So I sold everything I owned to adopt a nomadic lifestyle of travel. It wasn’t easy, by any means. I actually had to sell a lot of stuff three or four separate times while moving from Columbus Ohio to Atlanta Georgia, then moving around Atlanta in different living situations! At one point, I owned enough stuff to fill a 1,200 square foot apartment. And before that, an entire three bedroom, two bath house… So here are some tips and pointers I’ve learned along the way.
Make Lists of What You Actually NEED!
This part is pretty easy! Consider how you plan to travel. For me it was backpacking and road tripping. I really only needed a handful of bathroom supplies, a handful of clothes, some bags, luggage, and some camping gear. Beyond that, everything I owned I decided I could sell. Including extra TV’s, dressers, book shelves, bed, clothes, camping supplies that were too bulky, instruments and audio gear, and so much more!
For me, traveling is minimalistic, but that’s not true for everyone and their goals. As an example, if you only plan to travel for a few months then return to your daily life, it would be best to just put your things in storage such as your bed and other furniture. However, getting rid of things you’re not using would be a good idea!
But What About the Things Too Sentimental to Part With?
A lot of my things that I collected over the years are very sentimental to me. Thus, instead of selling them, I put them all into a large box which I stored at my parents house. It really wasn’t easy picking and choosing what I should keep and why. But one thing really helped me. After I would make a pile of what I wanted to keep, I would go through it again. Then again. Then again. A lot of things I actually decided to take pictures of, so that I still had the memory accessible (or something I may stumble across later) but the physical thing I didn’t have. Eventually, I got down to one large box and decided that was good enough for me!
Take Pictures and Know Your Worth!
This part is pretty important. When you try to sell everything you own, sell the big ticket items first. For me, this was mostly recording gear, instruments, and other pro audio gear. These sell by themselves quite often and have some really good going prices. After doing a little bit of research, I found some were worth more, others were worth less! While you may have a price in mind, the market may not agree with that price. And your goal is to sell everything you own, so you must (unfortunately) bow to the basic economics of supply and demand.
Once you’ve sold your big ticket items and individual things, you can take pictures of the smaller things, all together. I grouped mine mostly by what room they were in or what use. As an example, my shower head, over the toilet shelves, humidifier, hair clippers, and a bunch of other things I keep in my bathroom, I took a picture of all together. I also did this with all the things in my living room which didn’t sell immediately. My side table, coffee table, Roku Box, etc. Which brings me to my next point…
Use Social Media!
Sell to your friends and social networks first. If you’re sociable, your friends have probably seen the things you have, maybe they have even used them as you’ve spent time together. They know the quality of your items and if they’re good friends, they’ll want to help you. After posting most of my stuff on Facebook, many of my friends even shared my posts and helped me to sell my things. It went pretty quickly! After I sold all my major stuff, I was left with a handful of major things and mostly smaller ticket items. I was able to group the smaller items together and move to the next steps! Some of the posts I made had images such as the one below...
Use Sites Designed for Selling & Buying!
There are so many apps and websites now to help you sell the things you own. LetGo, eBay, Craigslist, even Facebook Groups and Yahoo Group pages! Selling through these means took a lot more work. A lot of picture taking from every angle, negotiating, scheduling times for pickups or drop offs, emailing back and forth, answer phone calls, and more. But the good thing about it is that that it really helped to get rid of the majority of my medium ticket items. Though the downside is that to get rid of it quickly, I had to offer slightly below market price. People on these sites scourer the posts for deals. Often times for days or weeks on end. And it’s not all that uncommon that people make a living buying good deals, then flip them! Sometimes even refurbishing or simply just cleaning the items really well to sell at a slightly higher price. While these sites can take a lot of work, they will help you get things sold at reasonable prices. Which again, brings me to my next point!
Use Garage Sales & Yard Sales!
What About The Things That Don't Sell?
