small change toward a rich life

Our year of radical change

Okay, I went AWOL on Pocketmint again. I’m sorry, but I’m hoping when you hear why, you’ll forgive me. Around the time of my last post, my whole life took an abrupt left turn … and then just kept going.

Here are (some of) the major developments from the last three months:

1. Jak got a job.

In April, after 15 solid months of unemployment, Jak landed an open-ended full-time contract gig. The change in annual income triggered a decision we’d made last year …

2. Jak and I got legally married.

We’ve been committed life partners for twelve years, but had never brought the state into the equation. Our various personal reasons for not doing so have become less relevant over the years, and I had calculated that with only one income, being legally married would save us around $3000 per year in taxes.

Simultaneously, an even bigger change was under consideration, and by the time we had our tiny wedding ceremony at the end of May …

3. Jak and his ex-wife renegotiated their custody arrangement.

After this summer, Claire (now 14) will see her dad on vacations, for periods of a week to a month, instead of the most recent every-other-weekend arrangement. This meant we were no longer bound to Seattle, and therefore …

4. We decided to move to Mexico at the end of this summer.

We’re mostly following the same plan that we had in mind for 2017 … just moving it up by four years. The main difference is that we have less savings, and are not as far along in building our independent income streams.

But it still seems to make sense to take the plunge now.

  • Last winter — the eight months from October to May — was the worst period, psychologically, that I’ve had in over fifteen years. I couldn’t make any progress on writing a book or anything else of long-term use, because day-to-day survival and basic functionality took all the spoons I had. So even though the bank still doesn’t seem to want this house any more than we do, staying here has a cost in economic productivity, as well as in happiness.
  • Two years ago I was confident that, whenever the bank got around to foreclosing on our house, we would be able to find an affordable rental despite the hit to our credit rating. But Seattle overcorrected and is now in the middle of a dramatic housing shortage. There aren’t many rentals to be had, for any price.
  • Jak’s current job is entirely telecommute — he’s actually contracted to a company in Atlanta. With luck, he’ll be able to keep that job for some time even after we move. That money — and our savings — will go a lot farther in a place with a cheaper cost-of-living.
  • Moving away from Seattle before Claire is out of high school adds some expenses, notably increased child support payments and extra airfare for her to visit Jak and vice versa. But we ran the numbers, very conservatively, and determined that even the worst-case Mexico scenario would still be several thousand dollars cheaper per year than the best-case Seattle scenario. That either allows us to sock away more money (if Jak can keep his job) or slows down the rate of our savings burn.

So what have I been doing during my three-month silence? Writing wedding vows and organizing a guerrilla ceremony. Slowly sorting through a four-bedroom houseful of possessions: trying to determine what few things we ought to keep, and jettisoning the rest. Helping Jak with his small press venture — vetting contracts, designing book covers, programming a custom web site. Studying Spanish like crazy. Researching the recent changes to Mexican immigration policy, and trying to make a bajillion arrangements for the impending move.

Some of all this might be interesting for Pocketmint readers — I’d like to tell you about our beautiful and amazingly cheap wedding, for example — if I can just find time to document any of it. I’ll do my best to squeeze some writing in amongst everything else.

What would you most like to hear about?


20 responses

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  1. Michelle says

    This is AWESOME!!! And so weird because this week 2 of my friends (umm diff. couples) got engaged and I figured these things happen in three’s!! You’re number three. Pictures, pictures, please. Can’t wait to hear about the move.

  2. Cindy says

    Nice to read you again!! Ohhh congratulations for the wedding!! A que parte de México piensan mudarse? Te deseo mucho éxito!!!

    • Karawynn says

      Thank you, Cindy. We are going to spend the first year in Jalisco, somewhere along the north shore of Lake Chapala. (Exact town TBD.) There’s a significant expat community of Canadians and Americans there, so it seemed like a good place to get our feet wet.

  3. Amanda says

    Whew! Such a lot to deal with. Congratulations on getting married and on mindfully navigating so many changes and frugal plans. I’d love to hear about the wedding or any of it as you have time, but it sounds like you have your work cut out for you. It is great to read you whenever you pop back in.

