Your Parrot Knows You Pick Your Nose

This blog is my parrot and my debt is my finger two knuckles deep in my left nostril, so in the cage it stays for now.

Starting Debt (01.01.19): $124,310.77
Current Debt: $107,303.52
Total Paid Off: $17,007.25
Income Going to Savings: 1%

I’ve received some really flattering early responses to this blog, and I would really like others to read it. When you’re starting a blog, one of the primary tips that everyone seems to agree on is to share the blog on your social media channels. Start with those you know, and begin to build word of mouth.

And yet I’m still not ready to share it with people I actually know…

Not sharing has been an emotional struggle, because I know that I probably have several friends and family members who are in a similar financial situation to mine. Some may not be quite as buried as I am, some might be worse, but the simple fact is that in 2019 just about everyone has some kind of debt. I’d love for them to see these posts and follow along with me on my journey, because I know at times it can feel very isolating to think you’re probably the only person on the face of the planet dumb enough to get yourself into a situation like this.

And yet even knowing that I might be able to positively impact people so close to me, I still can’t bring myself to post a link on my various social media platforms.

I think part of the reason is that I’ve always outwardly portrayed myself as someone who has it all together — great family, fantastic job, active lifestyle, nice home on 5 acres, trips to Disneyland, etc. — and while most of those things hold true (I do have a great family, and a fantastic job!), the simple fact is that I’m living paycheck to paycheck. So far my wife and I have pulled it off each month and have never made a late payment on anything, but sometimes it’s by the very skin of our teeth!

Then there are things like my Dad. My Dad owns and operates a bar in the very small town that I grew up in. Unless something has changed recently, it’s the only bar in town, and it sits right across from the only supermarket in town, just down the road from the only gas station in town.

It would take all of 28 seconds for my situation to spread around that town, and while it’s nothing to be outright ashamed of — I am taking aggressive and thoughtful steps to remedy my situation after all — it’s still not a burden I want to put on him to have everyone who walks into his bar turn to him and say, “How is your boy doing? I read his blog. Is he going to lose his house?”

My Dad’s first response would be, “What in the hell is a blog?” After that though, it would get really exhausting really quickly.

Imagine if you owned a really rad parrot. You know the kind that are all red and have the rainbow feathers? You had this beautiful parrot and you wanted to show it to everyone because… well you know… parrots.

But this parrot knew that you picked your nose.

So now you have this really cool thing that you’d like to share with others that you’re really proud of, but the moment you do it’s just going to scream, “NOSE MINER! NOSE MINER! RAWWW! NOSE MINER!”

This blog is my parrot and my debt is my finger two knuckles deep in my left nostril, so in the cage it stays for now.

That’s not to say it won’t change. I’ll probably be much more willing to share when I get a bit more paid off. Show that I’ve learned from my mistakes and actually have my life on track.

In the meantime, if you are reading this blog and you like what you see, maybe share it with a friend or two. That way I can keep potentially helping others, and I don’t need to worry about my Dad.

To Summarize: Buy a dog. They can’t tell on you for picking your nose.

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.

Stop to Celebrate the Wins

It’s sort of like the folks who decided they were going to fly to the moon. It must have felt like an impossible task. It’s so overwhelming that you almost don’t know where to begin.

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 had a chance to think more about my late Friday post over the weekend, and I came to the realization that I really didn’t celebrate my accomplishment as much as a I should have.

In case you missed it, I flipped the switch and began contributing a whopping 1% to my 401K.

Doesn’t sound like much does it? You’re right.

BUT…

Then I started to look at it this way:

Less than 6 months ago, I had bills that were $3700 dollars more per month than what I was bringing in in income. You read that correctly… I was $3700 bucks upside down every single month.

As you can see by the stat cluster at that top, this means that in less than 6 months not only have I managed to pay off 13% of my outstanding debt, but I’ve also managed to overcome that $3700 a month gap and contribute that whopping 1% to my 401K.

It’s sort of like the folks who decided they were going to fly to the moon. It must have felt like an impossible task. It’s so overwhelming that you almost don’t know where to begin. But then you build your first o-ring and assemble your first flux capacitor, and you start to feel like you’re really making progress.

