Todays’ guest post is by Kathryn Anderson, a former client who is well on her way to achieving a key goal in her life – escaping Canadian winters by becoming a snowbird.
And if you want to do the same, it starts by taking control of your money and making it happen. I can help!
Ever dreamed of becoming a snowbird? (No, not one those exceptional pilots who fly for the Canadian Forces demonstration team!) I’m talking about those who flee cold and snowy Canada and head for a warm and sunny destination for winter, the minute there’s the faintest whiff of snow in the air! If you want summer in winter – without going into debt – you’ll need a plan.
Since leaving central Canada for the West Coast in search of less – shall we say – offensive winters, I’ve been continuously finding a way to survive winter more easily. Raised in climate that saw a lot of sun but also -20C to -40C for a good part of the winter, I grew very tired of 14 layers of fleece, mitts, hats, scarves, slushy/sandy roads, sidewalks, hallways, and salt-stained…everything! Now instead, I get to wear 14 layers of goretex, rubber boots, umbrellas, and forget that such a thing as blue sky even exists from November to May (or July this year)! No Canadian winter is ever “perfect” for me. Are you starting to get the picture?
At times it has felt like my sanity was hanging on by a thread in the winter, no matter which province I lived in. So, over the last four years I’ve begun taking steps to realizing my dream of becoming a snowbird. Slowly but surely, my plan has begun to take shape.
I knew that if I wanted to live abroad for my winters, I would need to start travelling for short trips south (one to four weeks), to do two things: (i) to do research in the actual country where I might spend 6 months; (ii) to get a taste for a regular winter holiday, to entice me to keep my vision alive. By visiting the actual countries where I’m considering living for the winter, I get an understanding of what the local economy is like, how difficult/easy it might be for me as a foreigner to get work, what are the second language requirements, what about Visas, what is the standard of living compared to Canada, how much further do my earnings go there versus here in Canada, what about health care, my personal safety, local customs I need to be aware of? There are a lot of factors to be considered to make an informed decision.
I started first by creating a small vision board collage. I was taking Nancy’s Smart with Money program, and identified that travel to warm climates in winter was a much desired goal of having more money and having a healthier relationship with my money. So just by using some photos cut out of travel brochures and magazines, I put together a collage that included some places I’d like to visit: Mexico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica. I mounted that collage on my fridge so I’d see it daily. Even though I’d sometimes just be looking wistfully at the pictures, it inspired me to want to feel that sunny warmth on my skin. And just when I might be closing my fridge after deciding to skip packing my lunch for work the next day…thinking “ugh. I’m too tired, I’ll just buy lunch tomorrow”, I’d see the collage beckoning me. Inviting me to come lay on the deliciously unspoiled beaches of Cuba or the Dominican. I’d realize that if I diverted that $6 to $10 towards my travel account, instead of buying lunch, I’d be one step closer to that trip.
I also bank with ING and set up multiple accounts to remind me what I’m saving for. You can have an account just called Travel, or name it something fun and creative like HotSunnyBeaches to be very specific.
I was also fortunate that I was able to work with my employer to start shaping my work life towards a snowbird existence. When I got a promotion, I had some latitude to make some changes to the structure of my job. I asked if it would be possible to work 4 days a week instead of 5. Because I was being promoted, my salary was being increased. By working only 4 days a week, ultimately I kept making the same money but worked one day less a week for it. It gave me time to devote to going to school, which helped me increase my earning power, and then I could work on that 5th day, self-employed or for another employer, if I chose to. More money to put towards my vacations! After two years in my new role, I also slowly began to approach the topic of work-sharing at my performance review, just to see how my employer felt about it. They didn’t have any immediate answers for *how* we could do it, but they were open to the possibility. I suggested we consider asking one member of staff who was staying home to raise children and would want her summers off. We discussed the possibility of her doing my job while I was away for the winter, and me being there for the summers while her kids were off school and she wanted to have family time. A workable set of factors.
I took some other very simple & quick actions:
- I posted a picture of me on the beach in the Dominican as the wallpaper on my computer, and as my profile picture on FaceBook to remind me where I want to be every single time I’m at the computer.
