Why I downsized from a monthly, personal burn rate of over $8,000 to less than $1,000
I’d just left my job. But my side business — now my main gig — was doing well at the time. Between my old job and the business, I was making a decent amount of money each month.
Decent enough so my run rate was a minimum $8K every month in expenses. Many months it was a lot more. But it was never less. And I had serious money left over for saving and emergencies.
Life was good.
The obligatory house, two cars. A kid in the very best private schools in the Miami area and all the toys I wanted. I mean, all the toys and gadgets. I was doing really well. I was proud of myself as an immigrant to this country for “making it”.
But I was still conservative. Still always concerned about money. Right up until I left my job. Then suddenly I did not really care about it after I came back from my first extended trip abroad.
The first couple of days back, reverse culture shock set it. I saw an American culture that did not care about pedestrians or cyclists. On a most beautiful fall day, everyone was driving with the windows on and air-conditioning set to full blast.
Everyone was wasting everything and I wondered why I was wasting everything too.
Why two cars? Why a TV in all three bedrooms? Housekeeper. Gardener. Tools and stuff I never used. Boxes coming in from Amazon almost every day. Innumerable small things that just added up. It just kept going on and on.
And so my big downsizing began.
The first thing to go was cable. “Hustlers don’t watch TV”. I was a huge HBO guy but I was already used to watching everything later through Tivo. So it took just a week or so to install Comcast Business Class internet and cut the cord.
Next I slowly got rid of all the television sets except one.
Then all the little services that we don’t think about. I got rid of all my toys except what I really, really needed. Laptop. iPad. Phone.
But it was still not what it all was cut out to be. I still felt unsatisfied.
A year later, I met my partner Ryan McElroy and we started Travel Agency Tribes. We both sunk in all of our savings. Hundreds of thousands of dollars. I was not conservative about that. My former business was starting to decline and it was time to start a new one.
Nothing lasts forever.
So… startup - this means sacrifice. Founder salaries. Cutting back. And both of us cut back to the bone. Sometimes it takes an event like this to force you to evaluate what’s necessary and what you really need to keep.
Around a year ago, I decided to spend the summer in my home country of Jamaica. A full two months with my daughter. It would reconnect me with my roots — after being away 20 years — and it would introduce her in a more extended way to the country.
In the middle of the summer I decided that it would make sense to live in Jamaica at least for a few years. My daughter decided that she wanted to take the journey with me.
I walked away from the house, and its ballooning adjustable mortgage and never looked back.
I’ve cut up all my credit cards.
Sold or gave away the bulk of my personal possessions from my time in Miami.
Gave 95% of my clothing to the Salvation Army.
Gave away my entire book collection to a library for underprivileged children.
Sold my car. Cut my ties. And up and left.
I took with me all my hand tools, absolute basics for my new place in Jamaica and enough clothing to fit in a suitcase and backpack.
So now my run rate is just a bit over $1000 USD per month. Some months its more and others its less. Whatever is left over from what I earn, I can invest it into improving the land that I own here.
Why knows, maybe in a year or two I’ll have a bunch of small cottages on AirBnB, at least, thats the goal. A little sanctuary for burned out folks like me to come and reconnect with themselves. To discover once more what’s important.
And what’s important is not money. Not technology. Not politics. Not what people think about you. Not friends. And really, not even so much family.
It’s how you can make other lives better.
No matter if those lives are connected to yours or not.
Once you realize that, then friends, family, customers, community and country will all benefit from your presence in this place that we are going to be for only a short while.