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 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.