Posted on May 5, 2016
Today is the one year anniversary of our debt freedom! We celebrated one year ago today by driving out to Tennessee to the Dave Ramsey headquarters to tell our story live on the radio and scream to the world, “We’re Debt Free!”
That moment was something we had looked forward to for nearly three years as we struggled to pay off over $60,000 in debt. Becoming debt-free was exhilarating and, looking back, I think we got a little “drunk” off the feeling and made some poor choices. We share this with you in hopes that you can side-step these mistakes on your journey to debt freedom.
Mistake #1: Not having a fully-funded emergency fund.
Step Three of Dave’s baby steps prescribes you save up three to six months living expenses for emergencies. We were so excited to FINALLY be free from debt that we minimized this crucial step in the program. Immediately following becoming debt-free, we purchased our truck and RV… And two months later we were on the road!
Looking back, we should have waited until we had at least $10,000 in the bank before we did anything else. But that’s not what we wanted to hear at the time. We had just scrimped and scraped our way out of debt and we wanted to celebrate. Understandable. But as Dave always says, without a full-funded emergency fund as your rainy day umbrella, you are just inviting trouble.
And trouble is what we got. This last year has been fraught with the unexpected; little “emergencies” that have constantly derailed our progress. The timing belt went out in our car, the transmission went out on our truck, we’ve had to buy 10 new tires and replace the motor in our slide-out. And that’s just the big things.
We are still working on completing baby step three. I would advise anyone who is newly debt-free to continue with intensity until you have completed this critical step.
Mistake #2: Not sticking to a budget while traveling.
We spent three months on the road after becoming debt-free. During this time we lived within our means, but we did not live on a budget. I think we wanted to cut loose and have some fun after being so tight for so many years. Looking back, I wish we would have settled on a budget for our trip, which included extra money for fun but also allowed for some continued saving.
Since we basically spent every penny during those three months, we were left hanging when our transmission went out mid-trip. We had to borrow $5,000 from Caleb’s dad just to get it fixed. That debt hung over our head for the remainder of the trip and made all our indulgence seem much less sweet.
Mistake #3: Continuing to use a credit card.
I know, I know… True Dave Ramsey followers cut up all their credit cards. Well, truth be told, Caleb was in love with our REI Rewards Visa and was reluctant to let it go. We were really good about using for budgeted monthly expenses and paying it off every single month… For a while.
Recently, we have slacked off and forgotten to make our payments on time, which has caused us to be charged interest and late fees. Ouch! I think we are finding out the hard way that credit cards just aren’t working for us. We plan on cancelling our beloved REI card posthaste.
I hope what we’ve learned will help you on your journey to debt freedom. We certainly have learned the hard way! We are staying parked this summer (even though we have an itch to travel) because we really want to buckle down and get that $10,000 in the bank. It’s going to take a while, but the piece of mind will be so worth it.
Posted on May 4, 2016
It’s been about four months since I’ve written anything on the blog. So sad! Well, I thought I should explain where we’ve been all this time and why it’s taken me so long to get back to writing.
It all started in December, just after my last blog post. I had started a 30-day get dressed challenge for myself. The idea was to stop looking so slobby and, well, it worked. I guess you could say it worked REALLY well because I ended up with more than just my soaring self-esteem (wink,wink).
We found out just after the New Year and will be expecting our third little one in early September. Needless to say, I’ve spent the three months since in survival mode, just trying not to throw up, honestly. Then we had a massive parasite invasion that took the whole family out for a month. Oh, and I got a terrible stomach virus, which took me back to Pukesville for a few days.
Anyway, the tide seems to be turning and we are all feeling well again. I’m about half-way through the pregnancy now and feeling really good. My goal is to get back to writing once a week for the blog. I’ve missed it so much! I hope you’ve missed us too. Stay tuned for more Simpson family adventures!
Posted on April 27, 2016
Ok, there weren’t any literal fires on this trip, but the first 30+ hours weren’t the most delightful. To start, we haven’t been on any trips of significant length since Colorado of last summer, aside from a short weekend trip for one of my trail races just an hour north of where we live.
