Category Archives: Uncategorized

Happy Birthday to Me

I wanted to revisit this post from last year.  You’ll find that it is still relevant.  Maybe not perfectly timed, but ok enough. However, I’m 30 now, and I only got two cakes for my birthday… Step it up next year.

I hope you are full whilst reading. I actually meant to post last night. Merry Thanksgiving and Happy Christmas!

Had a birthday recently.  Turned 29.

Just throwing that out there for anyone who wants to throw a big 3-0 party for me.  I like cake.

I got some stuff.  Ya know, few baseball cards, sack of marbles….. Petey.

I love birthdays.

My birthdays.

I don’t love yours that much.

I think everyone needs their own day, though.

So if you don’t have a birthday… GET ONE!

But you know what I love more than birthdays?

Christmas!

As of my writing this, it is September 30th and my smokin’ hot wife and I have already seen a house decorated for Christmas.

And you know what?

hate when other people hate when other people decorate “too early.”

Who’s the bozo who laid the rules for when you can or can’t decorate for Christmas?

Let.  Them.  Decorate.

I love the lights.  I love the trees.  (I hate Santa Claus).  I would love the weather if I didn’t live in Alabama.

I think it was 80 degrees last Christmas.

But in 2010 we had a white Christmas!  In Alabama!

Not all of us… but some of us.  And it was really cool (No pun intended.  But if there was, it’d be hilarious).

The best part is the build up.  Smokin’ Hot Wife plays the Christmas music right after Thanksgiving.

Bad Christmas music = Santa Claus crap

Good Christmas music = Jesus stuff

Might I recommend this one to get you in the Christmas spirit?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJ_MGWio-vc

OK fine…. it’s not time for Christmas.

But I get excited about it because I have mastered the art of gift giving.

Really.

There is NO ONE who can give a gift like me.  I’m the world’s best giver.

I’m also humble.

Now, you may think that I mean I have the uncanny ability to pick out the greatest gift possible for any recipient.

No.  I suck at that.

One time I got Pops a wheel balancer because I heard him say he would rather have the simple kind than the electric one (I don’t know how else to explain it, get off me).

I even told Ned, “This is exactly what Pops wants.  Let’s buy him this.”

It wasn’t what Pops wanted.  He already had like three.

The first Christmas my smokin’ hot wife and I had together (I was but courting her at the time) I could not find her a gift to save my life.

Other than the fact that I was completely broke, the gift search was unbearable.  I went to antique shops, thrift stores, furniture stores, you name it!

I searched far and wide for the perfect gift… that was less than $30.

Eventually, I ordered a pillow online.  It was a decorative pillow (for those of you thinking Oh, great job, genius) with someone dancing on it… I think.

I thought it was a nice gesture, her being a dancer and all.  And pillows are used often, right?

Well, it was late being shipped.  By about three months.

So Smokin’ Hot Wife got very little for Christmas Day.

And when the pillow did come in, it was horrible.  It looked like it had been stitched together by a stitcher untrained in the arts of stitchery while it was being shipped.

It looked way better online than in person, I told myself and Smokin’ Hot Wife over and over and over.

All this to say… that’s not what I mean by I’m the world’s best giver.

The only thing I really mean by it is that I know how UNIMPORTANT it is to give gifts.

Calm down.

Breathe.

Let me defend myself.

I’ll do it in list form:

  1. I wish I could buy everyone I love a brand new car or house or bat cave or trampoline.
  2. I can’t.
  3. Is Christmas about receiving gifts?  Or giving gifts, for that matter?
  4. What have I done to deserve gifts for my birthday?  Live a little longer?  That’s not really my fault.
  5. Please, do not hesitate to send me gifts for my birthday and Christmas.

Are you aware of how much money this country ALONE spends on Black Friday?

It’s enough to provide a constant flow of fresh water to every single person on this planet

MULTIPLE TIMES!

I don’t say this to condemn.  Only to put it into perspective.

