Rent Your Dreams Before You Buy Them

What would happen if you 'rented' your dreams before you bought them? If you're looking for money-saving tips or financial advice, this will save you tons of money, time, and energy. #personalfinance #moneytips #budgeting #FIRE #yourmoneyoryourlife


I hate to be this person, but I think you guys should know:

I liked Airstream trailers before they were cool.

In 2001, I’d pull off the highway, scramble over barbed wire and peer into the windows of Airstreams sitting in fields with hand-written ‘For Sale’ signs in the window.

At 22, I stopped into a dealership and toured new models, opening tiny fridges and eye-balling counter space. I researched living in a travel trailer above the frostline and how much it costs to rent a spot in a trailer park.

So when I found an Airstream trailer on Airbnb, I viewed it as A Sign. All my dreams were about to come true! I would confirm that, yes, I was meant to live inside a stylish silver marshmallow, winnowing my belongings down to only what could fit under my snug, cocoon-y bed!

Imagine my surprise when I hated it.

Now, to be fair, the Airstream in question was the smallest model; it’s 22 feet long. But I felt like a marble in a tuna can. YOU SIT ON THE TOILET TO SHOWER.

I am an extremely intrepid traveler and that was too much for even me. I will shower out of bucket. I will sleep on a bed made of sticks. I will inadvertently eat congealed duck blood. But I draw the line at showering in a plastic coffin while sitting on a toilet you’re discouraged from pooping in.

What if I hadn’t lucked into this Airbnb rental?! I could have easily spent the next few years saving up to buy my dream Airstream, only to haul it home and realize that I did not, in fact, enjoy travel trailer life.

Then I’d probably spend the next few years trying to convince myself that I liked it. I’d spend money, time, and energy trying to make this not-awesome-for-me experience into something I actually enjoyed. What if we put in a gas burner? Maybe we just need a better patio situation so we can make better use of the outdoor space? I bet we just parked in a bad spot – let’s move it again.

Now apply this to every aspect of our lives.

How often have we done The Thing We’re Supposed To Do only to get there and realize we don’t actually, uh. like it very much?

Sometimes, we’re so busy pursuing a dream we’ve had for 15 years, we don’t stop to consider if
a) it’s something we still want
b) fits into the reality of our daily lives and personalities

Because the thing is: you might not actually enjoy being a scuba instructor in Thailand! It’s hot! The pay is low! Being your own boss is hard and navigating ex-pat life is no joke.

And it would sure suck to figure that out after you’ve quit your job, sold your house, and moved to Ko Phi Phi.

Maybe, what you actually want is scuba classes at your local dive school and twice-a-year, one-week vacations in the Florida Keys. You could snorkel every day, stay at the same Airbnb, and make friends with the locals.

Of course, sometimes the big dream is the right one. Sometimes, making a huge financial or emotional leap is the right choice.  No amount of renting – literal or psychological – can prepare you for every aspect of life. And allegedly, there are people who live in Airstreams year-round and enjoy it!
But if you can rent your dream - either literally or emotionally - before you buy it, why wouldn't you? Click To Tweet

Ways to rent your dreams before you buy them 

Rent a convertible for two weeks in December before you buy one.

Go to Savannah in August and see if you’re still interested in moving there once you’ve experienced that heat.

Rent a house with a yard and driveway. See how you really feel about the mowing and the shoveling.

Job-shadow, intern or volunteer in your dream job before you make the leap.

Follow someone on Instagram who’s doing what you think you want to do and is honest about it. Watch their Instagram Stories for behind-the-scenes realness.

Travel for a few weeks with your partner before you move in together. Be sleep-deprived, sick, and stressed out together.

Foster dogs before you adopt one of your own.

Do That Thing as a hobby or side hustle before you leave your job for it.

Your dream is waiting for you, but it wants to be sure you're a good fit. Click To Tweet

I want to hear from you! Have you ever pursued a dream and then once you got it, realized you hadn’t looked into it properly? Have you ever ‘rented’ a dream before you invested in it? Tell us in the comments so we can try your methods ourselves!