The trip started off really well, aside from some traffic getting out of Austin, and having to make more pit stops then usual. But then the wheels came off…literally. About 350 miles into our 450 mile trip we started experiencing some vibrations in our steering wheel, which soon turned to a, THUMP THUMP THUMP down the highway.
We pulled over and after some time figured out one of our tires had a huge bulge in it. We were actually relieved, because prior to that I was in the process of calling our insurance company about a tow, and trying to figure out in my mind where I was going to put my family for the night, how we were going to get there, and how in the heck was I going to get my RV back to Austin with a bum truck. I was stressed to the max, all the while my children enjoyed frolicking on the side of the highway without a care in the world. Oh, and to make matters more tense: while stopped on the side of the road we discovered sometime in the past 25 miles our RV awning had popped lose, fully opened and then completely ripped off the RV.
The tire ended up getting taken care of with a little help from that phone number on the back of your drivers license for roadside assistance. They call was routed to the county sheriffs department, that then got the call out to the right person and send a DPS trooper to help out. He didn’t have the tools to change the tire though so called for a wrecker, and about 15 minutes later a guy arrived in a truck and changed the tire in about 10 minutes.
After the tire was changed we had about 100 miles remaining, and all was smooth sailing until we arrived at the RV park in the Guadalupe Mountains: there wasn’t a single RV spot left, except for a TINY spot designated handicapped. But seeing the nightmare roadside experience we just had, I wasn’t about to go hunting for a place to park the RV, especially since we had driven out 60 miles from the last gas station.
So, we made the tiny handicapped spot work, for the night. It was a tough tight fit, but we made it work. This meant that I wasn’t going to be able to go on a long run in the mountains as originally planned. I feared a ranger would come when I was gone and tell my wife we had to move it. I was thankful I stayed behind too; because we were told if another spot had opened up we needed to move.
After we moved the RV to a new location I took the kids out on our first adventure of the weekend. My original secondary plan was to summit Guadalupe Peak, but Kristy was feeling altitude sickness, so she stayed back in the RV to nap. The trailhead to most of the trails in the park was literally 10 yards from our door, which was really nice. I let the kids lead the way, and they chose a trail that lead to a cool rock feature called Devil’s Hall, but unfortunately the kids didn’t make it very far down the trail before they decided they were tired and wanted to turn back. Upon returning to the RV sites I killed some more time with them by playing outside so Kristy could get some more rest.
After Kristy finished her nap we ate some lunch and then put the kids down for their nap. Up until this moment in time I had been Mr. Grumpy Pants: all my friends were off running in the mountains and I wasn’t getting to be there like I wanted. Once the kids were in bed, and Kristy was cozy in her bed I took to the trails. Not having a lot of time I chose an easy 4 mile out and back to Devil’s Hall, which was a really cool cut-out in the rocks, caused by water cutting through it over time. After my romp in the mountains I was in much better spirits and fully ready to spend some time with my family.
We took the kids on a hike that was close to a mile in total; they had lots of fun and enjoyed sitting at just about every bench along the easy paved portion of the trail. The trail was along the foothills of the mountain peaks, which make for some amazing views, and the trail had lots of informational signs about native plants.
The next day was daddy’s, “big day.” I won’t bore you with all the details, but I went on an amazingly beautiful 19 mile run through the mountains that started from the campground and ended at another visitors center and trail head. Kristy and the kids met me there when I was done. When I got there the kids were covered in sand; they had been throwing on each other in the dry washout.
I started the run around 4:30 a.m. and finished up just after 10:30am, I had arrived about an hour earlier than expected, so Kristy was relieved to know she wasn’t going to have to hike the kids back up to the trail head and then back down just to entertain them. So, after spending about 45 minutes in the washout watching the kids play we decided to pack up and head back to the RV for lunch.
The kids, being covered in dirt, enough to fill a sandbox, got showers that afternoon before naps. They also napped really long and hard, and so did I, having been tired from my long run. After everybody awoke from naps it was already pretty late in the day, so we took a quick walk down to the visitors center to kill time and picked up a park map so I could get a better idea of the trails I ran earlier that day.