It’s no secret that some things just don’t sell very well. These things are often small ticket items, clothes, shoes, things that cater to unique tastes, silverware, dishes, and more. Well, there’s all kinds of ways to get rid of them. Your clothes, take places like Rags-O-Rama or Plato’s Closet, they buy gently used clothes that are in fashion. Look up some other local businesses as well that buy used clothes. I sold some clothes to a company I had never heard of simply by asking where I might be able to sell some of the clothes that didn’t sell at Plato’s Closet or Rags-O-Rama simply because they were out of season. Check with your local thrift shops, I had a few buy some electronic cables and coffee mugs, plates, and glass cups that didn’t sell. And finally, check for your local charities, recycling centers, and more. I found a local charity that took all of my clothes that didn’t sell and that sends them to those in need. I also found a local recycling center that took literally the rest of it and sends nice things to charities they partner with. After that, I literally had one carload of stuff my parents agreed to keep safe for me while I traveled… oh, and a motorcycle and car. And yes I had two motorcycles to start with, one for adventuring (a Kawaskai 650 KLR) and a luxury ride (Honda 750 Shadow). Just for fun, I'll include a picture of the KLR below!
Planning is Key!
So like anything else in the world, you want to have a plan of action if you’d like to be successful. That being said, you need to consider when you’re leaving to travel, move, or whatever other reason you’re looking to sell your things. It took me roughly four weeks to sell literally everything I owned to be able to get to a point where my parents said they would store things for me. That was it! But it took some planning…
You need to plan for what you’ll need and at what speed things you’re getting rid of will likely sell. Smaller ticket items might take a long time to sell. Bigger ticket items, they vary depending on the item. Electronics like TV’s sell quick. Furniture can take a long time. That being said, I didn’t try to sell my shower stuff until about a week or so before I moved. And even some things, such as my bed set (including bed, frame, headboard, pillows, and sheets all in a package deal) I found a buyer but scheduled and took a down payment so that they would pick it up the weekend I left. Without thinking things through, you may sell your bed, then sleep on the floor or air mattress for a few weeks while trying to sell everything else. Imagine selling your dresser but still needing one for a month. The point here is, work it out so that you can transition as comfortable as you’re okay with.
Brush Up On Your Skills!
This is important as you can get rid of a lot of stuff quickly but offering a slight discount. The discount comes in that your time, stress, and overall peace of mind can be translated to a dollar amount. People also often like buying things in packages that include everything they need. As an example, I sold my entire bed set as a single package. I also sold all of my furniture as a single package. I also sold some guitars, amps, stands, straps, cables, and a “Beginners guide to playing guitar” in a single package. Had I tried to sell each of those things individually, I’d literally have to try to make 30-50 transactions. Instead, I was able to make three. It saved me a lot of time, hard work, and saved me a lot of peace of mind. Below is a few shots of things I bundled including an entire kitchen camping set, amps, and even a surround sound system with a bass amp!
Whatever Works, Works!
While I listed a lot of ideas that come directly from my experience, I’m sure I’m missing out on a lot of points, things I’ve done, and even things that work well. So research! Educate yourself! Get creative! I didn’t come up with the idea of taking pictures of the things that I wanted to keep but were too bulky or took up too much space. My friend Kat Moenk did. In fact, she’s super creative, check out her project Pocket Universes. Whatever works for you, works for you. These are just some stories, pointers, and suggestions from my experiences. If you think having an eye catching sign with lots of art on it will work better for you, go for it! If you want to try taking out a radio ad, sure, why not! Maybe a flea market space might work better for you? The point here is that, don’t think for one minute that there’s only one way to do something. Worst case, you try, it fails, and you learned something new. Isn’t that what this is all about?
So I'm realizing aspects of this blog are going to turn into more of a, "Frequently Asked Questions" where I write a lot about the different things that come up quite regularly. Well this afternoon, I decided to write about one of the more frequent questions I get asked. And that is about health insurance and healthcare while traveling or adopting a nomadic lifestyle...
"So what are you going to do about insurance?"
Well, to be perfectly honest, for a long time I didn't have an answer to this question! It took a lot of research to determine what my options are and which ones are best for me. At the end of the day, I decided that it would be best for me to incur the annual fee for not having Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC) as defined by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and get insurance through a broker who set me up with only exactly what I need and nothing more.
"What exactly do you need?"
