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Life Name Your Price

By Evanne Schmarder #65409
Photo courtesy of Howard and Fran Smith #83749.

Escapees are an elite bunch. We seek freedom, life on our own terms and a manner of unconventional living that makes some envious, while others shrink in disbelief. We are as varied as the landscape of this great country, yet most of us share a similar story of beginning this quirky lifestyle.
Whether we are Xscapers launching a digital nomadic existence, baby boomers testing the waters of what is possible or full-fledged retirees embracing the Escapees mantra, home is where we park it. Each of our stories includes dealing with our belongings, often the accumulation of a lifetime.

Ask any full-time RVer and they’ll tell you tales about yard sales, Goodwill, giving to family members and the sheer shame of having to toss items that could not (or would not) be taken. When we reflect on these possessions, we may feel joy and gratitude for how they served us, but we may also feel regret for the tremendous amount of money spent on things that mattered so little.
Years ago, before my husband, Ray, and I became Escapees, I stumbled upon a concept that changed the way I see my relationship with money and, in turn, commercial goods. In fact, this way of looking at things propelled my husband and me to sell almost all our possessions, including our floating home, and to quit our jobs and embark upon this journey of a lifetime.

Time Is Money or Is Money Time?
In the mid-90s, I stumbled upon a book, called Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. The concept that stopped me in my tracks was on page 54: “Money is something we choose to trade our life energy for.” The authors point out the obvious: Life is finite; we only have so much time on earth. The big idea is, we trade life energy (time we have remaining) for the things we spend our money on, and every single spending decision we make costs something in life energy.

All these years later, the “trading my life” idea still stops me in my tracks. Based on average life-expectancy tables, I have 289,080 hours left on this earth. It’s assumed that we spend half of our lives taking care of ourselves: sleeping, bathing, exercising, etc. That means that, if I live an average life span, I have 144,540 hours left to devote to living. How I spend those hours is up to me.

Knowledge Is Powerful
So how can you determine the value of your life energy as it relates to money? For demonstration purposes, let’s say you’re a digital nomad making an average of $25 per hour and that dinner out or bauble you simply must have costs $50. Logically, you’d calculate that it took two hours of life energy (finite time left on this earth) to earn enough to purchase that experience or item. Right? Not so fast.
On its face, that’s a reliable equation, but this concept urges you to dig deeper. Upon further examination, your wage is not exactly as it seems. Sure, you make $25 per hour but how much did you have to spend to make that hourly? What expenses were required to arrive at the job or visit a client? Does your insurance policy include work from home coverage? Do you incur communication expenses such as smartphone, e-mail or Internet costs? Have you purchased equipment such as a laptop, camera, cell signal amplifier, etc. necessary to get the job done? Are there clothing or personal care items such as aftershave, hair gel and makeup that are required for your professional appearance? What about meals, snacks or other expenses associated with working? And then there are taxes, both income and self-employment, to be tallied.

Let’s assume your total expenses, some amortized, divided by the number of working hours equal $12 per hour. That means your real hourly wage is $13 per hour. In the scheme of things, that $50 expense cost you almost four hours of your life.

Life Energy: How Do You Invest Yours?
What life-changing sacrifices have you made to live the RV lifestyle? Is there a product that’s worth your spent energy? Share your story with Escapees magazine readers.
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Value and Worth Is Personal
Everything’s value and worth is an individual’s call. Exchanging life energy for things we need or want is a personal prerogative. I’ve got to have vehicle insurance and happen to like upscale RV resorts and high-end ingredients in my RV kitchen. With this formula, I know exactly how much of my life energy I’m trading for these necessities or niceties and make an informed choice when I compare insurance plans, book a stay or go grocery shopping.

I’m less inclined to make rash purchases, pick up random trinkets or invest in items that don’t support my home or travel style. It’s simply not worth my life energy.

Fulfillment and the American Dream
When I think back to the culling period prior to my hitting the road 17 years ago, I can still remember looking at things and wondering what I was thinking when I whipped out my credit card. When is enough, enough? Are we willing to trade our life energy for more? Do we work hard just to keep up with the Joneses?

For me, it all boils down to a question of value. Is a purchase, admission fee, meal out or even a campsite worth the life energy it will cost? These two transformational questions, in relation to spending, remain relevant to my lifestyle:
1 Did I receive fulfillment, satisfaction and value in proportion to life energy spent?
2 Is this expenditure of life energy in alignment with my values and life purpose?

Chances are we’ve all returned home from a meal out and felt disappointed. I know I have. That’s why I don’t go out to dinner all that often. For the life energy I have available, I’d much prefer to invite some friends over, mix up a shaker of fancy cocktails, play mood music, prepare a simple, delicious dinner at home and make an evening of it. That not only fulfills my cost/value proposition, but also fuels my life purpose of connecting with others, making a difference and living my passion.

Another example is my purchase of a new computer. It cost a heck of a lot of life energy but makes my life (and my business) so much easier. The value I receive by a faster, more intuitive system and the way it helps me promote my passion makes it a fulfilling, worthy expenditure.

Your purpose, passion and even life-energy situation is simply that—yours and yours alone. If you give it thought, you’ll realize that, consciously or unconsciously, you are making value calls every time you make a purchase (and each time you make decisions).

Conscious Choice; Deliberate Actions
Choosing to live this lifestyle is a huge confirmation of how I want to spend my life energy, my passion and my life’s purpose. It’s a public statement of who I am and what I stand for. Without a stick home, I have low housing overhead. Living in a small space restricts the number of things I can carry around. Having the freedom to live where I want, when I want, allows me to enjoy new environments and experiences. The fuel I purchase to move about is well worth the price, even when it reached $5 per gallon.

While I used to enjoy fancy vacations and expensive wine (who wouldn’t, really), I paid for it in life energy. Today, I’m more satisfied than ever, watching the sunset over a rugged mountain range or body of water, with a thrifty glass of wine and my sweetie by my side. Some people can’t comprehend this logic, but that’s okay. We all must choose. What will it be, your money or your life?

Evanne Schmarder is sure she got the wanderlust bug from her grandparents. In 2000, she and her husband, Ray, set off on their own adventure, in search of a sunny place to settle down. Seventeen-plus years later, they’re still roaming the country, sharing interesting destinations and cooking up delicious RV kitchen recipes in their popular RV TV series, RVCookingShow.com.

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