Saturday we had a group meeting with everyone at the warehouse, and I have to say I feel so much better about everything. First of all we all were together and the meeting was largely conducted by the owner of the company. Since our initial training session was in separate groups, I hadn’t really talked to him, but it was great getting to hear his philosophy. He spent some time talking about what was important to him, which I really appreciated since knowing those things up front make it so much easier to be successful. Also, since everyone was together it was clear we weren’t the only couple who was redistributing the job duties. I would say about half of the couples were strictly dividing the roles, but many others (and it didn’t always follow age lines, btw) had divided things differently. Best of all I started with a list of questions, but by the time we hit the open Q&A I only had two left, which were both answered. I felt both heard and respected, and this was reiterated when the owner told me after the meeting how impressed he was by Lee and I.
I’m a pretty straightforward employee. A clear set of instructions and some positive feedback goes a long way with me. I was also impressed by the other team members I met. They are a smart, energetic bunch of people, and since employees can tell you quite a bit about an organization, both the attitude and longevity of the employees told me quite a bit. Many of them were in their 4th or 5th year of selling these trees and although everyone stated it was hard work they also said we would have fun. Works for me! The company is also in transition from a paper process to an electronic one and I really liked how they explained that it was a new process and asked for both forbearance and feedback. Often, as a new person you aren’t told that, and as the inevitable kinks are worked out, you are left feeling incompetent. Not cool.
One of our biggest challenges in this location is the lack of historical data. This is only the second year they’ve had this particular lot, and it closed early last year. We’ve heard conflicting reasons as to why. Labor costs are built around how many trees you sell, but I don’t really know what that number will be. The owner has 30 years of experience though, and when I asked him for an estimate he gave me one. It is just an estimate, but we may sell around 600 trees. That’s not really that many compared to the larger lots that are selling 1100 or more, but it’s not insignificant. Plus, since we are in a very high end area we have the opportunity to sell both higher quality trees and more sundries. Personally, I am thrilled. I have no issue with the first year being on a smaller lot, with less volume. It’s a great way to cut our teeth on this whole thing. Not all new employees are given lower volume lots though. I really connected with another newbie, Christine, and she and her husband are in Corpus Christi and are projected to sell 2500 trees. Wow. The main difference in that kind of volume is the number of employees you need. They will probably have around 15 whereas we will have 4-6. Fewer employees equals fewer headaches in my mind, so again I am cool with our first year being on the “baby” lot.
There are a couple of other things we have done this last week that I probably should mention. First of all, I signed up for the Affordable Care Act, and since that is a huge deal for most people I thought I would talk about the process for a minute. I’m not going to get into the politics of it, but I will say for us, at this time, it’s great. I purchased some gap insurance this year when my COBRA jumped from $361 to $1000 a month and for $340 a month I have had a high deductible, catastrophic policy. It did NOT cover wellness care of any kind though, and since I turned 50 this year that was a major problem. I am overdue for a mammogram, Pap smear, and colonoscopy and no way could I afford those tests out of pocket. It would wipe out our HSA account. Thankfully, the ACA program covers all those tests with no deductible and Florida (our home state) still offers a plan, FloridaBlue, where those tests will be 100% covered under the national Blue Cross, Blue Shield network. If I didn’t live in Florida, I would need to select a HMO and then make a trip back there for those tests, or the more likely scenario is that I would blow them off. Even though I am in good health, I have always been a huge advocate of wellness care, and it bothers me that these tests have not been completed yet. Now, hopefully, I can get them done this winter, either in Texas or Arizona. Oh, and the costs (with an estimated $42,000 in annual income which was a huge guess as we really have no idea) will be a reasonable $340 a month. In all fairness, those costs could go up (as high as $939 a month) if we make more than $67K this year, but if my income level stays in the sweet spot it should be OK. It’s not perfect, but it is workable for us, and personally I am grateful the program exists. I know it doesn’t work for a lot of people though, but I am hopeful President-elect Trump doesn’t throw the whole program out the window. If that does happen, we will still have options. We could find mobile jobs with insurance coverage, continue to have a catastrophic plan and forgo wellness care, or leave the road and find jobs with coverage. The last option is the least likely in my opinion, because we are thankfully in good health, but it is an option. The main reason I mention all of this is I know this is one of the major stumbling blocks for most people starting this lifestyle. I have always said, and still maintain, that our life will not be held hostage by healthcare. Again, I am fully aware that we can say that because we have no major health issues, but for us it is still valid.