Photo by Blake Wisz on Unsplash

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  1. Ashley

    YES! Love this advice so much. 5 years ago my husband and I bought a house after only ever living in apartments because we were convinced that Home Ownership was a Very Important Thing. Now we hate yard work, still haven’t painted or refinished the hardwoods, and have no desire to own a home ever again. Now we’re looking into moving into a loft downtown, but not before we rent our house out while we rent a loft downtown to make sure we enjoy the people and noises of downtown living.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      It is SO HARD to resist the siren song of dreams we’ve had forever, isn’t it?! We currently rent a house and I looooove our patio and deck but I don’t love yard maintenance … so we’re fantasizing about a brownstone or an old townhouse with a big patio!

  2. Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

    I love the way you put this, Sarah! I’m all for trying something out before making a permanent change. I wish I’d taken an architecture course or interned at an architecture firm before I went on to studying it, and graduating with a degree on it. After three years in university and one year working in the field, I finally had the courage to change my career path – to one I’d wanted to all along.

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

  3. Gigi

    YES! A gazillion percent agreed.

    I’ve never heard of anyone else doing this, but I actually did two digital nomad test drives before I committed to full-time travel. First, a 10-day trip to Belize where I wanted to find out if I could really work and travel at the same time. Then, when I left to travel more indefinitely, I kept my car, some of my stuff, etc. and just went traveling, promising myself that I could quit if I didn’t like it. Four months in, I loved it, so I came back to the States to sell my car and downsize the stuff I’d left behind just in case.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Yes! So smart!

  4. Erin

    I didn’t give up anything major when I detoured into a career in animal welfare but I did come to discover I was unhappy due to inherent stress and dysfunctional people in that field. I had to wrestle with the dissonance that even though it was “my dream job,” I was not thriving. I left the field and have no regrets. I have since applied the idea of “test driving” new occupations by interviewing friends in those fields or volunteering.

    I am one of those people who is easily lured by ideas or savvy marketing. MAGIC BEANS? Yes, please! Knowing this about myself has made it easier to not sell the family cow. I also heard a great quote a few years ago, “You could starve to death reading a cookbook.” Another is, “It’s, ‘Ready. Aim. Fire!’ Not, Fire! Ready. Aim.”

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Ohhhh, I love that last quote. And it’s so good to know that about yourself! A friend of mine describes herself as “easily influenced” and I think that SUCH an important insight!

  5. Anonymous

    This wisdom should apply to romantic relationships as well. A friends mom told us in college “test drive the car before you buy it!”

  6. Elizabeth

    Reminded me of this post:

    Which I found so refreshing. On a certain corner of the Internet early retirement, remote work, constant travel seems like it should be everyone’s dream and if you’re not doing it you’re not really living.
    Great for those that want it but not for everyone!

  7. Anonymous

    Great advice! Really hard to come to terms with dreams that you’ve had for so long but no longer speak to you. This has happened a few times in my life (I’m 36) and I realize I need to keep checking in with myself about what I really want instead of what I’ve spent years moving towards.

  8. Mary

    We were thinking about retiring to Asheville, NC, so we visited in July. Thank goodness! Luckily, before I committed to the first Airbnb, I double checked to see if it had AC, and chose another one. As it turns out, a lot of places, including stores and restaurants, don’t have AC because it’s “In the mountains and usually doesn’t get hot.” Hah! It’s still south of the Mason-Dixon line and it was H-O-T when we were there. Nice place to visit, but we’ll be retiring somewhere else.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Good for you! That could have been SUCH an expensive mistake!

  9. Donna

    I do a lot of camping and hiking and thought I’d love backpacking too. So I bought the cheapest version of a decent backpack I could find and hodge-podged what camping stuff I already had. Went off on our first backpacking trip (the dog and I) and LOVED it. Now I’m in the process of accruing good quality (read, light weight) backpacking equipment and not feeling much guilt over it because I already know I love it. It’s so nice to enjoy a hobby without the guilt. 🙂

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Yes! So smart!

  10. Lisa

    My husband and I dream about living like gypsies when we retire – living in a different city for 3-6 months, being able to take in the sites unhurried, and exploring new places for longer than a one week vacation. Well we just sold our house (which we had been in for 11 years) and moved 2 hours away into a smaller place. We are now rethinking the retirement plan. This move was stressful and tiresome and although retirement moving wouldn’t be under quite the same weird circumstances, the thought of moving frequently makes us both miserable. Glad we had this move to remind us how un-fun moving can be. We are adjusting our plans and thinking we could buy a small place to serve as our “home base” and only have to move necessities. Without this recent experience to put things in a different perspective I am certain our retirement plans would have been doomed after the first move.

