“I can’t believe that I got a college education just so I could end up selling old shoes on the internet.”
Over the past five years of writing this blog – thru the comments, reader meet-ups and the Chautauquas – I’ve had the opportunity to get to know jlcollinsnh readers pretty well. While not universal, there is a typical path that most are following.
It looks a bit like this:
Working — eliminating any debt — aggressively saving — investing — F-you Money — (Freedom!) — Financial Independence — doing what ever the hell you want
But, of course, this isn’t the only path. Especially if we realize freedom is the goal and money is only a tool. You don’t need a million dollars to have the freedom to do nothing, although it doesn’t hurt. You need the right mindset.
Time out for some definitions, and these are not universal but what I mean when I use the terms:
F-you Money: Enough money that you can go without working for some period of time. Enough to embolden you to make more aggressive choices. But not enough to never have to work for money again.
Financial Independence (FI): Having enough money invested that using the 4% rule you can comfortably pay all your bills. Enough to never have to work for money again.
Today I want to introduce you to Ryanne and Jay. Their path kinda looks like this:
Work — work? — screw this! — freelance — plus alternative business eBay — plus alternative business Real Estate — still hard work, but… — (Freedom!) — travel when we want — save — invest — accumulate F-you money – reach FI – do what ever the hell you want — oh, wait, we already are…
Ryanne and Jay produce the weekly podcast ScavengerLife, about quitting their jobs, moving to the country, making a living on eBay by living off the waste of the United States.
Using their eBay profits from the last six years, they have fixed up two houses, one for living, one for…
…their Airbnb rental: LurayModern.com
They also document how they run their Airbnb business at ShampooAndBooze.
They’ve just purchased their third house, soon to be another Airbnb rental all from selling weird, unique stuff to strangers on the internet.
I met them a few weeks back when I noticed a flow of traffic coming here from their site.
Checking it out I found they had referenced my F-you Money post in one of their podcasts. I listened to the entire thing and was immediately captivated. Not just by their cool and engaging story, but also by their cool and engaging way of telling it.
I listened to a few more. Then I called and left them a voicemail.
I said, Thanks for the link and mention on your podcast. While I have zero personal interest in starting an eBay business or investing in Real Estate (been there, done that) I still loved listening to you guys talk about your experience.
Then they called back and said, We love your stuff too even though we are not (yet) investing in stock index funds.
Then I’m all like, You guys should do a guest post for me.
Then they’re all like, We should interview you on our Podcast. (which we did and is coming)
Then I’m all like, Wow that was great fun but while you were asking me questions I kept thinking about all the questions I wanted to ask you guys! Too bad I don’t have a Podcast.
Then they’re all like, Well we have one and we can record, edit and host it on ours.
Then I’m all like, That’s great and then I can link to it when I put up your guest post. It will be my first ever Podcast where I get to ask the questions!
And then, here we are.
And here it is:
My Podcast interview with Ryanne and Jay
So you can either listen first and then read what they wrote for us below. Or read first and then listen to what other tidbits I teased out of them.
Scavenger Life Guest Post
by Ryanne and Jay
Who are we? We’re arty tech nerds.
We’ve lived and worked in Boston, NYC and SF. At first we had full-time jobs, both in television production, but then worked freelance for about four years. We made good money and could have made a lot more in the future.
We decided to get out at 26 and 32.
I grew up with parents who were independent workers.
My mom is an artist, craftsperson. My dad is a carpenter, contractor. They never had office jobs my whole life. My siblings and I were always toted around to craft-shows and house painting jobs.
This helped inform our decisions to become very independent. We also had a buffer of saved money from our office jobs, that helped a bit.
We wanted our time because I learned that I couldn’t work full-time for someone else.
I looked over at the guy in his 50s doing what I did. He was happy enough, but I couldn’t see that for myself.
Though we loved freelancing because of the freedom of our time, we hated the stress and struggle of hustling for work. Usually we’d take on too many jobs because we were always worried work would dry up.
Living in urban areas, we realized that our most expensive cost was rent (and that was 2005-2007 in NYC and SF, it’s gotten much worse since then).
For one year, we bartered with a friend who owned an apartment in an intentional community. We lived there for one year in exchange for DIY fixing up the apartment painting, replacing windows, redoing the kitchen.
In that same year, we met our friends, Mikey and Wendy (The Good Life Lab), who quit their NYC jobs and moved to a tiny town in New Mexico. They showed us that they could buy property for cheap and own their time.
