Today was a Good Day

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We’ve learned many lessons this year, among them how to actually appreciate and value the things we purchase. It has made us a stronger family unit, and it has helped to instill values in our children that will hopefully help them in life for many decades to come.

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At the beginning of 2019, my wife and I were in a really bad spot. We owed an insane amount of money on credit cards (6 figures), and we were making $3600 a month less than what we needed to pay our bills. We had no savings, we had very little in our 401k, and we were almost certainly going to lose the house we had bought just 6 months prior.

We committed to solving our debt crisis once and for all, and we knew that part of doing that meant we had to set some really large stretch goals to keep us honest and aggressive in our efforts.

I told my wife, “We need to set a big number in terms of the debt we want to pay off this year, and it needs to be large enough to frankly make us uncomfortable.”

We set our golden number for the year at $50,000.00. Fifty-thousand. A FIVE, AND THEN A BUNCH OF ZEROS. That was a stupid number, and there was probably no way we would come close, but damn if we weren’t going to try!

When I have set similar lofty goals in the past, it has rarely worked out well…

Dave at age 10:
Goal: “I bet I can jump this canal on my bicycle!”
Result: Broken bike, broken bones.

Dave at age 22:
Goal: “I bet I can beer bong this entire 5th of whiskey!”
Result: Waking up in that same canal, wondering what happened to my pants.

Dave at age 35:
Goal: “I bet I can put a flat screen TV in each room of my house!”
Result: See paragraph 1 of this post.

So needless to say, I was somewhat pessimistic about the financial goal I had set for us to achieve, and I had a lifetime of results (or lack thereof) to back that pessimism up.

And yet today, a month and a half early in fact, we hit our goal.Read More »

Today Was a Good Day on the Road to Financial Independence

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2019 has already proven to be the most stressful, gut-wrenching, slap-to-the-face wake up call that we could have ever received, but by the end of this year it also has the potential to be one of the most fulfilling and personally rewarding ones we ever lived through.

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If you’ve been following this blog for any period of time, you know my situation. If not, here is a very brief recap:

At the start of 2019, my wife and I came to full terms with our debt and the stinky butthole of a situation we had gotten ourselves into. We sat down and added everything together and found that we had $126,310.77 worth of combined credit card and student loan debt.

On top of this, we were paying out close to $3600 a month more in bills than we were bringing in from income. We had absolutely zero in savings, and we were very much at risk of losing our home that we had just purchased in June of 2018.

Since then we have been scrambling to stay afloat, at times barely even eating to save money. We have taken side jobs such as my wife’s now steady gig caring for dogs via Rover.com, and targeted our debt with every ounce of energy we have.

Today I wrote checks for $23,347.12, $1,660.84, and $2763.12 to pay off and close 3 more accounts.

It was a very good day.

If you haven’t been paying attention to the graphic on the right, here it is in it’s most updated form:

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The devil is in the details though, so keep reading to see exactly how the numbers break down…Read More »

Student Loans – Not All Hope is Lost!

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There are SO MANY STORIES I could tell about AIS, but I’ll save them for some other time. The point to all of this is that I walked out of that school with almost a perfect GPA, which in most schools should mean that I had a portfolio good enough to land me a decent entry level job. At AIS it meant that I had shown up, stayed mostly sober throughout my classes, and (most importantly) had paid my tuition. That was all it took to get almost straight As.

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Disclaimer: I’m going to share a link to a resource I found that might help me finally get rid of my student loan debt. It’s called Borrower Defense, and it is through the U.S. Government Financial Aid department. I AM NOT SELLING ANYTHING HERE, PEOPLE. You should know by now that I’m not a bullshit artist. This is a legitimate group, run by the U.S. Government, and you can research before you read any further if it makes you more comfortable. I’m simply sharing it because I had never heard of the service before, and so I’m sure there are others who haven’t either.

I also want to be abundantly clear that I am currently in the process of seeing if this works for my situation. I could be rejected, and be right back where I was when I started the process. I have no stats on how many people this has or hasn’t worked for, but it’s zero cost other than the time it takes to fill out the form, so I kind of figure you don’t have much to lose.

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I attended the Art Institute of Seattle (AIS), where I majored in Computer Animation. Despite going to college a bit later in life, I still had very little frame of reference as to what college should cost, nor what a legitimate school operated like. Prior to AIS, my only college experience was a year at a state run university, but I was 18 and couldn’t have given less of a poop about paying attention to my courses, let alone how that very legitimate school operated.

So I missed what were undoubtedly bright red flags raised by the AIS at the time, because I frankly just didn’t know any better.

For starters, I was given a hard sell in my portfolio review. I was told that my work was good, but just good enough to put me on the bubble of missing out if I didn’t choose to sign up for financial aid that same day. “Classes were filling up fast!” They told me that they couldn’t guarantee I would get in if more talented students applied later, so it would be best if I signed up for government assistance that day. But I shouldn’t worry, because they had on-staff people who could take care of all of my paperwork for me, and I just needed to sign! What a deal!

