The Secret to Making Your Biggest Dreams Feel More Manageable

Sep 03, 2018    /    budgeting + saving, philosophy

A few years ago, a younger friend was longing for a big life change.

She was living in Virginia, going to school, trying to find her way, and wishing desperately that she lived in Florida by the beach.

But, she confided, she couldn’t move. Because money.

Now, I’ve never lived in Florida, but I have traveled a lot. And so the first question that came to mind was this:

Is it really more expensive to live in Florida than in Virginia?

Maybe yes. But had my friend actually done the math? Or had she made some assumptions based on how expensive her vacations down south had been?

I asked her and then I asked if we could do the math together.

So we did. We went through Craigslist rentals to figure out average room rental costs. We looked up car insurance for her car. We went online to find grocery prices. And we came up with a realistic budget number.

It wasn’t that different than what she was spending in Virginia.

Which was something that’s stuck with me over the years.

Because how often do we assume we know the price tag of the thing we want to do when we really haven’t mapped it out? How often do we dismiss our dreams or put them off without pulling out the calculator?

I remember reading Tim Ferris’ popular 4-Hour Workweek book years ago and the one thing that really resonated with me was when he talked about people telling him that they needed to make millions because they wanted to retire on a beach in Latin America or motorcycle through Argentina. And he was taken aback. Because retiring on a beach in Latin America wouldn’t cost millions. Motorcycling through Argentina certainly wouldn’t.

He realized then, as I realized with my friend, that they just hadn’t done the math.

And that’s the point.

It’s easy to assume our dreams are expensive. It’s easy to put a random (high) number on things. But maybe our dreams are more manageable than we thought.

And perhaps one of the secrets to making those dreams feel much more manageable is simply doing the math. Knowing the real cost of something. Understanding how close we might already be to what we want to do.

It’s easy to assume you need $5,000 or $10,000 or $30,000 to buy a car. But I’ve purchased a great, working, well-kept car for $2,200 (and after about nine months of road-tripping, I sold that same car for $2,000).

It’s easy to assume you need $50,000 to travel for a year. But this nomad spent about $23,000 for a whole year and my yearly budget goals are under $24,000 as well.

It’s easy to assume you need millions to retire on a beach. But it depends on which beach you’re after.

So, today, a reminder: if you have a dream that seems insurmountable, make sure you’ve done the actual math. Looked it up. Written it down. Pulled out that calculator.

Because you might be closer than you think.

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5 Comments
  • Lynne Nieman
    September 3, 2018

    Thanks for the reminder, Gigi. I have to tell my family (my sister comes to mind from a recent conversation) that I don’t need to make a lot of money to travel full time. And as a personal travel planner, I even tell folks who want to take 2 weeks and travel to Europe that they don’t have to have a lot of money to do that. As always, you offer up some great advice and food for thought.

  • Ali
    September 3, 2018

    I think so many of our decisions are based on assumptions and would be better if we dug into it more instead of just thinking, nope, can’t do X because of A, B, and C. And it’s wonderful when you realize you actually CAN do the thing you wanted to do because it’s not as expensive or unrealistic or whatever. I probably do this a lot, this was a good reminder!
    Ali recently posted…How to Pick the Best Carry-on LuggageMy Profile

  • CG @ Paper Fury
    September 4, 2018

    Ahh that is a really good tip and VERY true. I think it’s also easy to self-sabotage our dreams like that when we’re worried about them, like oh if we don’t do the maths we don’t have to take the risk? 🙊But this is super inspiring!!

    • gigigriffis
      September 4, 2018

      Such a good point. I hadn’t even thought about the self-sabotage angle.

  • Kristen
    September 9, 2018

    I love this.

    My parents took us out on the road full-time when I was a little girl. With next to no money.

    Family friends know the story but they still believe we must have had money and they could never do the same. Even when I share how easy it is to do this.

    My heart hurts that there are so many who miss out on so much.

    All we can do is keep sharing.

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