Dec 2011

Blog, North America

DISCUSSION 26 Comments

The Great Nacho Trip Savings Plan

When I was a kid, the purse strings were tight.  I recall often eating one of my mom’s signature dishes: “Tuna and Crackers”; spread saltine crackers out on your plate, cover them with a creamy tuna concoction, and then eat it.  If my mom taught me one thing, it was that you never breathe with your mouth open when it’s freezing cold out.  If she taught me one thing relevant to this discussion, it was how to be frugal.

Throughout this process, people have asked us how we’re able to afford to pick up and drive around the world when we’re so young.  Trust fund?  Ponzi scheme?  Nope, just good old fashioned penny pinching.  It’s actually not so hard; the toughest part is making the “all or nothing” decision to actually do it.

We decided to do this trip right before leaving on vacation to Spain.  We scribbled out our savings plan before we left, but perfected it on a long hike in the Alpujarras.  By this time we realized that we were in the midst of a vacation on which we were wasting money that should have been going into the Nacho Fund.  By the end of our hike we had outlined our plan.  We identified the expensive aspects of our life, and created an attack plan to kill (or severely maim) each one.  I bequeath to you our savings plan so that we may get this out of the way once and for all…

Nacho Fund Expedient Growth Scheme Step 1: Move into someone’s pantry.

When we first got ourselves into this mess, we were renting a house in downtown Flagstaff.  We had 1,800 square feet with a sizeable yard, and it was pretty expensive.  We set out to find something smaller.  What we found was something MUCH smaller.  Meet “The Dollhouse”.

The Dollhouse is roughly 420 square feet, and is half the price of our old place.  It used to be a Mormon family’s food pantry.  Seriously.

The Dollhouse is 10 minutes from downtown on a shared property with two other young couples. It has a garden, chickens, horseshoe pit, outdoor dining area in an aspen grove, and a bonfire pit.  Its small size forced us to spend a lot more time outside.  You know, playing horseshoes, lighting fires, and doing flips off of the roof.

Nacho Fund Expedient Growth Scheme Step 2: Ride more bike.

It’s pretty easy to spend a couple hundred dollars per month on gas if you’re not careful.  We decided to ride bikes to work instead of driving whenever possible.  Like so many aspects of this plan, we liked to make a game out of it; “Okay, we’re only allowed to fill up once this month.  You in?”

I know, sometimes you just don’t feel like riding bikes.  “It’s freezing and my kidneys ache!”  Okay, crybaby.  For those days we have our Vespa, Cicilia.  She’s a 1963 VBB 150, and gets somewhere around 75mpg.  If you fart within 10 feet of this thing it’ll take you to the store.  So efficient.  So sensible.  So…feminine?

Nacho Fund Expedient Growth Scheme Step 3: Stop eating like Donald Trump.  Or some other rich guy.

As a present to ourselves when we graduated and got good jobs, we allowed ourselves to spend freely on groceries.  It’s important to eat well.  Turns out spending freely doesn’t necessarily equate to eating well.  It just equates to spending freely.

We had these little dinosaur-like beasts running all over the place, so we let them pull their weight by feeding us.  We ate one of them early on, but decided that eating their eggs was a better investment.

We also inherited a nice organic garden with the property.  Sheena took to the garden like Batman to rogue justice, seasonally eliminating our produce bill.

When the garden wasn’t producing, we joined a co-op called Bountiful Baskets.  For $15 every two weeks we took home two laundry baskets full of fresh fruits and vegetables.  If we were vegetarians we’d be home free, if not a little chronically tired.

Last, but not least, Sheena started making bread.  Now, instead of paying $4/loaf for the good stuff, we paid $0.25/loaf for the great stuff.  Little things.  They add up.

Nacho Fund Expedient Growth Scheme Step 4: Stop paying people to make dinner for us.

Like every American, we were spending a large proportion of our income on eating out.  We started by cutting back to once per week.  By the end we were down to once every two weeks.  Now our restaurant bills are down around $100/month.  Thanks to our friends at the Himalayan Grill for feeding us just about every week for the last two and a half years!