The next morning got off to a crazy start. I woke up super early again for another trail run, this one to summit Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas: but something wasn’t right… the lights in the RV were not working. I figured it was something wrong with the battery, as we had been having some problems with it throughout the week, so after getting ready for my run I checked the battery to discover one of the connections wasn’t fully on. No big deal I thought, Kristy could just turn on the generator in the morning to get the lights back on and turn on the heat (the heater hadn’t been cutting on due to the thermostat being out).
So, while I was off summiting the tallest peak in Texas, Kristy was trying to figure out why the gas wasn’t coming on, but didn’t realize it was due to the thermostat being dead because of the dead batter, so she snuggled in bed with the kids and read them books, just waiting for my return.
Upon coming out of the trail head the first person I see is Kristy getting back into the RV, I gleefully greet her, as I was excited to see her, but then I saw fire in her eyes. I had no idea what she had been dealing with while I was gone. But after explaining I didn’t think there was anything to worry about because we had the generator, she felt more at ease. I then quickly went to work connecting the battery back up and getting the generator going so we could get it charged back up again, and run the heater if need be.
Having started my run super early, I was back around 8:30 am, which gave us plenty of time to eat breakfast and head off on a family adventure. This time we went to the Frijole Ranch historical museum and hiking trail. At the Ranch there is an old homestead house that is in amazing condition, and it was located right next to a spring that they used to irrigate a nearby orchard. The owners then took their produce and drove 60 miles by wagon over night to the nearest town to sell their delicacies at the market.
After exploring the homestead location for a bit we hiked about a ways down the trail in the foothills to another spring. There were 5 within a 3-mile radius. The hike ended in a poop explosion, when Abby decided that nature was calling (she has no problem answering that call no matter where she is). Due to her poop marathon (it lasted forever) we had to cut the hike short and head back to the RV for lunch and naps.
During the kids naps I was still feeling pretty good and decided to take to the trail again. I hiked up a portion of the Tejas Trail, the one I had done the day before in the dark. So I could see what things looked like in the daylight. I actually ended my hike just above Devil’s Hall – the hike I had done two days prior. So it was really cool to see the cutout in the rock from up high.
Upon returning from the hike I was sufficiently satisfied, having run/hiked 37 miles the entire weekend. Pretty soon after I arrived back and the RV my children woke up and I got them up so that Kristy could nap longer. We played a bit outside, and explored some trails right next to the RV that went to some picnic areas. The rest of the afternoon we spent getting the RV ready for departure the next day.
The next day we had a 4:30 a.m. wakeup call (central time: we had been on mountain time). The goal was to be on the road by on the road by 5 a.m but it didn’t quite happen the way I thought it would. Having pretty much everything secured from the day before, all I should have had to do was back up, attach, and drive away. But with the way this trip had started out I should have known it wouldn’t be so easy.
The RV slot we were in had a severe horizontal and vertical slant, requiring me to raise the RV up really high to elevate it enough to back up and attach. The angle was causing the motorized jack to struggle, for a while I thought it wasn’t going to go up any further. At this point the kids were still sleeping, and by the time I got attached it was time to load them up in the car, but first we had to pull in the slide… CLANK CLANK CLANK CLANK went the ratcheting system that brings in the slide. The severe angle of the lot was too much for the motor to handle (even though our new motor was supposedly the strongest one available).
So, we carefully and slowly pulled the RV around to more level ground and loaded the kids up into the truck, said a prayer, and then hit the button. This time the slide came in without any problems. By this time it was already 6 a.m. central time.
From that point on the trip home went really well, aside from missing the initial turn off just exiting the park, and some heavy rains near Austin. We arrived home with plenty of daylight left to get Thistle parked back in her lot. Heck we even got her backed into the EXACT same position we had her. She was exactly even with the jack blocks I left in the rear as place markers.
This trip was pretty epic, but we had a great time. We are going to be parked here in Austin for quite some time now. We are expecting baby number three in September, and with all the truck repairs and RV repairs coming up we are going to need to stay put for a while. Traveling has been a blast, and really glad we got one last trip in before the next Simpson child comes into this word. But I would venture to guess as well that this will be the youngest Simpson to travel the wide-open roads.