    • megan

      Went through the same thing with my husband! I loved location independence, but he didn’t, and we were both happier with a home base. Now I go somewhere else for a month or two a year, while also maintaining my home base. The trick is to have a cheap enough home base that leaving it for a few months a year is a financial possibility 🙂

  11. Claire O'Connor

    Loved this post, Sarah!

    It cracks me up when people say they’d love to win the lottery or be a millionaire, and I ask them what they’d do with the money. If they say something like buy a Ferrari, I suggest that they rent one for a day then… sometimes our dreams aren’t as amazing as we think they will be! (Try getting a Ferrari over a speed bump, for example 😉

    Living our “dream lives” for a short while is such a cool (and smart) idea… I really enjoyed this article, thanks!

  12. Anne

    Coincidental timing! My guy and I just had a uh… lively conversation about this topic. He has a history of making huge life changes first and then consulting (or even mentioning them!) later. It has worked out well for him and led to us leading a pretty interesting life but I finally had to put my foot down and say “Look, I’m not MOVING to Uruguay site unseen!” (A sentence I obviously never thought I’d say).
    I’ll now be consulting this article every time I start to waver on his next scheme.

  13. Marie

    Hello, I’d like to join bank boost but I live in the UK- just wondering what time the live sessions will be (to see if compatable with me being awake/ not at work)- if not, will they be available to re-watch?

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Hi Marie! The sessions are at 8 pm and 7 pm CST, but they’re available for re-watch and you can email me your questions ahead of time (I send out reminder emails), and I’ll answer them “on-air” 🙂

      • Marie

        Ok fab!

  14. Garth W.

    I love this! I could’ve definitely used this advice a few different times in my life. I was laughing while reading this post because of how well I could relate. “Rent Before You Buy” are my new words to live by. What kind of lunatic would buy frozen waffles at Costco without trying them first if the sample cart was right there? We could all probably apply this Costco samples logic to the rest of our lives.

  15. Polyana

    My boyfriend and I spent 2 weeks in Peru a few months before moving in together. At the time of the trip, we’d toyed around with moving in together, but were both worried about “losing” our independence.

    On that trip – I got food poisoning and he had to hear lots of things he probably didn’t want to through the hotel rooms’ bathroom doors for about a week. He was the best about it, taking care of me, and pretending he wasn’t even disgusted – and after that experience, when he still wanted to love, travel and live with me, I was convinced it would work.

    We’re coming up on just over 2 1/2 years of happy cohabitation!

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      I love that! Hooray for food poisoning? 😉

  16. Jamie

    I’m in a lot of travel groups on Facebook, and have a lot of “traveler friends,” and I feel like there’s an underlying impression in the “travel community” that everyone wants to quit their job and travel full time. I LOVE travel – last year I took 12 roundtrip plane rides (including weddings, work trips, etc). I get 5 weeks of vacation a year, and a few international work trips to cool places. But I do NOT want to quit my job and travel the world – especially if that means I need to stay in hostels (not ragging on them, it’s just not my travel style). I love my job, my everyday life, and being at home – and that is not just okay, it’s awesome!

  17. bernard j rizzo

    Always had adult rescue dogs. Lost out last one in December. Got our first puppy. How hard can this be? Right? I’ve trained dogs before.

    I wanted to kill her after day three. I would have given her to the right home after the first weekend.

    It’s been months later and you could not pry this little peanut out of my arms if you tried with a gun. However, what none of those YouTube vids or books tell you is how freaking hard it is, how much time and effort and patience you have to commit and how consistent you must be. they don’t tell you about never leaving her alone for a second. How you have to sit in that “safe” room with her to catch her urinating so you have the opportunity to train her.

    It. Is. Fucking. Hard.

    The next person who tells me, “I house broke my puppy in three days” will get dick punched and called a fucking liar.

  18. Stephanie Moulton


    I feel like this sums up quite a few life experiences.

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