  4. Bridget McKenna says

    It’s wonderful that you were able to move up your plans for the move. Scary-exciting, I’m thinking. I, for one, am looking forward to you filling us in (and yes, eventually writing a book) on what goes into such a move, and what that all-important first year is like for you two. Viaje seguro!

    • Karawynn says

      Scary-exciting is right! Oh, and I’m so pleased that I was able to translate ‘viaje seguro’ all on my own. (I had to break out the Google Translate for Cindy’s comment, above. Still a long way from fluency.)

      What aspects of the move would be interesting, do you think?

      • Bridget McKenna says

        I love Google Translate! For me, some of the most important things to know might be: negotiating the legalities, learning how to house-hunt, and the little things about the culture that Americans would tend to be unaware of and opaque to. But I’m guessing the most telling details of all are yet to be discovered. What an adventure!

  5. Kokuanani says

    Have missed you. Kept checking back here and hoped that you were okay. Glad to hear the good news.

    Honestly, I don’t really care much about hearing about the wedding. I’m sure it will be lovely and meaningful, but it’s not my field of interest.

    What I AM interested in is hearing about a) the immigration regulations/red tape/how you’re able to legally move to Mexico. [I'm actually more interested in Canada, but . . .] and b) what your adjustment is like.

    I ask because husband and I made a HORRID mistake 5 years ago: sold our house in suburban MD and moved to Hawaii, where we bought a house. No financial problems with the initial transactions, but for 3+ years we’ve wanted to get out of here and can’t. Discovered that Hawaii, while a beautiful place with good weather, is a horrid, unfriendly, ignorant place to LIVE and it’s unbelievably expensive to escape or have friends visit. Somehow despite the fact that we’d vacationed here for 25 years (!) we managed to miss this side of it.

    Clearly you’re not in our situation, but I am interested in your adjustment to your change of locale and circumstances.

    Much good luck, and I hope you have lots of back-up plans. Again, congrats on the welcome change in your financial circumstances.

    • Karawynn says

      Thanks for sticking around, Kokuanani!

      It’s much trickier to get residency in Canada than in Mexico … and although I approve of Canada in a sociopolitical sense, it’s exactly the wrong direction for me to go, physically. I badly need increased daylight and warmth.

      I sympathize with the ‘nice place to visit but’ phenomenon; I experienced the same sort of thing when I moved to New York City. We did our best to avoid that problem this time by trying it out for a whole month, during which we acted more like residents than tourists … but you can never know for sure.

      One thing the debacle with this house has taught us, though, is that we don’t want to be locked in to anything. We’re going to give it a year, and see how we feel. If it’s not working out, there will be nothing at that point stopping us from moving again and trying something else.

  6. Done by Forty says

    I was so glad to see this post pop up on my reader. Congratulations on your nuptials, Jak’s job, and on your upcoming trip. I know that there may be some added costs and stress in the transition, but I hope it’s fruitful for the two of you.

    All the best!

    • Karawynn says

      Lots of stress, yes, but we’re hoping it’ll have been worth it. :) The moving costs — unless we are completely blindsided by something I didn’t anticipate at all — should in any case be less than if we stayed in Seattle for another year.

      Thanks for the well-wishes!

  7. Tucker says

    Congratulations, and I am interested in hearing about any and all of the above! (non-useful, I know)

  8. Thomas | Your Daily Finance says

    First time to the site so what a first post to read. Seems like you have had more than a few things to take care of/deal with. The visitation with kids it a big one. I am tied down and no plans of moving so I can be closure to my son. When he graduates high school then we plan to move abroad. Congrats on the marriage and the move.

  9. Chalo says

    Y’all made the jump yet?

    Back in the old stomping grounds, I haven’t got Lake Chapala, but Taqueria Chapala is just down the way. For me, that will have to do.

  10. Amanda Simmerman says

    Belated congratulations on the marriage. :)

  11. Deb says

    Looking forward to hearing more, if you are still blogging here. I still wonder at the exploitation of another economy, and am curious as to how you are going to integrate.

  12. Simon @ strengthenyourshot says

    Best wishes, and I am enthusiastic about listening to about any and all of the above. congratulations on the wedding. thanks for sharing.

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