Posted on December 15, 2015
I have come to the slow realization that my personal care has devolved into slobbery. I believe it all started when I had kids and was too tired to think about clothes, so I just wore the same yoga pants day after day. This condition was aggravated by moving into the RV. I have fully embraced the “trailer life” and now regard any personal care routine (including getting dressed) as too cumbersome. I’d rather sit in my hammock and read.
Of course, I have felt little hints that I had taken my relaxed attitude too far (like the time I showed up to bible study in my husband’s sweatpants and a three-day stink), but it wasn’t until my Grandma said something that I really got the message. After all, I’m living the RV life. And no one should care what I look like anyway! What’s on the inside matters most, right?
At first, I didn’t want to change. I didn’t really see the point. I thought people should accept me for who I am and looking sloppy endears me to more “average” people than looking fine and polished. For example, we go to a church where people dress in their Sunday best. My family typically goes in whatever is clean. I hear visitors comment regularly about how dressy our church is, so I feel like we bring some normalcy and approachability to the group.
However, I was recently convicted (thanks, Grandma) by the idea that God deserves our very best. Sunday is the Lord’s Day and should have our highest honor and attention. What is my sloppy appearance saying about my heart? I fear that it’s saying, “I don’t care that much. My comfort is more important than my worship.”
As I thought more about this, I realized there are so many layers within my decision to dress sloppily: Laziness, comfort, deflection, rebellion… I could go on and on. None of my reasons, however, matched up with my faith and who I really want to be… like Christ.
So…. I am entering a self-imposed 30-day challenge to get dressed every morning in an actual outfit (not pajamas or workout clothes). That’s it! I know it sounds simple, but it’s just the habit I need right now. I would love your encouragement too, as this is hard for me. Thanks, friends!
Posted on November 7, 2015
I love our tiny RV. I love the lifestyle living small affords us. And If you live in a big ‘ol house, I don’t judge you one bit. Sometimes I get the feeling that this whole tiny house movement has made people a little judgey – Like the size of your home is inversely proportional to the size of your heart. Well, I’m here to tell you that ain’t true! And I have a great story from this week to illustrate my point:
Tomatoes, Tornadoes, and Volcanoes...
If you live in Texas, as we do, you will remember that the day before Halloween was rife with freakish storms. That morning, Caleb went to work as the rain was pouring down. I had plans to visit a friend who lives nearby. Just as I was clearing off the breakfast dishes, I found out there was a tornado warning issued for my immediate area. I quickly stuffed some necessities in a bag, grabbed my kids and ran to the truck.
The rain was falling so hard that I was drenched after running ten feet. We headed for my friends house to take shelter. The roads were already flooding and I was so thankful to be driving the Beast (our Ford F-250). When we arrived, my friend and her kids were in the bathroom, hunkered down watching episodes of Daniel Tiger on the iPhone. My kids and I joined them and there we stayed for half an hour or so until the tornado warning expired.
While huddled in the humid bathroom, our kids started talking about what was happening with the weather. As Abby understood it, we were hiding from a tomato. Levi asserted that it was in fact a volcano. I could not help but laugh thinking that the present danger was in fact somewhere between a benign fruit and a deadly explosion.
We stayed for a few hours after the danger had passed. But when we tried to leave for home around lunchtime, I found that the main road was closed due to flooding and several trees were down. So I turned the truck around and we once again sought refuge from my friend. By then I was completely exhausted, with a pounding headache and an emo-stink that could put a skunk to shame.
Once we got the kids down for a nap, my friend let me take a bath in her garden tub. Ahhh! I cannot tell you how wonderful it felt to soak my cares and headache (not to mention my stink) away. A bath is one of those luxuries my RV life just does not provide, and it makes me sad. That’s why I am so glad I have friends with houses…and bathtubs!
I love that my friends with big houses invite me over for play dates on rainy days so my kids don’t go crazy. I love it when they let me hide there when tomatoes or volcanoes strike. I am so thankful to have friends with such generous spirits. So don’t believe the hype, people in big house can also have big hearts. I know my friends do!
Posted on October 16, 2015
I have to say I’m almost hesitant to post this review because of how much we LOVED this park. Kristy and I both feel like we want to keep it a secret, but this place is just far too good not to share. It is by far our favorite RV park we have stayed in. Nothing has come close!