The second red flag about the portfolio review occurred to me many years later. Reflecting on what I presented at the time, it was at best some pencil sketches and maybe a single painting. AT BEST. It was certainly not enough to get me into a truly legitimate art school, and in hindsight I’m not sure it could have gotten me into the pre-school finger-painting class at my local YMCA. Yet they were very encouraging and told me I had true talent and they could see massive potential.

The final red flag of the recruitment process came when the portfolio reviewer (recruiter) told me that AIS had one of the highest industry job placement rates in the country. This was another one that I didn’t understand the magnitude of until years later when I spoke to a former AIS professor who told me that the school’s job placement rate included “art jobs” at places like Kinko’s, because it was copy and print and technically fell into a commercial art category.

Then there was the school itself…Read More »

Sickness, Sweden, Soccer and Saying So Long to Summer – A Digging Out Update

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Hi Eveyrone!

Good News: I’m not dead.
Bad News: I have not been updating the blog.

In late August I got hit with the flu, and it knocked me on my ear. I was seriously concerned, because I had a big business trip coming up in Sweden that I desperately wanted to attend. I was starting to freak out that I would be too sick to travel, but I managed to pull the nose up at the last possible minute and was cleared to go.

Sweden was great, but between the craziness of that trip and the plague that had ravaged my body, I was in no shape to write blog updates.

Upon my return, I was reminded that my kids soccer season kicked off (SEE WHAT I DID THERE?), and so we spent several days watching delirious kids boot balls about while the final rays of summer kissed us goodbye.

When I first started this blog, my intention was never to make it a 5 day a week affair, but it sort of morphed into that very quickly. Then I found myself scrambling to keep up with the cadence I had set for myself, and it quickly became something that wasn’t my most favorite thing in the world.

So moving forward, updates will be a bit more off-the-cuff and less regimented, but I promise they will still bring value!

Here are some things I did manage to accomplish over the last several weeks:

  1. I finally closed on the refinance of my home. Given that we have only been in the home for a year, this made total sense for us, and saved us several hundreds dollars on our monthly mortgage payment.
  2. I managed to pull the trigger on my “big plan” for the year of paying off a massive chunk of our debt. It will take until the 15th of September before I can officially explain here on the blog, but needless to say, the tracker on the right will see a BIG update at that time.
  3. I read some great books in my downtime! I finally read “Rich Dad, Poor Dad,” “The Millionaire Next Door,” and just started on “The Richest Man in Babylon.”
  4. I got bit by a tick while in Sweden while hunting for wild mushrooms that we cooked over an open fire with reindeer. True story.

So I wasn’t just lying in a pool of my own sweat and begging my children to “bring Daddy a fresh bucket.” I actual did what I could to make my life better as well!

Well… except the tick part.

My intention with this blog has always been to give people in a situation similar to mine a person that they can relate to. I want others to know that, whether they are deep in a financial hole, or simply wanting to reach some form of financial independence, there are others on a similar journey. With a five-day-per-week post cadence, I started to feel like I was losing some of that magic, and frankly just kind of repeating myself at times.

So stay tuned, because while the posts may not stick to any kind of schedule moving forward, my hope is that you will find them more substantial and meaty.

Keep digging!

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When Trying to do the Right Thing Financially Bites You in the Ass

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If you make it to the bottom of today’s post, there is a reward for you! True story.

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My wife and I are in the process of refinancing our house. When we bought the home a year ago, it was about as painless of a process as buying a home can be. There was some grunt work on our parts, but by and large it was what you would expect; chasing down bank ledgers, getting statements, providing numbers, signing papers, etc.

This year we wanted to refinance. It has only been a year, but the interest rates have dropped enough that it meant freeing up some cash each month that we could then focus on debt in the short term, which was critical given our situation.

What we have found is that the process of refinancing has been FAR more imposing than the original purchase. Not only has it taken months of work to make it happen, but it has also required me to provide what seems to be the same information several times over.

At a certain point in the refinance process, I was also working on getting some debts consolidated at a much lower interest rate (%29.99 > %13.99), but before I did this I asked our loan officer if this would affect anything. I was told it would be fine, since my credit rating was already verified and the interest rate of the refinance was locked.

Smash cut to Thursday morning when I got a call from the same loan officer asking me why there was brand new debt on my profile. I remined her that it was the consolidation loan, and here response was, “Well, Dave, you personally took this debt consolidation loan out, and when you had originally asked me about it, I thought it was to consolidate your own debt. Instead you used it to pay off debt that was in your wife’s name, hence it now shows as new debt on you, and thus we probably can’t secure the loan for you at this time.”

Let’s unpack this for a moment:Read More »