That One Time We Bought a House that We Couldn’t Afford

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The truth of the matter is that if we are being honest, we knew we purchased too much home before they could tack the “SOLD!” tag onto the sign in front of the new home. However in practical terms it took us about 7 months to fully comprehend.

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%

My wife and I bought a house in June of 2018. We actually bought our 3rd home to be exact. Now before you think I’m some well-to-do, let me tell you a bit about my first two houses…

Our first home was a very modest rambler that was located just a stone’s throw from a Federal Correctional Institution, or in other words… a prison. It was close enough to our home that we could hear the prisoners playing softball on warm summer evenings, and I often took advantage of the way the yard lights illuminated my darkened house to navigate to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Long before “Orange is the New Black” made prisons chic and hip, people would often asked us, “Aren’t you worried about living that close to a prison? What if someone breaks out?”

My response was always that if someone was going to break out, they sure as hell weren’t going head to the modest rambler a few blocks away and hang out for a month. At most they were going to steal one of our cars to get as far away as possible as quickly as possible.

When we moved into that home, we had a nice retired couple living on one side of us and a young family on the other. Across from us were some well maintained and relatively new duplex apartments, and all of this combined to make our dead-end street a pretty great place for a first home.

Within 3 years however, the retired couple moved to Arizona and sold their home to a rental agency. That agency in turn rented the home to a man who (get this) worked on race cars that he raced at the local race track on weekends. Apparently when you work on race cars, it requires that you rev them up to deafening volumes at all hours of the morning and night, usually while blaring Megadeth or Iron Maiden.

Within a month of this happening, the married couple with the kids on the other side got a divorce, and things went really sideways for the dad. The mom moved out, leaving the teenage kids behind, and the dad began drinking heavily. I know this because he offered to drink with me at least 5 times a week. His 15 year-old son held parties almost every weekend, usually with dad partaking, and we had the pleasure of catching young men standing on his roof peeing on to our roof next door on more than one occasion.

Yup… you read that correctly.Read More »

“Buy the Best and You’ll Never Be Unhappy” and Other Tales of Complete Bullsh*t

Starting Debt (01.01.19): $126,310.77
Current Debt: $110,408.18
Total Paid Off: $15,902.59
Income Going to Savings: 1%

[Side note: I have adjusted my starting debt and current debt slightly. I made a dumb mistake in my spreadsheet. These kinds of dumb mistakes are probably part of the reason I’m in debt in the first place…]

Growing up I was told many times to buy the best of whatever you were looking for, because if it’s the most expensive [insert item here], you’ll never think to yourself, “Well my [insert item here] is nice and all, but it kills me to know that there is a better model out there.”

This was engrained in me at a young age by the people that I knew.

My Grandfather, had lots of amazing things and always lavished us with crazy presents. Great house on a nice chunk of land, lots of vehicles and equipment, the latest “as seen on TV” gadgets in his house, everything. Then he went bankrupt, or maybe it was that he got in trouble with the IRS. I can’t remember as it was so long ago, but in any case I chose to ignore that part of the story.

My Dad had a lot of toys too (https://diggingout.blog/2019/05/14/the-money-was-limitless-until-it-wasnt/) and we lived an amazingly awesome lifestyle for many years. Until he lost everything. Again I chose to ignore the last part of that story.

I operated that way for a long time, often with my wife by my side saying level-headed things like, “Do you really need that one? The one next to it looks just as good, and it’s a lot less expensive.” I chose to ignore her as well.

See a pattern here?

The simple fact of the matter is that this “buy the best” line is all a load of horse dung. Or I guess bull dung if I’m trying to remain consistent with my post title.

Really what this is all about is ego. It’s fear of having someone have a something that is better than your something. It’s having the house on the highest hill because new hills don’t just pop up randomly, so you’re pretty safe in knowing you’ll always be on the highest one. It’s purely about status, and if you believe otherwise you are kidding yourself.

And the top of the line car, or TV, or appliance you bought? It will probably last even less time than the cheaper knock-off version.

Case in point:

My wife loves her coffee. I think if I was dangling from a bridge over a pit of alligators and there was a Starbucks within walking distance, the best I could hope for is that my wife made it back just in time to throw an egg bite in my mouth as the final rope snapped. At least I stayed keto-friendly until the very end.

Why in the hell was I on that bridge in the first place? My analogies are as stupid as my past financial decisions!

So she loves coffee, and we got a well-known brand of coffee maker that you put the little cups in and it spits out your java one lightning-quick serving at a time. Given what I called out above about my spending habits and the fact that my wife holds tremendous value on her go-go juice, I bought her the most expensive one they had.

We had a couple over one day that I would refer to as “fiscally responsible,” and they inquired about the coffee maker. The next day they went out and bought the cheapest model they could find.

Smash cut to almost 2 years later. Our coffee maker had been returned on warranty twice for breaking down, replaced both times at no cost, and eventually replaced with the brand new top-of-the-line latest and greatest model of coffee maker from the company. That one died six months later.

