Keeping Up with the Florida Joneses

South Florida is a great place to live, but there are two things here that most other places don’t have that take some adjustment: an extremely long, hot summer and a wealth of wealthy people. It’s sometimes difficult to stick to a minimal lifestyle and, at the same time, be surrounded by people who don’t just keep up with the Joneses, but have blown them out of the water in every way possible.

For example, a few of the historic neighborhoods around where I live have “home tours” every year, where a handful of homeowners open their homes up and invite the rest of the neighbors to come through and see how they’ve improved their old homes and tended their (often expansive) gardens. I go to these so I can meet the neighbors, get style ideas for my own house, enjoy some frosty beverages in the block party-like atmosphere, and genenerally make myself feel completely inadequate as a homeowner.

I don’t necessarily feel like this is a bad thing, however, as long as I remind myself that most of these people are either much more well-off than I am or are swimming in debt. Since I don’t want to go into debt just to have a nice back yard, and I don’t try to spend money to keep up the appearance of a wealthy lifestyle (have you seen my car?) when I could instead use that money to retire early, the opulence rolls off of me like rain on a freshly-waxed car.

It would be nice to have a perfectly manacured back yard with palm trees providing shade everywhere, but not at the expense of everything else. After all, I can appreciate the engineering and style that’s in a $100k Mercedes while, at the same time, not have any desire to get rid of my old beater car. It suits me, but there are some times that I have to focus more on my long-term goals than short-term pleasantries.

So, A Lot Has Happened Recently

Yep. I know it’s cliché for a blogger to say “sorry for not posting so much!” but really… it’s been hectic lately. Let’s run down the list!

First, I got a new job. Same company but a different location, new boss, mo’ money, etc. It’s much more interesting than what I was previously doing, and it came with some other perks as well. I’ve been spending a lot of time transitioning to my new office and my new role. I also work longer hours but it’s offset with “flex time” so I’m pretty happy there too.

The only downside is that since the new job is in the city, I wasn’t too comfortable riding my motorcycle to work every day. When I commuted 50 miles a day into desolate, swampy south-central Florida it wasn’t a big deal because there wasn’t ever any traffic and about 95% of the drive was on divided highways. The new job is a much shorter commute but it’s stop-and-go traffic through some congested roads. That’s not good for motorcycle safety. So I bought a car.

And, since I’ve mentioned it before, I didn’t get a new car. Although I did think about it! I was in the Honda dealership about to buy a Fit when a particular manufacturing detail caught my eye and caused me to abandon my pursuits. Let’s just say that I’m worried that Honda is going to have the same problems that Volkswagen has in North America, but that’s a topic for another post. Hint: it has nothing to do with diesel.

So I bought a Mercedes. And not just any Mercedes: A 31-year-old turbo diesel. I picked it up for about what my down payment would have been on the Honda, but it did take me about three weeks’ worth of work to get it running again. It had been sitting unloved for about four years, so almost every day when I came home from work I’d open the hood and twist bolts until the sun set. I’ll be writing a little bit more about this soon, since I’m a big proponent of buying antique cars as a way to save money.

And yes, I do have my Volkswagen still, but it seems to have decided that now would be a really good time to blow out its rear main seal. I’ll have to drop the engine to fix that but sometimes old cars take some coaxing to get back on the road. I’m not particularly upset about it because I know it comes with the territory of owning an older car. Plus, I don’t consider the Beetle reliable transportation; it’s a fun project that keeps my engineering brain sharp that I could sell at any time for essentially the amount of money I have in it. It’s win-win for me!

Oh, and I did sell my Yamaha motorcycle, so that went to offset the cost of the Mercedes a little bit. I got it essentially for free when I bought my house, so I’m chalking that up as a win too.

Speaking of the house, though, I started doing some repairs to my detached garage… which quickly turned in to more work than I was expecting. So that’s been going on too.

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This was what was holding up my roof. Sort of. You come across things like this when your house was built in the 40s and you live in a really wet area with lots of termites.

Let’s sum up. New job, still writing for a few blogs on the side, mowing a few lawns in the neighborhood on the other side, new old car that needed fixing to I could get to work without fearing for my life, old old car needing major repairs, garage in shambles. Oh yeah: my first priority regardless of all of my projects is generally to get to the beach and surf if the waves are up. And the past three weeks we got epic surf from Hurricane Joaquin. And I do not use the word epic lightly.

It was like this for three weeks. That’s unheard of for South Florida, especially since we’re still in the rainy season. And my bike got stolen too. Aww! So there’s been a lot on my plate, but I’m back now!

Photo: Not your grandmother’s car, but close.