Their money went a lot farther in a rural area.
This made a lot of sense to us so we decided to move to the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia and bought a foreclosure for $70k in cash.
Probably put in another $100k to add an extra building and do a total renovation. Mountains in our backyard. A river just a short walk away. Surrounded by trees. A National Park and National Forest on either side of our valley.
We bought our house in 2009 after the economy crashed.
There were a bunch of foreclosures in our area (sadly, still are), and we were unable to get a loan at the time, being first time home buyers and not having “reliable income” as freelancers. Luckily, we had both saved about $35k each from our former full time jobs, the exact amount we needed to buy this house.
It kind of worked out perfectly.
Cashing out all our savings was not intentional, but became a blessing in disguise. It helped propel our future real estate purchases because we had full equity in our primary property with no debt.
Too good to be true?
The rub is that there are few decent jobs in rural areas. Most of it is low paying. So property is cheap because there’s no way to make money. It’s mainly retirees with savings and local families that have survived here for generations.
And weird people like us who travel for work and sell stuff on the internet.
The beauty of rural America is that it’s possible for young people to buy property and build businesses in an affordable way.
As I write this, we have just purchased our third house, to be another vacation rental. I never would have imagined that this would be possible in Boston, NYC or SF, because frankly, it’s not possible there.
My brother lives in Manhattan, my sister in Boston. They’ll never be able to afford property there. I keep trying to convince them to move to our tiny, rural county. They laugh at us.
I know some folks really push for renting because of the costs of home ownership, but we wanted a home base. A place where we could keep our stuff and travel whenever we wanted.
I’ve done the numbers and we still pay way in less in property taxes/insurance than we would in rent.
Do we miss the hustle and bustle of a city? Sure. But when we crave some culture, we just take a trip to the city, eat a good meal, walk the streets, go home before the traffic and headaches. Or we’ll rent a city apartment on Airbnb for a week. All the fun of the city and none of the hassle.
We still do some freelance work in our traditional career of video production. We’re lucky in that these clients send us to jobs all around the world.
We do live in a tiny rural town, but in the last year we have traveled to Colombia, Los Angeles, Amsterdam, Paris, Barcelona, New York and San Francisco. We do more traveling than most of our friends who have office jobs in the city because we have the luxury to leave whenever we want.
Being an art nerd from a working class family, my partner, Ryanne, knew we could figure it out. First, we‘re very frugal. It feels like we live in luxury, but really we ignore all the stuff that would suck our money. New cars, fancy clothes, etc.
We like to live off the waste of this country. Thrift store clothes. No car payments. Scratch and dent grocery outlets. We grow veggies in the backyard. Craigslist and estate sales furnish our houses. We never pay retail and we find the most amazing things that people are getting rid of.
Ryanne saw that we could scavenge incredible items for cheap from thrift stores and sell them on eBay. No big mystery, but she showed that we could do it big and make incredible money. We treated our online selling like a business, put in the hours, and suddenly felt rich.
My mom and I started dabbling on eBay in 1999.
A friend of mine in college was obsessed with buying and selling Ninja Turtles online (I know, not the greatest investment). And I started selling some vintage film cameras, LPs and stereo equipment on eBay for extra cash. My mom started selling antiques and china.
Then, when I met Jay and moved from Boston to NYC, I sold a bunch of my clothes and art supplies. It was just always a way to clean stuff out and make some extra cash.
Trunk full of Treasure
The United States is so full of stuff, abundance, and waste that there’s just treasure lying around everywhere. Thrift stores, auctions, flea markets, yard sales. Hell, some folks just go to Target and buy the clearance items and resell those online for a profit. The US is bleeding treasure. It’s like finding $50 bills just lying on the ground.
When the economy crashed, we had been primarily making videos for NonProfits in DC. This work dried up at that time.
We happened to be shopping at our local thrift store in 2008, when I spotted a vintage 1980s Members Only jacket and thought ‘Some hipster in Brooklyn would totally buy that’. So we put a bunch of vintage clothes, which are pennies and in massive quantity here, on eBay.
Lo and behold, a hipster in Brooklyn actually did buy that jacket and our eBay business was born.
We also realized we could buy property using our eBay profits. Now we own an Airbnb rental (come stay! LurayModern.com) and are now renovating a second house for another vacation rental. We realized we loved renovating houses and providing hospitality. It’s fun.
We are total gluttons for punishment when it comes to houses.