The best part about Clear Creek RV in Golden is the location. It’s walking distance to downtown Golden, and there is a paved walking trail right next to the property. Where we stayed the gate leaving the park was literally 50 feet from our door. We frequently walked to town for coffee, groceries, church, or the farmer’s market, which was about a quarter mile down the walking path.
The management was also very nice, the laundry facility and bathrooms both very clean as well. It was also very quiet, and smoking is not allowed (as it’s considered a city park). Clear Creek also runs right next to the park as well, so if falling asleep to the sound of rushing water sounds appealing to you, this is your place!
I also liked the park for it’s proximity to trails. If I wanted to run up Lookout Mountain, all I had to do was run .10 miles to the trail head. Romp up Mt. Galbraith? Just jump on the paved city trail and run a mile the trail head. North and South Mesas were also in walking/running distance as well. There was no shortage of trials you could access without a short walk, or a very short drive.
Not only were there trails close by, and downtown within walking distance, but we were right next to a city park as well which was awesome for our kids. We frequented this park to let our kids roam on the playground while we just talked and enjoyed the mountain air.
- 4 mile walking trail that goes around the City of Golden and connects to numerous other paved trails and off-road trails.
- Right next to Clear Creek. The sound of rushing water is a a peaceful sound to fall asleep to, or enjoyable to dip your feet in after a long run.
- Walking distance to downtown. We rarely had to drive our car while staying in this park.
- Clean bathrooms and laundry facility.
- The park was well kept and very clean as well.
- Farmers Market on Saturday was just a short walk down the paved trail.
- Views of Lookout Mountains, Windy Saddle Open Space, at Mt. Galbraith.
- Just sitting by the creek watching kayakers and tubers can provide hours of entertainment.
- Price! For being so close to town with easy access to trails this place was a steal. We only paid about $45 per night, which was much cheaper than the nearly $55 a night we paid at Dakota Ridge, which was in a much less desirable location.
- Super friendly staff!
- Maximum stay of 2 weeks during peak season.
- We stayed in two different sites. Most of them had two places to hook up your sewer line, one low to the ground, and the other higher up for when it snows. The first site we stayed in only had the higher up outlet, so we had to go outside ever couple days and lift up the hose to drain it.
- The park WiFi was hit or miss. Most of the time it was a miss, but there were times it was blazing fast.
Posted on October 7, 2015
We’ve been living in our RV for more than four months now and I’m happy to say we are still loving it. In fact, we love this lifestyle so much we are not intending to quit it any time soon. When I think on what I love about RVing, several things come to mind.
1- The RV lifestyle keeps us outside. Being outdoors with my kids has always been a parenting goal of mine, but getting outside was hard for us even in the apartment. Now that we live in a glamorized tin can, we spend nearly every waking minute outside – when we are travelling AND when we are home. I have seen my children thrive outdoors. They are becoming so adventurous and explorative. I couldn’t be happier!
2- I rarely miss a sunrise or sunset. This kinda goes with point number one, but this is so special to me that it bears it’s own enumeration. First thing when I wake up, I go outside to have my coffee and watch the sun come up. Then every evening Caleb and I sit on our porch and talk as I watch the sun set. I don’t know why, but this little rhythm grounds me. Yes, I could have watched the sunset from my apartment porch, but I didn’t. Something about this lifestyle pushes me outside and makes me pay attention to this natural world that is happening all around me.
3- I can tidy my whole house in 30 minutes or less. I know, quite a jump from my transcendental musings on sunsets, but seriously… Cleanliness is one of my love languages. I am not exaggerating when I say that sometimes my home looks like the bottom of a toaster. But I can take a deep breath and know that in 30 minutes I can have it in ship-shape and be relaxing outside with a cold beverage and a book – This, my friends, is truly my happy place.
While I could go on and on about how awesome the RV life is, I’m sure you have more internet-ing to do… And I have a good book to get back to.
Posted on October 6, 2015
I love the freedom that living in an RV brings. It has allowed us to instill in our children a love for the outdoors.
My son, who is only 16 months old is always chanting, “outsiiide, outsiiide,” any time we are indoors. He longs to roam and explore.
