Life presents us with challenges that test our character, mental fortitude, discipline, and commitment but we often yield to the many paths of least resistance. What I’m talking about is more often than not – we don’t look for the true lesson that life is trying to teach us with the tests it presents.
What we need to understand is that we’ve been taught to go through life this way. Growing up we go to school. We are taught lessons and then are given tests but, life itself, is the exact opposite. First we are given the tests, then we learn the lessons.
It’s the lessons we learn from these tests that allow us to grow wiser and make better decisions. But if we aren’t taught to view life from this perspective and we view life the way we are taught in school, what do we really learn?
School teaches us the same thing no matter where we go and how much we pay. We are taught from young ages that going to school, getting good grades, graduating, getting into good colleges, taking out student loans, buying a house, and saving for retirement at 60 with a 401k and/or IRA is just “how it is.” What we learn from these lessons is that life is about putting ourselves in debt on multiple occasions while working for someone else so that our employers, the banks we owe money to, and the government can all make money off of us. But it doesn’t have to go like this.
So what if we flip the script? What can we learn if we look deeper into what we are taught our entire lives?
If we look at what is happening we are being taught to become money producing vehicles for the companies we work for and ultimately the government and banks. On average we work 4 months of the year to pay taxes. Then we pay interest on debt that the bank reinvests and makes incredible amounts of money on, then we pay principal on debt, then we get to see what’s left of our hard earned money and if you’re “smart” you save, which the bank also reinvests and makes tons of money off of and then gives you a measly fraction of a percentage back. We are being leveraged to earn exponential amounts of money for everyone else but ourselves.
We are worth so much more and our time is worth so much more. The proof? The fact that everyone else profits off of our hard efforts and time except us. If it wasn’t worth more than why are they profiting off of it? On average we are worth about 16x more than our highest salary.
Why not leverage your money to work for you? Ask almost anyone you know this question and I guarantee 9/10 but most likely 10/10, people will say some things along the lines of:
“It’s not that easy” or “if it was that easy, everyone would do it.” Some other responses may include “It doesn’t work like that, you have to have money to make money,” “I don’t have time,” “I can’t afford to,” “I live pay check to paycheck” or “I don’t make enough money to do anything like that,” and a plethora of other excuses.
The truth is, we can all do it regardless of salary. I was living pay check to pay check making roughly $130,000 a year. It doesn’t matter how much you make. It’s about how much you keep. Living paycheck to paycheck is the same situation no matter what your salary is; you have NO MONEY LEFT.
I agree, for those with lower salaries it may be harder and take a little longer but IT CAN STILL BE DONE! If you have a low salary you will see that once you start chipping away at debt a little at a time you’ll have more money available to you. As you increase the money available to you, you can begin to make bigger payments to your debt. The bigger the payments, the faster it gets paid off and the sooner you can make it work for you. The sooner you can find your way to true freedom.
Where did I start?
I started by carefully evaluating my income to get a true idea of what I was making. I clouded my mind with this strange illusion I didn’t make enough money and arrived to a point where I wasn’t looking at my paychecks, my bank account, or my debt. I was blindly paying bills and buying more stuff, thus creating the huge mess I had on my hands.
Once I saw how much I was actually making and broke it down in a way that made me feel good about myself, I evaluated my finances with the equivalent of the Hubble telescope. I looked over everything to the penny! My student loans, my car loans, credit cards, bank accounts, phone bills, rent, utilities, etc. and made a spreadsheet.
On the spread sheet I totaled up all my debt and then what my monthly bills were as a result of it to analyze the actual damage I had done. It was gut wrenching, overwhelming, and depressing. I was making roughly $10,833.33 a month before taxes, taking home about $7,583.33 a month afterwards and was literally putting $0 into savings. I didn’t want to face the truth but I finally did and I knew it had to change.
Where was all my money going?
I needed to find where all my money was being syphoned out to. My monthly bills were through the roof but I wasn’t spending all of it on bills. My bills were leaving me with a couple hundred a month that I was spending somewhere. This was reassuring and you may find the same to hold true for you. I consulted my bank statements and credit card statements. What I found was horrifying but gave me a glimpse of hope! I realized it’s kind of hard to actually spend every red cent you make on bills alone and the money we think we don’t have is actually hidden but it’s there.
I saw a trend of impulse purchases of a couple dollars here and there. The speed at which those purchases add up is incredible. But it didn’t end here! My monthly payments that were being made to my credit cards were going absolutely nowhere because as fast as I was making my payment, I was spending what was in my bank account, and then swiping my credit cards some more eating up the available credit I just created.
It was never ending, the interest was piling up, balances were not going down and I was literally spending money before I even made it! The answer suddenly became incredibly obvious. I was irresponsible and obviously lacked discipline. The silver lining? I was not bankrupt… yet.
Moving Mountains of Debt Piece by Piece
I started with the obvious. Tallying up all the small purchases I made in a month and seeing how much I would “save” and therefore be able to put towards monthly bills was very reassuring.
