PeerFinance101 is about helping each other out with personal finances. From peer lending to sharing stories about managing debt, investing and anything related to meeting your financial goals.

Every week, I am going to post the story of one of our readers. Read the PeerStories and you’ll see that your own personal finance challenges are not so unique but you might just find some unique ways of dealing with them.

Our PeerStory this week is from Chris Cajoleas, a friend of mine here in the beautiful city of Medellin, Colombia. As is so often the case, Chris fell in love with Medellin the first time he came here and set out on a singular mission to live in the City of Eternal Spring.

Following is his story about how keeping his personal finance goals simple helped him accomplish this dream.

My name is Chris Cajoleas. Like so many other people in the U.S., the mortgage crisis took everything I had. I was pretty much broke and I had no idea what to do. So, what do you do when you have no money? Move to Brazil. Long story, but lucky for me, my move to Brazil is what got me to Medellin, Colombia. When I arrived in Medellin, life became crystal clear to me. I needed to be where I was happy.

The solution however was as clear as mud. How can I move to paradise and earn a living? That was the million dollar question.

After a year and a half of flying back and forth from the U.S. to Medellin looking for business ideas, I set my goals:

  1. Get a job that I can save a lot of money doing.
  2. Teach myself the skills needed to open my business.

I know, it was a short list but to be honest with you, it was enough. I was not going to reinvent the wheel.

My goals were set. I went home to Florida and started looking for work that would allow me to make as much money as possible. Within a month of looking, I took a job in Jacksonville as an underwriter with Bank of America. The pay was not great but the overtime was fantastic. I was working about 15 hours a week of overtime. I opened a savings account that I directly deposited $1,000 into each month.

I also deposited any extra money left over at the end of the month into the savings account. I always had money left over at the end of the month because I was extremely disciplined with my bills. I had a super cheap apartment that was a two-minute drive to work. I cooked 80% of my meals. I didn’t go out much, and hardly ever used my air-conditioning.

Anything I could to save money was what I did. What can I say? I was cheap for a year.

Personal Finance Stooges
Personal Finance Stooges

One Year and $22,000 Later

At the end of 51 weeks working, I had saved about $18,000 and I sold my car which got me a little past twenty grand. I borrowed and additional $20,000 from my mom, bought a one-way ticket to Medellin, and jumped in with both feet.

Within three months of my arrival, I opened my restaurant, The Flip Flop Sandwich Shop, and the rest is history. Within three months of opening, I had the number one restaurant on TripAdvisor for Medellin. The word had spread that I was the man to see when you needed to know something about Medellin. It was hard yet fun work. I really enjoyed it.

One thing I have come to realize is that people needlessly make things really hard. Life can be pretty simple if you just keep it simple. I made simple goals and I achieved them. I worked hard and overcame a lot. It was rewarding and I have to say it was great to read about myself in tourist guide books.

I have since sold my restaurant and I am now looking for the next adventure. I am starting over again. I will let you know what happens next.

Remember……. Keep it simple!!!

Chris’ story is really an inspirational one and there are some great ideas here. He was able to live cheap and save so much money because he set simple, defined and short-term goals.

It isn’t easy to live so cheaply, saving every penny. A lot of people try but then get burnt out because they have nothing to look forward to and no light at the end of the tunnel. It was my problem when I was first starting out and I ended up binge spending when I got tired of saving.

You really need to base your goals on something tangible, that you can see and feel. Living cheaply on the dream that you’ll be able to retire early or travel isn’t enough. Just having that picture of a palm tree on a sandy beach isn’t enough either, that beach needs a name. You need to an image in your head of exactly what you want to do and where you want to go. Set a definite timeline and a plan for how you are going to get there.

Good luck with your financial dream. I would love to hear about it and post your PeerStory on the blog. Did you like Chris’ story? Click through to our previous PeerStory about how Debbie conquered her debt nightmare.

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