That cheap one our friends bought? They still use it to this day. Sure it doesn’t have the fancy touch screen, and the water reservoir is a bit smaller, but it still works and the coffee still tastes just like the coffee that came out of any of the 4 coffee makers I had.

We live in a day and age where things are made to start falling apart the moment you get them home (except for their stupid cheap coffee maker.) They’re made of plastic and can be quite flimsy and the companies bank on the fact that you’re going to just go ahead and buy a new one when that thing breaks in a year or two. So buying the best doesn’t get you much at all.

One thing that buying the best does get you? All the best bills that go along with it. You want a Lamborghini? Rad! You’re going to pay a monthly Lamborghini-sized bill. Want to change the oil in your Lamborghini? Hell yes you do! But a Lamborghini isn’t getting an oil change at a Jiffy-Lube. Oh no! It needs to be taken to an authorized Lamborghini shop where they replace the oil with the tears of the less fortunate people who work at the Jiffy Lube down the street while you eat really fancy cheese. Did your Lamborghini break down? Sweet! Lamborghini parts are super expensive. Enjoy!

I’ve never driven a Lamborghini… come to think of it, I’ve never even touched a Lamborghini, but I’m pretty sure I still nailed the paragraph above.

I think that there are certain times where you want to buy the best. I go with the nice toilet paper as an example. That region of your body is something you want to take care of. That’s a good purchase.

Premium ice-cream is another one for me. I rarely eat it (keto until the alligators get me!), but when I do don’t even try to give me a scoop of that store-brand slop. I want the good stuff. I’m looking right at you, Tillamook.

You pick your battles.

What it all boils down to is that buying the best won’t always make you happy. Buying the best will get you higher bills, just as many headaches, and the reassurance that even if you buy the best, a newer model is probably already out by the time you get your [insert item here] home.

Six Strings of Stress

All of those sleepless nights and feelings of utter terror could have been avoided had I just been a bit more of an adult and realized that I didn’t really need any of that garbage.

Starting Debt (01.01.19): $124,310.77
Current Debt: $107,793.15
Total Paid Off: $16,517.62
Income Going to Savings: 1%

Last week I made a joke about buying Eddie Van Halen’s guitar. I have to come clean and say I didn’t *really* buy that model of guitar (nor did I buy a chunk of a President’s brain in a jar), but I did buy a different guitar. This is the true story of that purchase.

I vividly remember purchasing my Les Paul guitar from Guitar Center. I can almost still smell the new strings as I pulled it down off the wall, plugged into a store amp, rotated the volume knob all the way to 11, and ripped into a power chord. The feel of that instrument in my hands (having seen countless guitar heroes of mine play that exact same model) was one that truly made me feel like a GOD.

With just one chord strummed, I knew then and there I had to own that guitar. It wasn’t cheap and I didn’t have the kind of money it took to purchase it outright, so I (of course) registered for a store credit card on the spot. I was not going to be denied such a beautiful piece of hand-crafted ROCK-N-ROLL!

The dopamine drip was flowing that day and I felt like a million bucks. In fact I felt so good I was even considering taking guitar lessons to actually learn how to play my new purchase!

I was feeling that good.

Years later as the overwhelming stress of six-figure debt was crushing my soul like an industrial jackhammer, I felt like breaking that Les Paul in half. And not in the cool Rockstar way where you slam it on the stage for your final encore as confetti showers from the rafters, but more in the way where you take it into the driveway and run it over with your car while no one is watching.

You see, that guitar represented (I guess the correct term would be “represents” as I still own it) everything I did wrong. It represented me not being able to control my desires and purchasing something that I really couldn’t afford. Sure this one purchase was only $2,000 worth of something I couldn’t afford, but that coupled with the countless other times I had done it had led me to six figures worth of an entire home of somethings that I couldn’t afford.

I look around my house today, and I see lots of little reminders of this type of behavior. Lots of little trinkets and worthless garbage that I thought I just “had to have” at the time, without having the actual money to pay for them.

I’ve had serious health problems as a result of this stress. My blood pressure is through the roof, my sleep cycle is all jacked up, and I know I’ve probably shaved at least a year or two off of my ride on this rock because of the mental torture I’ve gone through wondering if I’m going to have enough money to buy my kid a slice of pizza.

All of those sleepless nights and feelings of utter terror could have been avoided had I just been a bit more of an adult and realized that I didn’t really need any of that garbage.

In a later post I’ll share some tips on dealing with stress, but honestly the best way to deal with stress is to avoid it when possible by making good choices in life.

Oh… and that Guitar Center credit card? It had an interest rate of 29.99%. TWENTY-NINE POINT NINE NINE. I paid nearly a thousand dollars more for the guitar than the asking price by time I paid that thing off.

I did not get the call to join Guns N’ Roses. I didn’t get to go on tour and make millions. What I got was yet another lesson in my journey towards financial responsibility. It took me a long time to get to a point where I can reflect and comprehend just how silly some of those mistakes were, and I hope others can read this and avoid them far sooner than I did. Trust me when I say that the stress of debt is no fun at all.

Side Note: I did eventually learn how to play the damn thing at least, so if you know Axl Rose, go ahead and give him my number please.