Fun Fact: If you type “rhododendron” as “rotodendrum,” or “rodadentron,” spell check just basically looks at you and says, “You really should have paid more attention in school.” I had to Google that sucker.
You people better buckle up, because I’m about to get real with myself on a number of levels with this post. Come to think of it, I guess I had better buckle up too…
We live in a rad house that we purchased a year ago this past June. We’ve had 3 homes go on the market in our gated community this year, and each has been listed (and sold) for $1-$1.5 million bucks. At the same time we’re kind of “out there” in the country, so it’s a really nice quiet community mostly filled with hard-working blue collar Contractors and Boeing Engineers who have built a hell of a good life for themselves and their families.
Our house wasn’t a million dollars for sure, but we do get million dollar views. We have views of both the Cascades and the Olympics, and I tend to post buttloads of these photos on my Instagram Account.
I mean, just look at this view I get to experience from my back yard:
(Ignore the ratty lawn in the middle one. I hadn’t mowed yet this year.)
Now I know what you’re thinking right now; you’re thinking, “Awesome, d*ck. Great of you to post on your blog about your awesome view and house. Maybe for tomorrow’s post you can show us your killer sports car. JERK.”
BUT IT GETS EVEN BETTER! The absolute BEST part of my house?
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.
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.
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You don’t have to spend every dime you make, and if you invest wisely enough you won’t have to worry later in life about making every dime that you want to spend.
Starting Debt (01.01.19): $124,310.77 Current Debt: $107,793.15 Total Paid Off: $16,517.62 Income Going to Savings: 1%
I was probably a spoiled kid.
Both my Mother and Father grew up with next to nothing. They lived humble lives in very rural environments, and they learned to work hard and make their own way in this world.
I was born into modest settings as well. Not long after birth, my father bought a piece of dirt and put a double-wide trailer on it. He had just started a trucking business, and took out two loans to pay for a new home for his family.
Hold up for a second…
There is the making of a really good country song in that paragraph. You’ve got trucks, a double-wide, and dirt. If I can figure out a way to retroactively add a rodeo in there, Garth Brooks has his new smash hit!
In my early years, we didn’t have much. However by the time I hit around 11 or 12 years of age, my Dad was making a pretty good living, and our quality of life improved dramatically. I had more junk than the average kid, and if there was something I asked my parents for, I usually had it in a relatively short amount of time.
You can call that spoiled for sure, but I truly believe that because both of my parents had very little growing up, they decided that their kids would never know that feeling of wanting something you couldn’t have. This is a totally understandable frame of mind given their childhoods and while it’s an incredibly wonderful position to be in when you’re a kid, what they didn’t realize by giving us everything they wanted is that they weren’t ever allowing us to get a taste of the struggle that they went through.
If I wanted a new toy (I was a big Transformers nerd), my parents didn’t say, “Well then save your money up and go buy your little Optavius Prime Rib then!” Instead they just bought it for me. As a teenager I didn’t have to save for my own car, instead they just bought me one. I didn’t have to pay insurance for it either. Hell, I didn’t even have to pay for my own gas!
Now let’s just record scratch this blog post for one second and make something very clear: I’m not for one moment blaming my current financial situation on the fact that my parents treated me awesome as a kid! I had it really well, and I totally get that.
My point is that I spent a good portion of my young life being trained that if I wanted a thing, I got that thing… and usually right away.
So now I move out on my own, and I get married, and guess what? It turns out all of those things cost money when you don’t have parents to give them to you!
Not only did I have to pay for all of the fun things, but I actually had to pay for really lame stuff too like electricity and food. OH AND GET THIS… I had to actually pay for the GAS IN MY CAR!
The reality of this set in, and I couldn’t cope. I still wanted to have fun stuff and I wanted to have it now. So I started taking out credit cards, and lots of them. I didn’t actually save for anything, but instead just took out high-interest loans and bought the stuff I wanted instantly. It was really easy!
We know that old Garth Brooks smash hit. I won’t sing it again… for now.
So as part of this journey out of debt, my wife and I have decided to help educate our children on what we’re learning as well. This means that my kids will be opening savings accounts, and that we’re actually going to ask them to save for things they want.
As an example, my son recently decided that he “needs” a cell phone. With our cell plan, we get a third line for free and can get a heavy discount on a phone. So we told him that if he saves for the phone, he can use the third line. He’s now putting money aside and meticulously tracking it so that he can purchase the phone.
I’ve also told him that a portion of the money he saves must go into a separate savings account or he can use it (with my help) to purchase some shares in companies when he saves enough. The point is that this percentage doesn’t get used for things like phones or other “necessities.”
My daughter is a bit younger and isn’t on the hunt for anything quite as extravagant as a cell phone, but she’s saving money too and will also be buying some shares of her own.
I want to slowly but surely engrain in my children the importance of saving money. You don’t have to spend every dime you make, and if you invest wisely enough you won’t have to worry later in life about making every dime that you want to spend.
Fellow parents, please keep this in mind as you raise your kids. Just because you can buy them lots of stuff doesn’t mean you should.
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My son seemed very blasé about the whole thing, even commenting that Disneyland didn’t seem that exciting because, “he had already been to the county fair, and this just seemed like more of the same.”