Our daughter is very similar; she much prefers the outdoors as well. Aside from reading books, she would rather be outdoors soaring down the trail on her balance bike.
Part of our family mission statement states our goal is to enjoy the outdoors and respect the environment. Kristy has done a fabulous job at teaching our children to be little environmentalists: they both love picking up trash they find on the playground or on the trail and putting it in it’s proper place…the trash can. Just yesterday while on a walk to a nearby park, Abby saw a yellow construction ribbon blowing in the wind attached to a tree. She immediately exclaimed, “can we pick up the trash?”
Aside from picking up trash our children love walking, hiking, climbing boulders, and just looking up into the sky. Both are already aspiring to be little rock climbers and trail runners. I look forward to the day he can share those experiences with them more deeply.
The love I have for the outdoors stems from my own upbringing. I remember spending many summers in Colorado, weekends on the lake, hunting with my dad, and just longing to drink deeply from all that the mountains provided. I worked hard as a kid to raise money to go on youth group ski trips and mission trips in the mountains… all because I loved the outdoors.
That love for the outdoors grew from all the time my parents spent with me outside. I can even remember being a well-balanced kid in elementary and junior high. I would spend part of my time indoors playing video games, but much of it I spent outside exploring the creek, climbing trees, and playing war and other creative games with the neighbors.
I can only hope that my kids grow up to have the same love and passion for the outdoors. I hope that they in turn pass that love down to their own children as well. I could care less about them becoming rock climbers or trail runners. My main hope is that they drink deeply from God’s creation and allow it to strengthen their love for the Creator and fellow man. It’s something the outdoors has always done for me.
Posted on September 27, 2015
We could not be happier to be in our home state. This past week has been fraught with difficulty and travel fatigue. We are staying with Caleb’s parents in Azle for a few days to regroup and find a place to park in Austin. We still have to get the pipes on our RV black and gray water tanks repaired and will potentially stay here until those repairs are complete.
These past three months on the road have flown by. We are so thankful for the amazing experiences and adventures we have had. We are also exceedingly glad to be home and park it for a while. Travel is fun, but exhausting.
Texas, thanks for welcoming us back. We missed you.
Posted on September 26, 2015
Getting to Arkansas for our last big stop on our way back to Texas proved to be challenging to say the least. Most of our travels have been pretty smooth, so it was a big bummer (and a unpleasant surprise) to have such a hard time.
One of the biggest challenges we experienced was with our bank accounts. Because we have been cruising through several states pretty quickly in the last week, the bank frozen all of our debit and our credit cards. We had a heck of a time getting them working again and had to call the bank at nearly EVERY gas station we stopped at from Utah to Nebraska! Needless to say, by the time we got ready to head for Arkansas we were already flustered and a bit worn out.
We left Nebraska on Monday, September 21st, which was Abby’s birthday. We had celebrated her birthday two days before with Aunt Cortney and her family in Nebraska. Of course, Abby is three and has no real opinion about birthdays, except that she knows she gets a treat. Her feelings were not hurt that we drove all day to commemorate her birth.
Even though she did not seem the least bit upset about spending her birthday in the car, she did seem upset about everything else. It was as if she and Josh had secretly plotted to make our drive miserable by taking turns crying about things we could not control. They both turned into bottomless pits, fussing for “more snack” almost as soon as they had emptied their cups. They guzzeled down their sippy cups, then tossed them into the far recesses of the truck. I had to maneuver Cirque du Soleil style over the back seat to reach them.
If their attitude was poor, mine was worse. I was getting snippier by the minute as their whining was interrupting the podcast I was so desperately trying to enjoy. Instead of just turning it off and waiting for a better time (the right thing to do), I white-knuckled down, trying hard to make the kids stay quiet. I hit my boiling point right around Kansas City. I lost it and shouted at the kids to “SHUT UP!” Caleb nearly veered off the road as he looked over at me in horror.
We found a place to stop so everyone could regain composure. I apologized to the family and, as always, they quickly offered their forgiveness. We made sandwiches and got back on the road. Thankfully we had survived the only blow-up of the day. Little did we know a literal blow-out was just a few hundred miles in our future. More on that in Part Two: Outhouse in the Ozarks