had extended periods of unemployment. We could have been better off financially, but we always had a home in my grandfather’s house, and never went hungry. The worst I suffered was the embarrassment of wearing my sister’s old clothes to school. Kids can be mean, especially to a smart ass wearing bad girl’s clothes – my sister didn’t exactly get to pick them either. While the 8 year-old me was pretty miserable, now I appreciate having learned the importance of money early in life.

Checking out the Meow Wolf exhibit in Santa Fe a few weeks after quitting my job.

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Cheap Hobbies: Growing Fig Trees

If you’ve never had a fresh fig, then you’ve never really tasted fig. Trying to compare fig newtons to fresh figs is like trying to compare grapes to raisin bran. The processed version has nothing to do with the fresh juicy fruit. They are rarely found in grocery stores because they don’t keep long enough to reach the shelves. The best way to get them is picked straight from a tree. While they don’t grow naturally in freezing climates, so long as you have a nice sunny spot, you can grow them in pots almost anywhere.

One of our homegrown juicy figs.

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Reprogramming the Mind with Hedonic Adaptation

I don’t have many boring friends. With my closest friends, there are no topics off the table – finance, politics, and sometimes this blog. When I tell them that we spend less than $40k a year and still get to do everything we want, they believe that’s how I feel. The most common response I get is, “That’s great for you, and I might be a little jealous, but living like that isn’t something I could do.”

Some people love stinky cheese, but it’s an acquired taste.

We are all being honest, and I can understand when they say “I like being able to walk into a restaurant or bar and order anything I want.” I’ve heard this same phrase from several friends, and I used to be the same way. I remember when happy hours were my reward, and I spent money without additional consideration. Now I consider the value of any purchase I make, and I’m happier for it, even if it seems like a pain to some friends.

I tell them to chalk it up to hedonic adaption – more money doesn’t make you happier. But after studying a bit more about hedonic adaptation, I realized there is more to it than just the part about money. Continue reading