Gifts are fine.  They are wonderful.  They are fun.

I’ll get some.  I’ll enjoy it.  I’ll give some.  I’ll enjoy it.

But if you put your entire November income (or more) towards Christmas gifts, you are foolish.

People do this.  It’s actually common.

I know the intent is pure.  The heart is kind.  These men and women do so because they want their children (or parents or significant other or whoever) to have a good Christmas.

I get it.  Really.

Listen, one year I got a pack of underwear for Christmas (underwear I needed), and I was excited about it!

It’s on video somewhere.  I pray it’s never found.

And I know how hard it is to say To the depths with society’s standards! during the most wonderful time of the year.

But we don’t have to deal in extremes.

We have already decided in our household that Christmas will be celebrated.  Gifts will be received and given.  There will be decorations.  There will be lights.  There will be trees.

Disclaimer:  1  –  I know it isn’t Jesus’ real birthday.  2  –  I know it’s an old Pagan holiday.  3  –  I don’t care.

But let’s limit.  Let’s budget.  Let’s not go overboard.

Our Christmas budget has already been set up.  And Christmas gifts have already been purchased (hope they like ’em… yikes).

Every year we know around September or October how much we want to spend on each person we are going to buy a gift for.

Then, we add it all up.

Then, we add another $20 or so to the total for anything that goes over a few pennies or dollars.

This year we are updating the kitchen, so Smokin’ Hot Wife and I are limiting our Christmas gifts for each other in something I like to call “kitchens are expensive.”

A tradition that was implemented by Smokin’ Hot Wife’s mother years back was to limit her children to $100 each for Christmas every year.

She had 3 children, so I think that’s pretty reasonable.  She has maintained that method over time as well, which I believe is even more reasonable (not raising her teenagers’ limits), a method we will most likely implement with our children.  When they are older.  2-year-olds don’t need $100 worth of anything other than diapers (I must be honest, though, we want to get our 2-year-old a tricycle… we’ll probably spend $100 on him this year).

Methods such as these are wonderful tools, but I would caution you to reduce that limit if the original becomes unsustainable, i.e. those children all become married and start having kids themselves.

$300 quickly turns into $800.

If you can’t afford it, don’t do it.

If your children are upset that they didn’t get more than what your limit allowed, your children are ungrateful snobs who want to be, or already think they are, better than everyone else.

Christmas is fun!

Don’t make it stressful.  Do not conform.

The Story of my Life

I lived off of refund checks in college.

If you don’t know what that means, I hate you a little bit.

I (my mom) would apply for as much financial aid as possible every semester.  After that financial aid was applied to tuition and such, the excess was sent to me via check.

Some people bought TVs with their refund checks.  I would budget.  I would make it last through the entire semester until the next check came in.  It was the alternative to asking my parents for money or getting a job.

Awesome story, though:  My last semester of college I got way more back than I thought I would (Keep in mind I would eventually have to pay all of this back).

With that extra money, I bought my sweetheart a ring!

Even more awesome story:  Sweetheart’s daddy gave me the engagement ring that he gave Sweetheart’s mother. I ended up only using the diamond and buying a new setting. I paid a little over $2000 for a ring that’s worth about $7000.

It made me look so loaded.

We were engaged on October 1, 2011. I graduated in December of 2011. We set our wedding date for April 15, 2012. So I had 4 months to find a job.

Thus began the most miserable experience of my life for many reasons.

1.  GET A JOB

A job search in general is just awful.  I applied everywhere. I filled out so many online applications for bank tellers, school teachers, those armored truck drivers, cable companies, pizza delivery drivers… again, name it.

“Back in the day” you would want to have a face to face meeting with a hopeful employer. Too many people wouldn’t get off my back about that so I went to Home Depot, Ruby Tuesday, and Academy to ask the managers for a job.

Their responses?

“Apply online.”

You kidding me?