Considering that I've been to a doctors office for being sick maybe three times in the last five years, I really only need emergency medical care, such as coverage for visits to the ER, a Hospital, or an Urgent Care facility. I take great care of my health and pay attention to my body, it's needs, what it responds to, what it doesn't, my emotional state, and all kinds of other things. That being said, I will eventually make some posts about positive life style choices and how to best listen to your body too! The one thing that's a bit unfortunate about having Short Term Coverage is that I will no longer have annual checkups, which are highly important for determining if you are developing a problem and catching it before it becomes a more serious problem. Keep in mind, everyone needs something different. I happen to be very lucky and fortunate that I am still relatively young and healthy. If I need to visit a doctor or get a prescription, I will just have to pay cash out of pocket.
"How did you decide the 'best route' for you?"
I decided my best route by looking at all of my different options. Which were;
Option A) Go on about traveling without insurance and just eat whatever emergency costs that may arise, after all, I haven't broken a bone or anything in years (long time thrill seeker here)
Option B) Get full coverage insurance through the Health Care Market Place under the Affordable Care Act or...
Option C) Get a healthcare plan that doesn't meet the MEC via the ACA's definitions and incur the penalty fee.
Option A - no insurance, isn't reasonable for me. For my first trip, I will be hiking a lot and I could very easily injure myself without meaning to... They're called, "accidents" for a reason. So that was off the list right off the bat.
Option B - Obtain insurance through the ACA. I decided against this because I was in a bit of a unique situation. Essentially, I found out that there is a Minimum Income Threshold of $12,500 per year that if you make that much or more, you are required to have MEC or face a fee for not having health insurance. As it turns out, this fee is $695.00 per person, per year OR 2.5% of your annual income, whichever is greater. Well my income wasn't very high, just enough to be above the Minimum Income Threshold, so in my case, the penalty fee was higher. That breaks down to about $57.92 per month per person. While I was above the threshold, my income put me in a bit of a limbo situation as I was only able to get very small premiums through the ACA to get MEC. It would have cost me around $180.00 a month to get this coverage. Granted, I would get the ability to visit doctors should I fall ill, but I'm not really concerned about that as I mentioned earlier. Also, I found out that if my income increases, as in if I get a job again this year, then I may be required to pay back some of the premium discounts as my income will be higher, so that means possibly more taxes later. So Option B seemed alright, doable if needed, but not great...
Option C - So it should go without saying that this option is going to start at a minimum of $57.92 per month for not having MEC and incurring the penalty fee. I researched and called many insurance companies. The whole process took me literally about three weeks between determining the jargon used in the Health Care Industry, checking out companies via the Better Business Beau (BBB), obtaining quotes, and more . Eventually I found a broker that was able to provide the insurance I was looking for (short term coverage) at only $62.00 a month. We spoke mostly about my concerns and developed an exact plan for exactly what I need and not a single thing more. Combined with the penalty fee I will incur (as this plan does not meet the Minimum Essential Coverage definition) this option comes out to be just shy of $120 a month. That means if I choose this option, I will save roughly $60 a month as compared to Option B; again, all while only getting exactly what I need for my concerns.
So I went with Option C as $60 a month may not sound like a lot to some people, but being a budget traveler, assuming I'm spending an average of $10 a day traveling around SE Asia, that's enough funds for two months of traveling...
"I thought if you were out of the country or traveling, you don't have to participate in the ACA?"
Like anything else in this world, it's not so black and white. There are a few things to the ACA (that are called exemptions) which can allow you to forego the penalty fee for not having MEC.
The first of which is called the Short Gap Exemption. Essentially, you have two months from the last time you had insurance to obtain insurance again. If you have insurance during any day of the month, it counts that you had insurance that month. As an example, If your insurance runs out on January 1st, you're considered to have had insurance for January, even though you may have only had MEC for one day that month. This would mean you have all of February and March to determine your best route and get insured with MEC insurance before May. The reason I say it this way is because you only need to obtain insurance for one day, any single day, in the month of April, and you won't incur any fee since you will have been considered to have MEC insurance for that month and you'll still meet the Short Gap Exemption definition. In short, you cannot go more than two consecutive months without MEC insurance without inuring the penalty fee.