- In my “About Me” section on FaceBook I wrote that “I’m actively seeking a way to earn $$ while living the beach life….do you know someone who spends winters in a warm sunny climate then comes back to Canada? Introduce me please!” (and indeed, I’ve made connections this way.)
- I bought a beautiful (and very economical!) beach photo on canvas from Ikea and hung it in my office. It not only inspires me, but also my clients.
- I bought a Tropical Beaches calendar for my kitchen where I stand and do dishes so I look at it every day, reinforcing my goal.
- I got a very inexpensive Page A Day Gallery calendar from Workman Publishing (picked mine up at Costco) and put it on my desk at work: 365 days worth of beaches to inspire me, especially at work!
- When I went to Mexico in December 2010, I had a set of business cards printed up for under $10 through Vistaprint.ca so that if I met people who had valuable information about how I could become a snowbird, or with whom I might later do business, I could stay connected to them.
- I met people in Mexico who had information and connections for rental properties, who were ex-pat Canadians who are successfully living abroad and/or are snowbirds already. I asked them about how they did it, what I need to know, what lessons they learned, what they might recommend I do differently than they did, where their situation and mine differ to understand how possible this might be for me. I’ve added many of these connections to my FaceBook so that I am actively building relationships with these people. When my accommodations for a trip coming up this December went by the wayside, I was able to put the word out in my network and find replacement arrangements inside of 24 hours, very reasonably.
I do these things because I am aligning my ACTIONS with my INTENTIONS. Every single day.
Now you might think, “But I can’t do all that!”. I assure you, I had no clue what I was doing when I began. I just knew that an intention is only that, if I don’t pair it with action. So I figured out what small things I could do, and just started doing them.
When I first began saving a few years ago, it was a VERY small amount of money ($10 per pay, twice per month) just to get me started. It just helped to know I was building something, even if the goal felt very far off. As soon as I got a larger than expected tax return, I added it to my travel account and suddenly my few dollars a month was rolling my savings from 3 digits to 4. So I wanted to keep building that money and in no time I found myself figuring out how to live with a little less here and there (i.e. – if I’m heading to a meeting or event, I almost always pack a travel mug of my own French Press coffee now, superior quality and just 4 coffees a week puts $10 in the Travel account, $40 a month, more if you’re a heavy coffee drinker) so that money could grow even more! I continued to save, even when I incurred some unexpected debt last year. By devoting money to my travel account, it helped keep my mind focused on building savings, instead of just on “the need to pay down my debt”.
So now a wrench in the plan: my beloved job of 8 years has disappeared due to corporate restructuring. It means I’m re-working my plan. I was still in the information gathering phase in any event: about what work I can do while living abroad, what country will have the most accessibility in terms of working/visas/learning a second language, whether I just want to work really hard for six months and bank all my savings to just live off of them while away (without needing to work), about whether I can do my coaching work via the internet – and even if I can, do I want to?, what to do with my apartment (I rent), whether to pack up everything & put it in storage, is a home exchange possible (i.e. they come to Vancouver and use my place while they ski for the winter, I take their place to lay on the beach?).
All good questions for which I am still finding answers.
What I know for sure, is that owing to a variety of factors, every cell in my body sings with joyful abandon when I am immersed in warmth and sunshine. I function so well and feel so fully alive. Therefore I am committed to finding my way to a snowbird life, ideally within the next five years.
Remember that collage on my fridge? Well, without even realizing it – it felt like no specific conscious intention at the time of booking – I have travelled to Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico (for a second time!), all on savings, no debt incurred. That happened since I took my Smart with Money with Nancy in 2005, along with becoming debt-free. Which, regardless of the brief departure to debt-load last year, has once again become my reality – despite the loss of my job.
Nancy’s education informed me how to re-think my relationship with money, how to live well (even with less, like in my current “lost my job” circumstances), and to keep my eye on the prize.
What’s your prize…and what’s one step you can take today, that will lead you closer to it?
Photo Credit: k@mphuis
Kathryn Anderson is a former client of Your Money by Design. Since taking YMbD’s Smart with Money program in 2005/6, she overhauled her relationship with money, proudly attaining debt-free status in 2008. Now instead of working for her money, her money works for her! Kathryn is a Facilitator, Educator and Motivator specializing in the creation and enjoyment of purpose-based lives and careers. She lives and works in Vancouver, BC.