You know what? I shouldn’t have started that analogy. I don’t know jack about rockets, but I had started typing and it kind of got away from me.

Let me try it again.

It’s sort of like deciding to build a cruise ship. You get your first… uh… rudder?

I know even less about cruise ships. This is not going well.

The point is that we often feel overwhelmed with a massive burden like digging out from under six figures of debt. Yet if I really think about it, not only am I on the right path, I’ve actually put a really good dent in my debt in less than a half a year.

Thursday of last week I felt pretty awful about where I was at, but if I had just taken a moment and really looked at my situation, I would have realized that…

WAIT

It’s sort of like the folks who had to build the Great Wall of China. There they were with a stack of bricks and some glue…

Nope. Thought that one might work, but it didn’t.

In any case take my advice and make sure you take time to properly celebrate victories big or small. You deserve it!

Stat Tracker Adjustment

As of today, I’m going to make a slight tweak to my stats that I put at the top of each post.

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’m going to add the amount I’m automatically deducting to put into savings.

Having read David Bach’s “Automatic Millionaire” for the second time, it really hit home the importance of putting something into savings.

Paying myself first.

So today I started very small. I’m putting 1% into my 401k. The stat I added will be the percentage of money I put into a combination of 401k, Roth, and Savings. The plan is to push this closer to 10% in total by the end of the year. Wish me luck!

I know, I know… 1% ain’t much. Gotta’ start somewhere!

Short-Term Gain, Long-Term Pain

Starting Debt (01.01.19): $124,310.77
Current Debt: $108,427.15
Total Paid Off: $15,883.62

I was fortunate enough to have parents who were willing to pay for my college. In fact, I was fortunate enough to have parents so invested in my college education that when I showed resistance to the idea of attending college, they offered to pay for my college and buy me a brand new pick-up if I agreed to attend and graduate. And you know what?

I still messed it up.

To be fair to me, I was young and stupid and young stupid people make young stupid mistakes. I saw an amazing opportunity for short-term gain to go work for my father making $40,000 a year, which was great money for a guy in his late teens / early 20s.

Tangent #1: Remember that small town I mentioned that I was raised in? Well it was also very common in that town to marry young and start having kids soon after. I wasn’t engaged yet at the age of 18, but I knew I wanted to propose and I at least had the wherewithal to understand that I’d need a job to support a family.

Tangent #2: I did wind up getting married at a very young age. I was 20. I’m also happy to report that my wife and I just celebrated our 23rd year of marriage together late last year! More on us and our children another time.

So after 1 year of limping along in college with lukewarm aspirations of becoming a radio Disc Jockey, I dropped out and went to work for my Dad on his bustling new cattle farm.

Without fully comprehending the ramifications of my decisions at the time, I traded short-term gain for long-term pain:

Short-Term Gain: $40,000 a year at the age of 20! I might even buy one of those new flat screen TVs!
Long-Term Pain:
What do I do for income if my Dad loses the family business.

Later in life I would make this very same mistake again with things like credit cards:

Short-Term Gain: A new flat screen TV in 4 rooms. HD! 4K! IT’S LIKE I’M ON THE FIELD!!!
Long-Term Pain:
23.99% interest rate if not paid off in 12 months.
Spoiler Alert: I didn’t pay it off in 12 months.

Where these types of choices landed me was under a mountain of debt with a bunch of junk that now clutters up my life and very little to really show for the amount of stress that came with the bills. From this point forward, I will be looking long and hard at every decision I make and deciding if it’s going to benefit me and my family in the long run, but it took me almost 25 years to get to this point.

When you’re a kid, you eat candy for a quick buzz and because it tastes good. You do this despite all of the adults around you saying, “You’re going to rot your teeth out, and all of that sugar is not good for your health.” My spending habits were my candy, and even though I had lots of people telling me that I was just going to rot my teeth (literally throw money away in interest) and jeopardize my health (savings and retirement), I didn’t listen. I shoved that stuff in my face as fast as I could as often as I could, and now I’ve got no teeth in the bank and financial diabetes!

That was a terrible analogy that went far longer than it should of without any kind of real payoff, but you get my point.

Also, make sure you floss. Not financially. I’m saying make sure you floss your actual teeth often. You’ll thank me later.