Nacho Fund Expedient Growth Scheme Step 5: Stop buying so much crap.

As consumers we get a lot of stuff pushed our way, and start to believe that we need it; cars, clothes, electronics, toilet paper.  Well, one of those things is important.  How else are you supposed to play video games with your friends?

We started by saying that we could each spend $300/month on anything that wasn’t rent, food, or gas.  It sounds easy, but I challenge you to try it.  Not easy.  After a while we got used to it, so we continually reduced it until we got it to $100, which is where it’s been for almost two years.  Strangely we don’t even notice any more.  It doesn’t feel like we’re sacrificing.

One way we minimized our spending was by entertaining ourselves in ways that didn’t cost money.  We used Netflix and consciously spent more time with friends at home rather than going out.  We started a dinner club, where four couples would take turns hosting dinner, and started a beer tasting group with a bunch of friends.

The verdict

We were ultimately able to reduce our spending by more than half.  This allowed us to put all of my (Brad’s) paychecks into savings while we lived off of Sheena’s.  In the end it only took us about two and a half years to reach our goal.

The other interesting outcome of this ordeal is that we found ourselves enjoying life much more at the end than we did when we started.  Everything we did to save money made our life immediately better in some way.  We ate better, spent more time in the sun and with good friends, and distanced ourselves from the consumerism cycle.  Simplify.

By the way, as of press time the Dollhouse is available to rent.  Any takers?

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  1. Charlie

    Found your blog through thesamba.com. Thoroughly enjoyed your write up on ways to save. I’m quickly approaching retirement and my wife and I have been going through many of the same exercises in simplifying. It does make life a little better. We hadn’t though about the dinner club thing though. I think we’re gonna have to start one. The beer thing too. I’m looking forward to following your adventure. Good luck.

    Comment by Charlie on December 7, 2011 at 5:53 pm

  2. Thanks Charlie, glad you enjoyed it. The beer tasting is a lot of fun. Usually gets pretty slap happy by the end of the night. All in good fun.

    Comment by Brad on December 7, 2011 at 6:41 pm

  3. Leslie

    Next post idea: Sheena’s bread recipe…

    Please help those of us who have yet to find our grocery store bread substitute!

    Thanks guys, this site is great and I can’t wait to hear more!

    Comment by Leslie on December 7, 2011 at 6:51 pm

  4. Ken Kotalik

    We will miss you at SWWP but will follow your adventures.

    P.S. Can I have your chickens – or are they going with you in the bus?

    Comment by Ken Kotalik on December 8, 2011 at 12:04 am

  5. Ken- I hope you guys stay in touch by making fun of us in times of dire need and/or danger through the comments section of our blog. It’ll be like I’m still there.

    Our chickens will be inherited by the next occupants of the Dollhouse. Sorry man.

    Comment by Brad on December 8, 2011 at 1:31 am

  6. Helder


    I look forward to following you around the world from my couch. Do you think Jen and i could fit in the doll house with two kids? Better yet, is the chicken coop safe enough for kids?

    Comment by Helder on December 8, 2011 at 4:18 am

  7. Riley Rice

    Okay, I’d like to see a description of how you went digital and otherwise became totally mobile in terms of finances (any bills?), communication, entertainment, etc.

    Comment by Riley Rice on December 8, 2011 at 4:44 pm

  8. Jamie

    Hi guys… good for you! truly looking forward to following you and learning from your experiences!

    Enjoy… if you guys come through New England- gimmee a shout. @jc_ayotte

    Be safe.

    Comment by Jamie on December 8, 2011 at 6:34 pm

  9. @Helder: What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. Moving into the Dollhouse with 2 kids will actually kill you.

    @Riley: I like your style. That’s a great idea, and I’ll definitely do a post about that once we’re on the road.

