It took me 25 years to learn the wrong financial habits and one day to unlearn them. One of my goals this year is to get out of debt, or as much out of debt, as possible.
Bust out the spreadsheet, ready the numbers, here’s where I sit on day 1 of 2014: I owe $60,515.82.
Every dollar of that debt is between my car and student loans. That’s a lot for someone who doesn’t own much beyond furnishings for a room or two. I’ve already jump started this goal by paying off and destroying all my credit cards. I’m now convinced that lines of credit drive more stress and unhappiness than anything in America, but that’s a whole different post.
Before we go forward, we must look back at how we got here.
5 Things to Do to Help You Get Broke by 30
1. Never Learning How to Be Poor
We were never rich, but it took me 25 years to learn how to be poor. When I was 11, before it was even legal for me to have a paper route, I had a one through my sister’s name, and I used to strut my shit through town to the local store and leave with baseball cards and donuts for the family on Sunday mornings.
When my sister got older and wanted out, I snatched up her paper route too. One summer the neighbor twins wanted to ditch their routes, so I scooped them both up, delivering four paper routes all summer long. I paid cash for my first car. I bought every video game system on the planet. My last two years of high school my boss would have to finagle my time punches so that we weren’t violating labor laws.
Basically, I bought whatever I wanted, and I continued to live that way long after I had bills and responsibilities. Until one day in Florida with 37 cents to my name, my car smashed to shit by some lady who never learned how to cross a road, and couch cushions flipped and raided for the two-hot-dogs-for-99-cents dinner at the gas station, I ran out of money.
It was the best thing to ever happen to me.
2. Gimme Some of That Good Private Money
When I needed some extra cash for college, them lenders came a running, and my 18-year-old self was shocked: they’d give me $50,000 a year. In fact, you just told them how much you wanted, and — bam! — the check came. Now this was before the college graduation scene turned bleak and depressing — a college degree meant employers would throw hundred dollar bills at you as you walked the streets.
I borrowed. I had fun. It was a good time so I won’t complain, but that’s 20 grand of fun on which my adult self is now making payments.
3. Buy a Motorcycle with a Credit Card
I had a $10,000 limit on one card when I was 20 years old. There’s more to this story than meets the eye, but still, this was pretty stupid. Although that was the same motorcycle I took to California and possibly my favorite bike of all time, so it wasn’t all bad.
I miss you, ZZR. We had good times together scraping toes on the Pacific Coast Highway.
4. Pizza, Pizza, Pizza
I’m convinced that if I added up all the money I spent eating out over the past 10 years, I could probably buy a mansion in Beverly Hills. The sad thing is I love to cook. I remember in college studying the slow-food movement. It sounded great: enjoying local flavors, experimenting with fresh ingredients, eating delicious and healthy food.
It wasn’t until I tried going vegan that began to realize how many thousands of dollars I could save eating beans and rice and fruit. But now they even have vegan restaurants calling? Damn you!
5. The importance of the “No Third Beer” rule
It cost me a lot of money to learn this rule. The difference between drinking just two beers and drinking three beers is actually a convoluted mathematical formula. I’ve spent many years and hard-earned dollars figuring this one out.
That gets expensive. Hence the creation of the “No Third Beer” rule in 2012.
Being broke sucks. Time to fix that. I think Louis CK, as usual, sums it up best.