We bought our house and did a total gut, added a second building for eBay storage and an office. That took 2 years and every penny we made at that time (plus blood, sweat and tears of course).
We finished in January 2011, took a short breath, then bought an 1850s solid brick farmhouse in September 2011 for renovation and eventual Airbnb rental.
This was a much more ambitious project, it took 3.5 years and every penny we made in that time as well. We started renting in February 2015 and it’s been so successful (profitable and fun!), that, again, we took a short breath and bought another house a couple weeks ago.
Keys to still another house
Yes, we’re making good money but that’s not the best part.
We wake up with no alarm clocks.
Seriously this is my favorite aspect of this life. I wake up and it’s always Saturday. No one tells us what to do each day. Our online store keeps selling no matter what we’re doing. People are renting our farmhouse.
This means we can follow our interests day to day while keeping on eye “Business” on our phones.
Make no mistake: we work hard but it doesn’t feel like work. Plus, we take a couple big trips every year. We’ve gone to live in Amsterdam the past couple years for 3-4 weeks at a time. We just book an Airbnb apartment and set up a new temporary home while exploring a city we love.
I have to disagree with Jay that this doesn’t feel like work. It’s just a different kind of work than an office or a ‘grin and bear it’ freelance client.
The level of stress is much lower and the rewards of running your own business are so much greater than working for others. Hard to quantify, but sometimes when we’re traveling and working for clients, I can’t wait to get home to our much less stressful work.
Cleaning the farmhouse for renters and shipping eBay items to customers can make you tired, but there is a zen to these things that you just can’t get at an office.
It’s true that video clients still hire us and fly us around the world. But we now have the F-You money to pick and choose the jobs we want. As Jim says, F-You money gives you leverage.
Employers/clients know this and it makes us even more valuable.
I think we often get hired because we bring a calm to our work that rarely exists in environments where workers feel trapped and stressed. We’re there because we want to be, not because we have to be.
Obviously, we choose the jobs where we get to go to cool places! This year includes Dublin, Seattle, New Orleans and San Francisco (twice!). Not a bad side gig.
I know many here throw their money into index funds and bank on the dividends for their early retirement. That’s sounds awesome. If we have even more extra money one day, maybe we’ll try it.
For now, we’re investing all our profits locally in the community. Makes us feel safer that we can see our money at work. We’ve even thought about buying a commercial building on Main Street to help revitalize an area sucked dry of business by the Walmart on the edge of town.
It’s an open playbook. We’re making it up as we go along.
Right, that’s the next big step after getting our rentals going, to try to improve the area for the people renting our places and visiting the area.
We feel that rural America has a lot to offer young people struggling to make it in the cities. It’s like the wild west, ripe for experimentation and success.
Forget paying $3000+ a month for an apartment in the city. Pay a fraction of that and buy a house with land and start a business.
Yeah, maybe others might come join us. We have programmer friends who could code from anywhere. They just need an internet connection and coffee. Who knows.
I hope so.
I love this story! So many cool concepts from it jumped out at me:
“…money went a lot farther in a rural area.”
“…when we crave some culture, we just take a trip to the city, eat a good meal, walk the streets…rent a city apartment on Airbnb for a week. All the fun…none of the hassle.”
“We do more traveling than most…because we have the luxury to leave whenever we want.”
“…we live in luxury, but…ignore all the stuff that would suck our money. New cars, fancy clothes…”
“We like to live off the waste of this country.”
“The US is bleeding treasure. It’s like finding $50 bills just lying on the ground.”
“…my favorite aspect of this life. I wake up and it’s always Saturday.”
“Make no mistake: We work hard but it doesn’t feel like work.”
“Cleaning the farmhouse for renters…shipping eBay items…there is a zen to these things…”
“…we often get hired because we bring a calm to our work…”
“…rural America has a lot to offer young people struggling to make it in the cities. It’s like the wild west, ripe for experimentation and success.”
If freedom is the goal, you can start way before you are financially independent. Thanks, Jay and Ryanne, for showing us your way!
Do you have questions for Ryanne and Jay I didn’t think to ask? Ask away in the comments below!
My first ever Podcast where I get to ask the questions! My Podcast interview with Ryanne and Jay
Want to check out their eBay store? Ryanne’s Valley Vintage
Here is Jay’s Podcast interview of me: How scavengers can achieve financial independence
Past Post Update, January 20, 2016:
Last October I did a post on: Stockchoker.com
Todd just added two cool new features: