Ok, just kidding. That is me trying to dumpster dive at Aldi…my technique could use some improvement.
What I really want to show you is my OTHER caboose…
I teased about this purchase back in July, but if you haven’t been following along on Twitter or Instagram then I have failed as far as keeping you updated. So let me shout it from the rooftops once again…
I BOUGHT A FUCKING CABOOSE!
For $36,000.00 – I get that I could have written 36k and you would have gotten the drift but I had to add all those zeros so I could feel the full gravity of the financial decision and measure my current mental & emotional reaction. This purchase marks the first time I have ever sold stocks since I started on my journey to financial independence. And I’m not going to lie, it hurt. But writing it at this moment and seeing it in print, I barely feel a twitch. Because…
I am absolutely in love with it.
This was not a purchase done on a whim, oh no. It has been 15 years in the making:
Once upon a time, I was a nanny. The family that I worked for had a vacation property in the lovely land of Lake Geneva, WI. I had been a few times before, but not once in my adult years. In fact, the last time I visited with my own family was in my preteens – also known as “the time I almost died…on a pontoon boat.” A story for another day. 😉 Visiting as an adult was a whole new ballgame. I was able to appreciate the small, quaint touristy town set perfectly against a sparkling blue lake. But what appealed to me most was not the shops or the restaurants or the water recreation that surrounded, it was the 23-mile walking path that encompasses that lake.
In 2005, Lake Geneva became a highlight in my life when my mom bought a condo just outside of town. Back then I was in full on camino beast mode and the lake path became my training grounds. I would go up to Mom’s, stay the night, and set out early in the morning so I could make my way around the entire lake (plus the extra 2 miles from her condo to the lake path and back). The next day I would spend limping around town, getting to know the area, and getting lost on the back roads. It was on one of these wanders that I stumbled upon the caboose village.
Nearly a mile from the lake, hidden on a small town road, a line of 34 cabooses set upon their track, forever suspended in time. Like a school girl with her very first crush, I fell in love at first sight. But did I buy one? No. I was in my late 20’s and listened to the advice of others when they said this was not the best financial decision for me. Maybe they were right. Maybe they weren’t. Regardless, I never forgot that quirky line of cabooses and made sure to pay homage in the way of a drive-by when my travels brought me “Up North”, mom’s term for Lake Geneva.
Fast forward to last year…
During a break in sessions at FinCon17, a few friends and I sat discussing the idea of a FIRE based co-housing community. Though that idea in itself wasn’t new, we were trying to decide what it was that we ourselves would want. Beyond surrounding ourselves with like-minded people; location, weather, and commitment ranked high on our list of importance. Cost was the other big factor (duh). We wanted something easy to maintain that didn’t require a full time commitment – many of us have kids or like to travel, after all! We wanted something that would be easy to lock and leave. The cost had to be proportionate to our overall wealth, meaning if it cost too much we would feel it necessary to spend the majority of our time there or capitalize on it in some other way such as renting while away. The location had to have easy (hopefully walkable or bikeable) access to resources such as grocery stores, recreational outdoor activities, and for me, a library… and BAM – that quirky line of cabooses popped into my head. Everything we were looking for was there. In Lake Geneva, WI.
In my excitement, I told my friends the above story. How I found the place, how I loved the place, how it was the “caboose that got away”. We laughed about the idea of a bunch of us buying up cabooses and spending our summers in the land of mosquitos and cheese curds. Of course, all of this was in jest as the actual cabooses rarely came available for sale so we went back to talking about the community in general and all of the logistics, but the seed had been planted.
This year, 2018, mom decided it was time to sell her condo. Immediate panic ensued. Over the past decade, Lake Geneva has been my happy place. Even in times of sadness, as soon as I hit the threshold of town, whatever drama was weighing on my mind felt lighter while I was up there. Everything felt and looked more vibrant. The air, the lake, heck, even the tourists when they took over during summer weekends! Though her condo wasn’t yet listed, I immediately set up a Redfin search for the area. My filters included a cost under 100k, walking distance to the lake/grocery, and assessments/taxes under $200/month.
In May, mom’s place sold. Two weeks later, Redfin alerted me to a new listing…
That entire story to get to the point – I now own one. And my friend, Marla, owns one too. We each bought one of the two caboose included in the listing.
