Year In Review – The Highs and Lows of Financial Catastrophe

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I promise you’ll hear more from me in some form in 2020. I plan on doing even more blog updates, and I’m 3-4 chapters into writing a book that I’m starting to feel really good about. I don’t know jack sh*t about getting a book published, but I knew even less about responsibly managing my finances and I figured that out, so what do I have to lose?

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If you had talked to me in early 2019, I would have told you that we were losing our house. I would have also told you that we were struggling to figure out how to pay our bills, or even keep food on the table. As fully-grown adults in our 40s, my wife and I had manage to make almost every poor financial decision possible, and were now faced with crippling debt.

We formed a plan over January and the first part of February, and all of the math showed that we would nothing short of a small miracle to escape our predicament. We knew which things to pay and in which order, but if even the smallest thing went wrong, we were in some serious trouble.

We focused every single resource we had at the problem, and we sacrificed as much as possible, sometimes resorting to eating just Four Eggs a night. All the while we hid the family from everyone but our closest friends and family (and the readers of this blog), and we wallowed heavily in guilt and remorse.

I try not to exaggerate for the sake of exaggeration, so trust me when I say that it was the worst time of my life. As always, perspective is key, so I’m sure there are some of you that have gone through far worse, but for me this was the low point.

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FUN FACT: The previous low point was explaining to my Mom that in order to pull square with the Columbia House cassette tape club, she was going to need to help me purchase 300 cassettes in the next 11 days.

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I really couldn’t see any kind of light at the end of the tunnel, and it sucked big ginormous bags of ding dongs.

What a difference a year can make…Read More »

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 »

Being in Debt Does NOT Make You a Dumb*ss. Staying in Debt DOES!

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My ability to attain a relatively successful career meant that I probably wasn’t a flat out dumbass, regardless of what my wife might lead you to believe. My inability to manage personal finances, however, meant that I was undoubtedly ignorant in regards to the subject.

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I was the first male in my family to graduate from high school. Truth be told, I had a half-uncle who graduated high school about 6 years before me, but I’m choosing to ignore that to make for a better story.

Side Note: Yes I said my uncle graduated high school six years before me. My grandfather re-married very late in life and had a child with his new bride. Don’t ask, folks… it’s Smalltown, USA.

So like I said, I was the first male in my family to earn my high school diploma. My dad dropped out either his Sophomore or Junior year, and I’d be surprised if my grandpa made it much past the 8th grade. They were taught that school was for chumps, and the moment you had identified a career, schooling had served its purpose.

Yet both my father and his dad were incredibly bright. My dad still has an amazing knack for Marketing, even though I doubt he’d know that is what it’s actually called. He knows he’s good at “selling people stuff,” but could give two sh*ts about the terminology or psychology behind it. Both he and my grandfather started highly successful businesses, despite their lack of formal education, and both took chances that I to this day don’t have the courage to take.

So I didn’t have a lot to live up to in terms of expectations. If I had dropped out of high school early, I’m sure my parents would have been slightly disappointed, but it wouldn’t have been the end of the world.

While my older sister blazed through both high school and college earning a 4.0 degree at both along the way (along with things like Class Valedictorian, President’s lists, scholarships, and the like) I maintained a rock solid 2.5 GPA, mostly due to sports and… well… not really caring about school.

Again… I didn’t have much to live up to.

I did manage to graduate high school, and then attended one year at university, dropped out thanks to a job offer from my father, and later in life returned to get a degree and several certificates. In all, I’ve probably completed around 6-7 years of post-high school schooling of some kind, and now have a successful career in videogames.

Take that, weirdly-young half uncle!Read More »

Tuesday Tip Jar: Author David Bach

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Welcome to another “Tuesday Tip Jar” where I will share awesome savings and financial tips as I find them. I might not have something for you every Tuesday, but when I do, you’ll find it here!

If you’ve got a financial tip you think others would benefit from, please send it to me via my contact page at the top of the blog!

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Today’s quick tip comes in the form of the author who originally inspired me to get serious about my finances and dig out from my debt.

I listen to a podcast called, “The School of Greatness” hosted by Lewis Howes. While the pretentious name of the podcast might initially be off-putting to some, the fact of the matter is that Lewis has guests on of all shapes and sizes that focus on helping you to make your life better. Subjects have ranged from meditation, to inspiring stories of overcoming odds, to financial improvements, and everything in between.

Back in February or March, he had New York Times best-selling Author, David Bach, on his program. David was getting close to launching a book called, “The Latte Factor,” and was on a promotional tour for it.

I was impressed with how straightforward David was, and how relatable his approach seemed to be. He wasn’t about complex algorithms and financial wizardry (at least on the surface), he was about simplifying the process of saving and building wealth. For a dumbass like me, this was music to my broke ears!

While “The Latte Factor” hadn’t hit shelves yet, I liked what David had written enough that I went home and researched some of his previous books. One that struck a nerve for obvious reasons was his book, “Start Late, Finish Rich,” that focused on how to build wealth rapidly if you made some less-than-optimal decisions in the first half of your life.

The book was wildly encouraging, making sure to reinforce time and time again that it’s never too late to start saving and investing, but also reminding readers that the longer you wait, the less you’ll have later in life.

After finishing “Start Late,” I moved on to what most people know David for, which is his book, “The Automatic Millionaire,” and then eventually his latest book which is a fiction/financial education story called, “The Latte Factor.”

I don’t want to give David’s techniques away, because I think it’s important that you read his advice in the full context of his books, but I will say that they have helped to totally change my life. I am now (slowly) building some wealth, while at the same time finally paying off the debt that has been crushing me all these years.Read More »