“I grew up in a small village in Bulgaria, so I had no interest or desire or ability to sail,” Coleman told Annuity.org. “What are we going to do? How are we going to eat? How am I going to do homeschooling?”
Despite Coleman’s misgivings, Joe was persistent. And after a year and a half of planning, she was ready to commit.
“It took me a long time to get on board. But then I did the research and found out it was actually a cool community of people who lived on sailboats,” she said. “With some research, I was able to figure out how to start homeschooling and then I became fully onboard with the idea.”
Plenty of families ponder the idea of dramatic life changes or living out their fantasies of traveling the world. But dreaming is a lot easier than doing. It took plenty of effort and sacrifice for the Coleman family to make their wish of living on a sailboat come true.
And it was worth it.
The family spent several years traversing the world while based on their boat, visiting everywhere from Puerto Rico to Thailand. Their three kids spent many of their teen years at sea, making friends and growing up with other kids who were part of a vibrant sailing community.
The Colemans successfully achieved a feat that few families do of successfully living out their dream life. But doing so required serious financial planning and sacrifice.
Budgeting for a New Lifestyle
Once Coleman agreed to move her family to a sailboat-centric lifestyle, there were plenty of financial hurdles that needed to be overcome.
Both she and her husband would have to quit their jobs and not be able to work regularly, meaning a minuscule budget was necessary. Schooling would need to be figured out for her children. And, most of all, the family had $350,000 in outstanding debt.
There were some factors in their favor. Coleman, who worked as a nurse, had already paid off her student debt and the family had no credit card debt. But to pay off their remaining debt required a tough decision: Choosing to sell their home.
“It wasn’t a very easy decision because it’s one of the best areas in the country, the best schools in the country,” Coleman said. “But that was the best asset that we had. So, we went ahead and sold that and with the money from that we were able to pay off everything.”
With their debt handled, a home-schooling plan in place and boat purchased, the Colemans were almost ready to begin their journey. But the matter of determining an actual budget for their new lives without steady or high-paying jobs was a challenge.
The answer to this problem came in the realization that living frugally at sea can be much easier than doing so on land. The family worked out a monthly budget of less than $1,600.
“We eliminated all the expenses besides the ones that were necessary to travel such as moving to different countries and port fees where they were necessary,” Coleman said. “We picked our destinations so that we would be able to go to places that were cheap.”
Even when visiting destinations that were more expensive, the Colemans were sure to anchor in places where they would have access to things like large grocery stores where they could stock up on provisions.
The gaps in their money were filled in by working temporary jobs to shore up their savings when necessary. One year, for example, Coleman spent a couple of months working as a nurse at a summer camp, pocketing around $12,000 in the process.
Her husband renovated a kitchen and attic to pitch in another $10,000. Paired with their $1,600-a-month budget, those short-term earnings were enough to keep the family going for more than a year.
This strategy allowed them to spend several happy and fun-filled years seeing the world.
The Coleman’s success story showed that even the wildest dreams that families hold are achievable. But it takes sound budgeting, financial planning and a willingness to take risks to make it happen.
“It was a truly unique experience and so adventurous,” Coleman said.