The details beyond the purchase price are as follows:
- Assessments run $450 x 3 times a year + a $300 October assessment = $1650
- Taxes (2018) = $593.29
- Both came fully furnished
Water, electric, sewer, and outside maintenance are included in the assessments so I don’t have to worry about those. My bunny ear antenna picks up a few channels on the TV and when that doesn’t work, the DVD player they left behind is another option…#winning (does anyone use that anymore?). I currently do not have wifi which has no doubt been an adjustment but I’ve learned to make do by using the library and, in emergency situations, poaching free 24-hour internet access from the McDonalds parking lot. 😉 After all, being unplugged is the very purpose of my being in Lake Geneva!! Peace, quiet, and the ability to turn things off for a bit. It is awesome.
Ready to take a peek inside??
Cute, right?! Currently, there is a Queen bed and Full-size futon. So far I have had only one sleepover (for 3 nights) and can say that having more than 2-3 people staying in this tiny space would be overkill.
My train themed bathroom is interesting…but I don’t really want to pour my beloved wine or have my guests brew coffee in the same space that people well, you know. But those items are only there because kitchen space is lacking…
almost non existent. Instead, I’m making do with this handy refrigerator/microwave/single-shelf get up masquerading as a kitchen. Thankfully I had a super-duper toaster oven that was collecting dust in my city storage unit (frugal freaks need not worry, it is free storage with my condo unit) that has proved very handy in the few weeks we were able to visit this year. The grill the previous owners left behind has also played a starring role in our dining extravaganzas…
Have I mentioned the ridiculous party deck connecting our the two cabooses? Not only does it have a fancy dining section, but it also overlooks a wooded lot chock full of wildlife for our viewing pleasure…
And what about the pool for those hot Midwestern summer days? Check!
FYI – no glass allowed. 🙂
OK – so you probably get the drift. But how’s about a few more gratuitous pics taken from various 2018 caboose festivities…
So much fun!!
It’s worth mentioning that these units are only usable for 5 months of the year, May 15 through October 15 – weather permitting. In case you haven’t heard, it gets FREEZING cold in Wisconsin come winter time. And in case I haven’t been clear in previous posts – I detest freezing cold weather.
At this point, I don’t have any long-term plans for my caboose but here are a few thoughts ruminating:
- Marla and I floated the idea of making them into short-term rentals when we weren’t using them but we didn’t get our shit together in time for the 2018 season. Also, Lake Geneva imposes a $2000 short-term rental fee (basically for using Airbnb, VRBO, etc) which seems quite steep given the 5-month rentability. With that in mind, we created a page HERE should we decide to rent to our “family and friends” for the 2019 season. 😉
2. What if I lived there during the summers? In order to do that, my caboose could use a bit of a function based makeover. I already mapped out a few plans and have some friends interested in helping carry them out. On the docket is adding a tankless water heater, bathtub, moving the electrical panel, adding a one wall kitchen with a sink deep enough to do dishes (MAJOR LIFESTYLE IMPROVEMENT), adding a patio door, closing the existing door, and any plumbing, electrical, and/or drywall that goes with such a remodel. Should you be an expert in any of the above, feel free to email me so I can add you to my list of helpers come construction time. 🙂
3. As for the FI Community conversation ala FinCon17… that’s still a seed in need of watering. Recently a caboose came up for sale and some of our friends came soooo close to buying it. I would have LOVED to have them as neighbors but in the end, the numbers didn’t work for what they were looking for. The dream isn’t dead. It’s just the beginning. 2019 is another year and with it, another caboose season. I am looking forward to spending plenty of time up there and we have a few gatherings already planned (stay tuned for a Lake Geneva meetup/caboose tour announcement). The more people who visit and see it first hand, the faster the FI caboose community idea will spread. And in the event it doesn’t, I am perfectly happy to keep this slice of paradise all to myself.
Until I make a decision on any of the above, I am thinking of my caboose purely as a luxury purchase. I mean, if I add up all the designer bags, shoes, and female things like nails, hair, and makeup that I haven’t bought over the past 40 years, I’d say I’m still coming out ahead! 😉
What luxury purchase/experience have you bought recently?
Until next time…