April Jeppson: Living within our means to enjoy vacation

Published 9:19 pm Friday, March 18, 2022

If I could transport you to where I’m at right now, that would be my entire article — the view of the Gulf of Mexico from my third-floor condo. The sound of the waves mixed in with the occasional bird flying low across the beach. The smell of the salt, sand and sunscreen. The feel of the warm sun with just the right amount of breeze to keep it from being too hot.

This is the second year in a row I’ve packed up my family and driven down to Okaloosa Island for spring break. My folks use to take us on these epic road trips growing up. My aunt was in the Navy and stationed out East so I remember crashing at her place in between trips to D.C., Bush Gardens and Jamestown. When I finally got a full-time job, I felt it was my turn to carry on the tradition. Get in the car kids, we’re going on vacation!

Before I left, someone found out that I was driving to Florida and made the comment, “Wow, your job must pay you really well!” I know they were making a joke about the increase in gas prices. I also know that they realize I work for a nonprofit and do my job for the love of it and not the paycheck. However, it still stung, and it was really hard not to correct them.

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We lived on one income for so long. My part-time jobs would afford us dinners out, or back to school supplies. When I got a full-time job two years ago, it was like we had won the lottery. We were able to pay all our bills on time, take the family out to a movie when we wanted and I could grocery shop without having to buy the generic version of everything. I’m all for saving money, but generic ranch dressing is not good, people.

My friend’s husband missed a few days of work, and their car required $2,500 in repairs. The smaller paycheck, combined with the unexpected bill, really through their finances into a tizzy. Two years previous they doubled their house size and their mortgage because he got a better job. I’ve watched many friends make more money and then spend more money. If their income got bigger, so did their house and their vehicles. So now they have newer, nicer things, but still struggle if something unexpected happens.

Remember, I’m trying to save up to retire someday. After a weeks’ worth of beach real estate research, I’m all too aware how important it is that I continue to live financially small. Sure, it’d be cool to have a large bedroom or a closet that can actually hold all my clothes. Don’t get me wrong, it’d be really cool to not have to hear my daughter snore because our house is so small. But like all things, I’m sure I’ll miss it someday, and did I mention how badly I want to retire near the ocean?

So until I can afford the retirement condo of my dream, I will continue to save. And while I’m saving, I will continue to put aside a little money every year so that I can visit. In 20 years, I can stay for two to six months, rather than just a week, and that thought fires me up. I haven’t even left yet, and I’m already excited to start saving up for next year.

Albert Lean April Jeppson is a wife, mom, coach and encourager of dreams. Her column appears every Saturday.