    Comment by Brad on December 8, 2011 at 6:41 pm

  10. Elmira

    Hi! It would be even more interesting to read how did you arrive at your travel budget and how did you pick where to start geographically. In addition, do you have plans B and C? Are you planning to write a book about your adventure? Perhaps starting with an inventory list will put you on a map for “The Essentials of Traveling in a NachoBus…”

    Comment by Elmira on December 15, 2011 at 8:39 am

  11. David

    Hey guys. Good job saving up. I know it’s pretty private, but you still gotta be making good money to be able to save that much in two and a half years.

    What did you guys do before packing up and hitting the road?

    Comment by David on January 14, 2012 at 7:41 pm

  12. […] follow suit.  Sedona will also be warming up nicely by now as well.  Our old neighbors at the Dollhouse will soon lose their first garden planting to an unexpected frost (sorry guys).  Meanwhile, […]

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  13. […] follow suit.  Sedona will also be warming up nicely by now as well.  Our old neighbors at the Dollhouse will soon lose their first garden planting to an unexpected frost (sorry guys).  Meanwhile, we’ve […]

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  14. David, I was an engineer and Sheena worked in the Accounting department for Gore-Tex. We didn’t make too much more than your typical college educated working couple. You know, just a few million per quarter ;)

    Comment by Brad on May 7, 2012 at 8:46 am

  15. Li

    Very inspiring! – what was your budget for a year? How did you work out what you would need and did you manage to stick to it?

    Comment by Li on December 15, 2012 at 5:26 am

  16. […] items. They’ve been kind enough to share their savings plan, and you can find it here on their […]

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  17. […] items. They’ve been kind enough to share their savings plan, and you can find it here on their […]

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  18. Stuart Reese

    Brad I totally admire what you and Sheena are doing! My wife and I are teachers in Wuhan, Hubei, China right now so I totally get all the trouble you are having with the visa’s and travelling (exspenses). We are returning to the States in July and I hope that we will adopt some of your savings ideas.

    My only question is how is your rump?? That’s a lot of miles on the VW’s shoes but man I’m sure you guys feel it a lot as well!

    Hope things are going super well for you guys in your adventure right now. Rock on and God bless!!

    Comment by Stuart Reese on April 26, 2013 at 2:22 am

  19. Brad, thanks for sharing the link with me through the article on AJ. This is how I’ve been living for some time and I love hearing it from others; makes me feel like I’m not *such* a dirtbag traveler. :)

    Nice on the humorous twist, too. That probably comes in handy when Nacho breaks down out there. :)

    Comment by @ginabegin on April 28, 2013 at 12:28 pm

  20. […] items. They’ve been kind enough to share their savings plan, and you can find it here on their […]

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  21. Love your Blog, ordered your book , made it around Iceland in VW with a mexican assistant taking images of great landscapes.

    Comment by Kevin McGarry on September 12, 2013 at 2:17 am

  22. […] could do some serious damage on these stairs!” He smiled. They reminded me instantly of our old dollhouse neighbors, Carrie and […]

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  23. […] and Sheena from Drive Nacho Drive describe how they saved for a around the world trip.  In the process, they got to know each other better and actually discovered that life was better […]

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  24. Gandhian philosophy is not followed by you in the choice of a very uncomfortable complicated heavy maintainace vehile.Even now I say there will be more smiles per miles if you change your vehicle to one having the same square feet area.Fortunate for you petrol prices are low and you can now use the gas guzzling engine you fittted in malaysia.Thanks and looking forward to your next trip

    Comment by Mr Rashid Mukadam on January 20, 2015 at 2:33 pm

  25. We are in a process, not unlike the one when you chose to save money by living more simply. We too live in Flagstaff & would Love a “doll house/pantry” with chickens & a garden. Do you have any suggestions as how one would come by a pantry to move into in or near Flagstaff? Thank you for your entertaining, informative & humorous stories. I came across them on Expedition Portal. Keep adventuring. :D

    Comment by Kande Jacobsen on January 27, 2015 at 7:25 pm

  26. We found ours on Craigslist, Kande. It was about a mile out River Valley Rd., which turns south right next to the Little America Hotel on Butler. Just got lucky, I guess.

    Comment by Brad on January 28, 2015 at 1:37 am

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