Along these lines, we also finally bought the Phillips Ultrasonic Toothbrushes that the dental hygienist in Alaska recommended. We got an excellent deal at Costco (two pack for $110) and I was able to purchase them using my HSA account. I’ll be honest, I am not crazy about the way the vibration feels, but wow my teeth felt clean when I finished using it. I can understand why she said this was comparable to getting a cleaning. I actually worry more about dental care than anything else, since Lee has a family history of gum disease, and these tooth brushes are supposed to help with that as well. My favorite part is they have a UV light cleaner for the heads that comes with the package. Tons of bacteria reside in your teeth, especially when you are ill, and although I try to change toothbrushes out after I have been sick, it’s sometimes tough to remember. We can clean the bacteria from these heads nightly which is a really great feature.
Finally, I have been in contact with a gate guarding company in Texas. This is a job opportunity that we wanted to explore and I found a company on Work Kamper that is less than 45 minutes from where we are. We have to be licensed as security in the State of Texas, but the agency we are working with can walk us through all of that. Next week sometime we will be going and getting certified and on their list and I will let you know how that all turns out. There are some upfront costs ($10 for fingerprinting and $42 for the state license) but we both feel it’s worth paying a little upfront and seeing what happens. I’ll let you know. If there are no job opportunities in the January – March time frame then we will be heading to Quartzsite, at least until we can find other employment opportunities. It’s an inexpensive place to hang out while we aren’t working, and has the added benefit of many of our friends being there as well. Not sure what’s going to happen with all that since they keep names on a list, and assignments are often last minute, but will let you know as it plays out.
Which brings me to our road-a-versary. We went on the road November 14th, 2014 and the first people we stayed with on our first night were Cori and Greg. Now, two years later, we just happen to be with them again, and are thrilled to celebrate the milestone with them. That is some MAJOR travel serendipity. They were staying in the same campground Rick was in (they missed him by one day, sometimes that just happens) so we went over to see them and their updated rig. They had been to Indiana and replaced /reupholstered some furniture and it looked like a whole new rig on the inside. They also added a couple of mods which I really liked. We laughed, we ate, and Cori and I killed a bottle of wine. Last year she gave me a bottle of my favorite wine to drink on my 50th birthday but I just didn’t want to drink it without her. So it’s been in my fridge this whole time and we got to drink it together. That was nice.
We loved dinner and we love them and what a wonderful way to celebrate our Road-A-Versary!!
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Congrates on your anniversary! Looks like things are coming together with the Christmas Trees, it will be interesting to hear what it is like during the peak selling times.
Okay – we’re still dreamers, but I’m glad you brought up the ACA because there’s a question I can’t seem to find the answer for – LOL! Did you report your income from last year – or what you project it to be this year? And what happens if you guessed wrong come tax time?
I projected and you either have to pay the shortage on your taxes or get. Tax credit if you claim more or less
What a way to celebrate your 2 year with wine and good friends!! I think you need to wear Santa hats while selling trees!!
I have Santa hats all ready to go. They are on the couch next to me as I type this 😉
Happy that timing worked to celebrate….and happy for the wine!!
Happy Road-a-versary! You’ve had a ton of milestones this year!
Congratulations and continued success. You two have really accomplished so much in such a short time. Great to see you learning and growing as you go. Happy Trails and continued happiness!!!
You might include Padre Island National Seashore in your plans. Cheap camping in a beautiful setting. Not far from New Braunfels. We are there now.
Thanks Sean. Funny you mention that, one of the other couples said they went there to recuperate last year