Tuesday Tip Jar: How to Save Money When You Suck at Saving Money

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One of the problems is that the money is so damn accessible now. I’m old enough to remember pre-internet life where if you wanted to put money into savings you had to physically drive your car to a bank and deposit it with a paper deposit slip. Usually while someone stood next to you smoking a cigarette and talking about the latest episode of Magnum PI. If you wanted to withdraw from your savings, you got back into your Trans-Am, popped in an REO Speedwagon cassette, and drove back to the same bank where you filled out a withdrawal slip and took your money out.

Starting Credit Card Debt (01.01.19): $126,310.77
Current Credit Card Debt: $109,570.87
Total Paid Off: $16,739.90
Income Going to Savings: 2%

[06.27.19 Update] – Just got an email from Marcus saying my new APY is 2.15% and not the 2.25% called out when I wrote the post below. Make sure you check their site for the latest rates before signing up.

I suck at saving money. Growing up I lived in a household where if we made $15 bucks that month, we spent $15 bucks that month. If we made $1500 bucks that month, rather than just spending the $15 that we managed to get by on the month before, we instead spent all $1500. My family didn’t really save money, and for the past 25 years, I haven’t really saved money either.

One thing I want to be clear about is that I do have some money in a 401k account. On this blog I often talk about having zero money in savings, but when I say that I’m referring to my standard savings account.

Part of the problem for me was always ease of access to my savings. I’d put $500 in savings and tell myself I was NEVER going to touch that money unless it was due to some unforeseen emergency. Two weeks later AC/DC would announce a world tour and I’d think, “Well I need to see them. They are getting pretty old, and this will probably be their last tour. This really is basically an emergency.”

Once at the show, I’d buy a t-shirt, food, pay for parking, and of course buy a pair of those light up plastic devil horns to wear. Can’t be the only one in the crowd without plastic devil horns on after all.

So I’d pull that $500 bucks right back out, and have it all spent in a matter of two weeks. The next month I’d start all over again, each time finding some kind of “emergency” to spend things on.

One of the problems is that the money is so damn accessible now. I’m old enough to remember pre-internet life where if you wanted to put money into savings you had to physically drive your car to a bank and deposit it with a paper deposit slip. Usually while someone stood next to you smoking a cigarette and talking about the latest episode of Magnum PI. If you wanted to withdraw from your savings, you got back into your Trans-Am, popped in an REO Speedwagon cassette, and drove back to the same bank where you filled out a withdrawal slip and took your money out.

In other words, it took a fair amount of work to get your money in and out of savings, and thus once it was in, it tended to stay there.Read More »

How to Forget About Your Debt Temporarily Using Only the Power of the Sun!

In that moment, in the blazing hot sun, underneath that enormous tree, amongst thousands of other children and parents, my son and I had an extremely touching moment of bonding. For that moment (and the rest of that day), I didn’t think about finances for the first time in a long time.

Starting Debt (01.01.19): $126,310.77
Current Debt: $109,710.00
Total Paid Off: $16,600.77
Income Going to Savings: 2%

Apologies for the late post today. I coach youth lacrosse, and my son had a 3 day tournament hosted in our town this weekend. It was 68 teams with roughly 15-20 kids per team and so it was wall-to-wall lacrosse sticks and hoarse coaches.

I got a hellacious sunburn on my upper arms, because I went with a sleeveless shirt, because the sun was out therefore my guns had to be out. These days said “guns” are not the types of guns you’d find at a gun show. They’re more like the old rusted ones that you’d find buried in your backyard while you’re digging out your plugged septic tank. Especially if those rusted guns have two really ugly tattoos that they got in their early 20s and now regret every summer.Read More »

Keep Your Ego In Check

Starting Debt (01.01.19): $124,310.77
Current Debt: $107,793.15
Total Paid Off: $16,517.62

I’ve seen a person’s ego aid in accomplishing some seriously amazing things. After all, it’s ego that makes someone say, “I don’t care if you think I’m short! I’ll be famous one day or my name isn’t Tom Cruise!”

Ego can also cause a buttload of issues.

Ego is the thing that makes you see your buddy with the hot new 55″ 4K TV and want one. It’s also the thing that makes you walk into Best Buy, see that exact same 55″ 4K TV right next to the even larger 65″ 4K TV and think, “Oh man… my friends are going to be so jealous of this!”

You didn’t even need all 55 inches to begin with (do we really need to see all of the pores on Conan O’Brien’s nose?), and then you went beyond that and bought the one you really didn’t need. Most likely on credit.