*On a side note, in my research, I found that you have to apply for MEC insurance through the ACA or Health Care Market Place 15-30 days before it can be accepted and processed. So if I apply for insurance on the April 15th, it's likely that my insurance will not start until May 15th. Which can be problematic if you need your insurance to start in a week; such as in the month of April in the example. Just something to keep in mind...
The next exemption is the Expat Exemption. This is an IRS exemption that was developed to assist with Americans who make money and file taxes in the US, but are living abroad. In short, you MUST be out of the country for a total of 330 days a year. Yes, you read that right; three hundred thirty days, a year. You can only receive this exemption if you are out of the country a cumulative total of 330 days, not just consecutively. Meaning if you come back to the US for one week in January, one week in April, one week in July, and one week in October, then a week in December for the holidays, you'll still be able to claim this exemption as you will have been out of the country for all but a total of 35 days in the year. But say if your flight is delayed and you wind up staying a week and two days in December. You'll have been in the US for a total of 37 days and you would no longer be eligible for the Expat Exemption from the ACA (or the IRS for that matter).
The last exemption, is simply the Minimum Income Exemption. If you make less than $12,500 a year, you are not required to participate in the Affordable Care Act. It's that simple.
"So what does this all mean?"
This all means that if you take the time to determine your needs, research your options, you can make the best decisions you can, for you and your situations. In business school, we learned that we can make the best decisions if we have total and accurate information. While it's impossible to gather absolutely accurate and complete information, and lots of it, we can do our best. So I encourage you to take time and really explore your options in this situation and any others you may encounter.
At the end of the day, with all else equal, I will have not have to pay for any penalty fee or not having MEC insurance for May and June. I will begin receiving the penalty fee this July, along with my Short Term Coverage plan starting in July. This plan provides for my exact needs and saves me a total of roughly $360 in health insurance costs this year while giving me what I need. Option B would have cost me a total of about $1,080 for the rest of the year; while Option C will provide me exactly what I need for a total of about $720 for the rest of the year.
"What about when you're traveling out of the country?"
There's this cool stuff out there called "Travel Insurance" - definitely look into it. There's all kinds from protecting your electronics to providing reimbursement for healthcare expenses abroad. These plans do not meet the MEC for the ACA, but it's very affordable and can cover most things you'd need. So far, I have found an attractive plan that is as little as $0.30 a day (or $18 a month) to cover my bare needs while traveling overseas. (Keep in mind that's for a 27 year old healthy male with no problematic health history.) I'll still incur the penalty fee for not having MEC so my total monthly cost will be around $75.92 a month for health insurance while traveling abroad.
Summation of the points above to help you determine your best course of action...
- Minimum Income Exemption is $12,500 or less a year
- The fee for not having Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC) as defined by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is either $695 per person per year or 2.5% of your income, whichever is greater. *This is for 2016 only, as the fee will increase each year
- Short Gap Exemption states that you can go a total of two months out of the year without MEC Insurance and not have to pay the penalty fee
- Expat Exemption states that if you are out of the country for 330 days a year, you do not have to participate in the ACA; however if you are in the USA for 36 days or more, cumulatively and not just consecutively, then you do not quality for this exemption
- Using the Health Care Market Plan can take up to 30 days to accept and process your applications, keep this in mind to avoid the penalty fee if you are in a time crunch
- If your income unexpectedly increases, you may owe money back on the discounts you can elect through the Health Care Market Place
- Research all your options and gather as much information as possible to make the most educated decisions for your situations
- Travel insurance can be pretty affordable but does not meet the MEC so you will receive the penalty fee
**Remember that you cannot put a price on good health. It is often better to have something and not need it, than to need it and not have it. I am in no way suggesting you cut corners or do anything just to save money. Your health should be your number one priority, physical and mental. This article is intended to provide examples of my experience and show how I made the decisions in which I did. I am in no way am I providing you with advice, legal or otherwise. And please do your best to stay happy and healthy :)
Just your average, not so average, guy! Here you can follow my travels, learn to travel yourself, check out some cool photography, and otherwise follow along as I explore my interests from performance arts to traveling to philosophy and more!
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