There’s very little worse than putting yourself out there in this manner. The only people who can hope to gain from these types of experiences are the chittery-chattery extroverts.

I’m not an extrovert. Nor are extroverts the only people qualified for these positions.  They’re just giddy…  (I have nothing against extroverts.  Really, I envy them)

I mean… I was terrified to talk to girls (still am).  How am I going to talk to a potential employer who I’ve never seen or heard of before?  What is there to say other than “I need a job”?

I’m also extremely tender-hearted. I do not handle rejection well, I’m not confident in most things, and I take everything personally.

So not to puff myself up, but I was very brave to visit just 3 places of business to personally ask for a job.  Many of you can relate, I’m sure.

Oh yea, and the “don’t take no for an answer” thing?

I can imagine that would result in arrest these days.

Anyhows, I did apply online and it didn’t help.  Both methods brought with them an equal amount of rejection.

However, I did get a job in the middle of March making $12/hr and begging for more than 20 hours a week at Sylvan Learning Center in Montgomery, Alabama.

You may think Oh.  That’s pretty good.  Not a bad first job.

But let me tell you something about my “not bad first job.”

The morning hours at Sylvan were for “homeschooling” children.  VERY few of these children were homeschooling because their parents wanted them to be.  Most of them were at Sylvan because every other school in the vicinity had kicked them out.

They didn’t listen.  They were extremely rude.  They had no respect for authority.  They couldn’t remember the slope-intercept formula….

They were the epitome of what old people complain about kids for these days.  They were entitled little brats who thought they ruled the world.

And… they smelled bad.

2.  PARENTS

I’m not saying living with your parents after college is miserable. But living with your parents after college is miserable.

Clarification, I lived with my mom and step dad.  They aren’t miserable. But living with them is.

(Calm down Mama)

Ya know, you grow up living with them, they do everything they can to raise you up properly and get you out of the house, only to have you come back and mooch for another 4 months.

I hated it.

I was back to being completely dependent on my mother.  And I was 4 months away from being the sole provider to a family of my own.

I had no money.  I had no job.  And I had no freedom.

You can’t walk around pant-less in your Mama’s house when you’re 24 and not get some sort of “talkin’ to.” (Yes, I was 24 when I graduated college.  What are you gonna do about it?)

The only thing I had to look forward to was waking up and applying for more jobs online.  Or driving to ask for a job in person.

So… I didn’t have anything to look forward to.

I rarely saw my future wife because I didn’t have the money to drive to Montgomery from Camp Hill.  (Camp Hill is a tiny dot on an Alabama map)

And what are we gonna do when I get to Montgomery?  Sit around and starve?  Because I don’t have money to go eat with.

Guess I’ll just spend the weekend with my mom and step dad……

3.  TEETH

Smokin’ Hot Wife has had serious teeth issues in the past.  And before you self-righteous, dentistry people say anything, it isn’t because she doesn’t take care of them.

She takes way better care of her teeth than I do mine, and I have had far less issues.

I have paid enough attention to Sherlock to know that her issues are genetic.

Ugh.  Whatever.

So before we got married (or maybe after… maybe both? I can’t remember when all of this took place), she needed a root canal.  And she needed it bad.  She may have needed more than one.  I really can’t remember.  I don’t like to.

She didn’t have insurance, and she didn’t have the money to get it done.

I didn’t have the money to get it done.

I remember one particular night, sitting in Camp Hill, talking to future Smokin’ Hot Wife on the phone, and she was in a tremendous amount of pain.

And I had nothing to offer.

I couldn’t do anything.  Completely and utterly helpless, I wanted to break down and cry.  I truly don’t remember ever feeling worse than that moment in my entire life.  Nothing to date has compared to that feeling.

She ended up getting work done by a student at UAB so it was cheaper than it would’ve been anywhere else, but the student caused her more pain than she needed to feel, and we still couldn’t afford the discounted price.

We had to ask Smokin’ Hot Wife’s brother for money.  He graciously gave.  But that was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.  And I never want to have to do it again.