Maybe it’s not TVs for you. Maybe it’s clothes, or action figures, or art, or wine or whatever. The point is that we all have that thing that makes our ego perk up and tempt us to spend.

Good Ego: Michael Jordan wanting the ball on the last play of a tied ball game in the final game of the NBA Finals.

Bad Ego: Me buying a 3D TV and surround sound audio system to watch the NBA Finals.

Good Ego: A doctor telling the President of the United States that she can and will operate on him to successfully remove his brain tumor.

Bad Ego: Me buying a piece of the deceased President’s tumor on eBay for far too much money and then spending even more on the display case to house it in, just to show it off to my friends each time they visit.

Good Ego: Eddie Van Halen sharing one of his groundbreaking guitar solos, without a shred of nerves, while standing in front of 50,000 screaming fans.

Bad Ego: Me taking out a Guitar Center credit card so that I can buy Eddie’s signature guitar thinking that at the age of 40 that has been the missing piece up to this point that has been standing between me and rock stardom.

Yes, I get that I made a Michael Jordan and Eddie Van Halen reference in the same post. I’m old. Deal with it.

What I learned the hard way is that this is all just junk. I wind up watching most sporting events on my phone because I’m sitting sideline at one of my kid’s soccer games (I can multitask!), and I haven’t used the 3D on that TV in at least 2 years. That guitar still doesn’t sound the way it does when Eddie plays his, and it never will. It’s also really dusty because I never play it… because it doesn’t sound like Eddie for some reason.

And that brain piece in the jar? I’m pretty sure it was just a piece of old cheese.

I bought a really nice muscle car. It’s a Dodge Challenger with more engine than I’ll ever need, and it sounds like it’s grinding up chainsaws when you rev it up. Friends called it a mid-life-crisis purchase, and they’re probably not wrong, but man is it a great car.

Today while driving to work though, I had epiphany. Think about how many people you pass in their cars on a daily basis. Some of those cars are pretty average. Some are pretty junky. 1 or 2 might be AMAZING.

But you know what?

You still forget them all. Even if you happen to remember the Lamborghini you saw parked in front of the Pizza Hut on 3rd St for an extra day or two, you certainly know nothing about the driver.

Now take your friends. We all have friends with nice cars. We all have friends with very vanilla daily drivers, and we ALL have that 1 friend who has the old crappy beat up car with the chip wrappers and old coffee cups littering the floor, the missing headlamp cover, the tattered dreamcatcher hanging from the review mirror, and the beer tap for a shifter knob. That car is a piece of junk.

And yet we’re still friends with that person. Some of us are best friends with them. What they drive means nothing to us at all.

The excitement of showing a new car off to your friends lasts about a week, and then you’re the same “dumbass” they have made fun of for as long as you’ve known them. Is it really that much better to hear, “Hey nice car, dumbass.”?

The only reason I bought my car was ego. I’ve had that car for several years now, and nobody in my family or circle of friends ever gives it a second look. And remember what I said about the cars you pass on the road? Nobody remembers my Dodge Challenger or any of the other dozen they might see that day.

Egos can make us do great things, but they can also makes us do really foolish things as well. Keep yours in check if you can, and your bank account will thank you.

And pick those damn chip wrappers up off of the floor of your car!

Not a Good Day

Starting Debt (01.01.19): $124,310.77
Current Debt: $107,793.15
Total Paid Off: $16,517.62

Today was not a great day. Today was a day I had to text my wife to let her know that, at just halfway through the month, we are already about 70% of the way through our budget.

I’ve read books by David Bach which state that budgets never work, and I understand the point he’s making that if you try to run your life on a budget that you will wind up hating life. I will get to a point where we are no longer governed by a budget, but we’re not in a spot for that just yet.

Right now we are digging out from a substantial amount of debt. We don’t have a nest egg or savings to utilize, and thus every penny we make goes to paying bills. The “budget” I’m referring to is literally the money we have left from the paychecks I’ll receive this month.

Next month we will refinance the house, and this will help. While helpful, these types of relatively small steps won’t solve our problems. This is going to take a long time, and a very mindful approach to how we address the situation we are in.

I know this might feel like a somewhat non-sequitur post, but it’s something I plan to do more. I’d like to utilize this blog for two purposes:

  1. To help others realize that they aren’t alone in the choices that they made that may have put them in a tough financial situation.
  2. To track my journey (bad days and all) to hopefully rectify my mistakes and get my family on the path to financial well-being.

Today was not a good day, but I can almost bet tomorrow will be better.