Starting Debt (01.01.19): $124,310.77 Current Debt: $107,303.52 Total Paid Off: $17,007.25 Income Going to Savings: 1%
Do you want to know what the absolute worst part about being in this financial situation is?
Let me rephrase…
Do you want to know the worst part about being a parent in this financial situation is?
Before I tell you, let me give you some backstory.
My wife and I got married at a very young age. I was 20, and she was 21. Of course that didn’t stop my grandma from asking my wife at our wedding, “Why’d you wait so long to get married?”
It also didn’t stop my Dad and his friends from sharing a jug of moonshine in the reception parking lot but that’s a story for a very different time.
As is the case with small towns, people in my hometown got married very young and had children almost immediately. My wife and I had lots of friends who either already had children or were expecting their first. We had a lot of catching up to do.
I don’t have to go into any graphic details since I’m pretty sure we all know how this whole baby thing works, but needless to say we got started right away. A month went by and we weren’t pregnant. (Lame!) Then another. (Oh come on!) And another. (Uh oh…) Months eventually turned into years. We saw several doctors and specialists, but my wife had some medical complications that resulted in a very low chance that we would ever (to borrow a friend’s phrase) “slip one past the goalie.”
It was difficult for me because I love kids, but it was absolutely soul crushing for my wife. At the top of her list of life goals was to be a mom. When we were in serious doubt that it would ever happen she used to say, “I’m not even going to be greedy and ask for 6 like I used to want. I just want 1. Can we please just have 1?”
This is the part of the story where I’m supposed to say, “AND THEN A MIRACLE HAPPENED.”
It wasn’t really a miracle though. It was just that I got hired for a really great job, and they had really great insurance, and we were able to try In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).
So that was great. What wasn’t great was seeing what my wife had to go through. If you’ve never been a part of the process or don’t know someone who has, let me just tell you that if I had so much as a shred of doubt that my wife wanted to be a mom more than anything else in the entire world, that shred was wiped clean the moment I saw the needles.
Sweet maple syrup there was a sh*tload of needles.
She had to poke needles in her stomach several times a day, she had to poke needles in her back hip (or I did) several times a day. Once she was at her sister’s wedding in Maui trying to give herself the shot in the stomach when she dropped the needle and stuck it in her foot! Fun Fact: The foot wound up having a health 7 pound baby toe, and they named him Randy. Everyone is very happy.
The point is that she went through so much for so long…
AND THEN A MIRACLE HAPPENED.
We got pregnant! 16 years of trying, and we finally did it! We had a healthy baby boy, Sebastian, who is now 11 years old.
BUT THEN ANOTHER MIRACLE HAPPENED.
I’m sitting in my office at work a year or so after my son’s birth, and my wife calls to say she doesn’t think we’ll do IVF again. I said, “Because of the needles?” and she replied, “Because I’m pregnant!” That was our awesome daughter, Lily, who is 8 years old now.
So to say we went through a tough go of it to get our two amazing kids is an understatement. As a result of our journey to being parents, we quietly committed to making sure we never took our blessings for granted and did everything we could to make sure our kids knew just how much we love them. We tell them several times a day, every single day.
So aside from lots of hugs, and tons of smooches, reading books to them every night, coaching their sports, volunteering at their school, attending every recital and science fair, and everything else we could think to do, we also took them to Disneyland.
My wife and I LOVE Disneyland. It’s really mostly me, but she likes it a great deal as well. I’m an animation nerd, and a massive Disney fan. My office walls are lined with Disney figurines and Pixar figurines and movie posters for animated films, and all sorts off awesome things I have accumulated over the years.
For our honeymoon and 1st anniversary we even went to Disneyland. Yes of course you could make a case that we should have used that money to invest, and I get that. That’s not the point right now. The point right now is that you need to know how much we (I) love Disneyland.
So we took our kids on the most amazing trip ever. In the days leading up, I was almost jealous to know what they were about to get to experience for the very first time. My son seemed very blasé about the whole thing, even commenting that Disneyland didn’t seem that exciting because “he had already been to the county fair, and this just seemed like more of the same.” He of course totally changed his tune after being in Disneyland for around 11 seconds.
They had a blast, but more importantly we as a family had a blast. My wife and I took every moment we could to enjoy that trip and consciously remind ourselves of all of those times we truly believed we would never have children, and here we were watching our two kids enjoy our favorite place on earth.
I’m wiping tears as I type this just thinking about that trip. Real talk.
So to go back to my original question: You want to know what the thing that makes me feel the absolute worst as a parent in this financial situation is?
Not being able to take my family back to Disneyland.
I fully comprehend that there are families out there that never get to go to Disneyland. There are families out there struggling to feed there kids. I get that. I feel fortunate that I have the memories that I do.
But Disneyland represented something very unique for me — It represented every moment of pain I saw my wife experience during the process with our son, it represented those 16 years of trying to conceive a child, and the 16 years of constant heartbreak that went along with it. It represented how much we hated not being able to make my Mom a Grandma for the first time, and the look on her face the day we told he she finally was one. It represented just how fortunate we felt to have those two amazing kids in our lives.
It’s selfish to feel this way, but hey… you asked the question!
Oh wait. I asked the question. My bad.
We will get back to Disneyland one day, and we won’t do it on a credit card. Even if we don’t make it back, we will hold those memories dearly and continue to be the absolute best parents we can be, because we know how close we came to never taking a trip like that.
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