I tightened the reigns on my grocery budget and only bought what I needed. I cut out all the beer, liquor, snacks, and other unnecessary and unhealthy things I did not need and brought it down to bare essentials (this also did wonders for my health). It suddenly became cheaper to actually eat healthy.
I stopped going to 7-11 before my fishing trips (if you buy coffee 5 days a week you’re spending an average of $780-$1,300 depending where you buy it from on coffee alone!), stopped driving unnecessary distances to go fishing (saving on gas), I stopped buying fishing gear I didn’t need, amongst various other things.
By putting a stop to all my impulses, I freed up almost $800 month between not negating my five hundred and something dollar credit card bill and the now non existent purchases. I was able to make my minimums on my other 4 cards and start chipping away $800 at a time. It sucked because instead of spending money on things I wanted to spend it on (which I was doing to make myself feel good), I was giving my money straight to the bank on a silver platter.
It was horrible. I couldn’t justify it but I stuck to it. I needed more money. Yes, as crazy as it sounded, at $130,000 a year I wanted more money not because I really wanted it but because I wanted to get rid of the debt I racked up. I couldn’t live with the idea of handing my money to the bank anymore. It made me sick.
Find Ways To Monetize Your Hobbies
I decided to start pursuing my hobbies in a way that would give me some extra cash. One of my biggest hobbies is fishing. Part of my irresponsible impulse purchasing lead me to acquiring the equipment I needed to make fishing lures. I figured why not make these tools make me money. I started selling the lures I was making for myself. Within a summer I was able to acquire upwards of $2,000 selling lures here and there on the beach as I was fishing, my hobby now became profitable. Unfortunately, this was not sustainable as fishing is a seasonal sport. I decided was time to part ways with other things I bought and get what I could for them.
I ended up selling my ATV’s, the trailer I had for them and a bunch of other things I had laying around. I was able to sell both ATV’s and the trailer for $11,200. It went straight to the credit cards. I suddenly started to have room to breathe. My paychecks appeared to bigger because my payments were going farther. This was amazing.
Get The Ball Rolling & Watch It Grow
From March to November of 2020 I was able to pay off $27,200 on one credit card (the statement in the video was after a couple of payments), $4,500 on another $3,800 on a third, and the fourth was about $3,600 on an Apple Card (2 iPhones and a bunch of other purchases).
Between tightening up my budget, not spending money on wants instead of needs, putting the extra resulting cash towards debt, making my hobbies profitable, and selling things I bought impulsively I was able to pay off $34,600 in credit card debt and the remaining $8,000 something I owed on my car loan IN JUST 9 MONTHS!
Just so you know I’m not lying (because for once something on the internet is true), in this video I show the balances that were on some of my credit cards and the current balances as of this year. You will see I made substantial change to my situation it ends on a pending balance from 2020 but you get the idea.
Let The Self Education Begin
I began to do some more research and educate myself on finances. I read a book called I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi (a link can be found in the books I’ve read page). This book reassured me that I was on the right track. I learned a lot from it that I did not know but I was incredibly reassured that there was also a lot of information and concepts within the book that I had already practiced and figured out on my own.
Two invaluable things this book taught me was how to organize my bank accounts and automate my bills/savings and properly setup a budget. The other was how to build/fix my credit score.
In one year I was able to jump from about a 630 to a 780. You can see it dipped and plateaued about half way through and that is what this book helped me break past (there will be a post specifically for analyzing and fixing your credit score as well as another post for properly budgeting and automating bank accounts).
These accomplishments were by no means easy but with some dedication, discipline, and self education I was able to get out from underneath. Before I’m scrutinized, I’d like to reiterate that having a high paying salary made this a lot easier for myself and it is well understood that many others may not have the same advance. However, taking the additional measures I did and NOT relying solely on my salary is what expedited the process ten fold.
The overall message? There is hope for everyone. There are ways to fix the messes we are in. It’s just a matter of finding them. With every failure comes opportunity. If we hit rock bottom, or close to rock bottom there is only one way to go from there and that is up.
Sometimes we just need the proper guidance which is why I wrote this. I hope to inspire those who may have been in the same position if not worse and reassure them that you CAN get out of financial hardships.
Where has this brought me now?
By November of 2020, I was sitting pretty with 0 debt except my student loans. I am purposely holding onto them because they will help me establish credit history, more specifically age of credit history.
I was able to start a side business, save $20,000 dollars from November to March to put towards a home. I applied for a mortgage and received a 3.1% interest rate. We officially closed on my new home that my wife, my son, and myself will be moving into. I am continuing to put roughly $4,000 a month into savings for my future endeavors.
I can honestly say I was successful in turning one of my biggest failures into my biggest opportunity. The doors for success are open and my options are limitless.
I’ve said it in almost all my posts and I’ll say it again, “Our only limitations are those that we set up in our own minds!” – Napoleon Hill
Please feel free to reach out to me in the comments or directly if you have any questions about what I did, how I did it, or if you would like help! My advice is free!