And it wasn’t 20 bucks.  It was hundreds.  More than a thousand.

Maybe it’s society telling me what to do or maybe it’s a way of life engraved into my being, but I do not enjoy having to be provided for.

Absolute worst time of my life.

4.  THE WEDDING…

The wedding was awesome.  It was lots of fun.  One of the happiest days of my life.

The only part that sucked was that I contributed nothing.

I didn’t pay a dime.  I had no dimes.  I didn’t help monetarily at all.  Zero of my dollars went towards the wedding.  Zilch.

Smokin’ Hot Wife paid for a lot of the things she wanted on her own.  Her father graciously covered the rest.

As I write, I am thinking of other men who may have experienced similar circumstances because I can relate to you more, obviously.  I don’t mean to rule out women.  It’s just habit.  So please ignore if you must.

But as a man, as if I need to say it again, I can’t think of many things worse than not being able to provide for my family.  It’s a nightmare.  It is, in fact, my greatest fear.

And here I am beginning a family without the ability to care for one.

Misery.

5.  JAMAICA

We didn’t pay for Jamaica.  We had awesome people give us money so that we could go on a nice honeymoon.

Halfway to Atlanta, Smokin’ Hot Wife realizes she forgot her camera.  She’s upset.

At the airport, the guy behind the counter and I have a misunderstanding about payment.  I say some things I immediately regret.  He says some things he may or may not have regretted.

Smokin’ Hot Wife cries for the 2nd time on our first day of marriage.

Jamaica is fun.  I ruin my iPod in a waterfall.  Yes, I know I shouldn’t have my iPod in water.  But I wasn’t fully informed as to what type of activity this was.  I thought we were hiking up to some water.

No.  We hiked through water…

And the guy I handed my iPod to so that he could put it in his nifty little Ziploc bag DIDN’T EVEN ZIP HIS ZIPLOC BAG!

Why do you even have it here, man???  What was the point in bringing it?  Is this your new idea of a wallet?  I don’t get it.

And he was an elderly chap.  Knowledge and wisdom had, at his point in life, had ample opportunity to rest in his cerebral cortex.

And he didn’t zip up… a ZIP TO LOCK bag….

While all of this runs through my brain as we walk out of the cold water we just hiked through, I get swindled into buying two little, carved, wooden figurines from some guy who pretty much said Here.  I made this for you.  It’s free.  That’ll be $20.

Immediately after, I’m asked by the tour guides for a tip, which I gave without thinking about how they just ruined my day.

*Sigh*  How did this happen…

6.  FLEAS

We had a cat.  Her name was Alba.  Alba wasn’t very healthy.  Alba had a flea allergy.

We came home to her having scratched her neck raw.  Poor kitty cat.

We go into our bedroom to unpack, and as I’m standing by the bed, the strings that hang off the sheets were rubbing up against my legs and bothering me no matter how often I reached down and brushed them off.

Finally, after realizing that we don’t have any strings hanging off of our sheets, I look down to see my legs are covered with fleas. Minimum 20 fleas on me.  Minimum.

We had a flea bomb for some reason that we set off and went and rode around and sat in the car with the cat for however long you’re supposed to be out of the house for.

Came back home.  It was late.  I had to work the next morning with devil children.  Our first night home from our honeymoon, my wife slept on the couch, and I slept on the floor.

I desperately want people to comment with some sort of home remedy for fleas.  Because I highly doubt you have one that we didn’t try.  And before you ask, it was all hardwood.  No carpet.

They spread and multiplied and mated and produced offspring quicker than anything I’ve ever seen before.

We vacuumed twice a day, used basil leaves, bought bombs and flea spray, took the cat to the pound because we were too poor to take care of her flea allergy, etc.  We did everything short of burning down the building.

Finally, we called a professional service who could not uphold their  guarantee since we lived in an apartment type set up.  It was really a house, but it was set up for 4 different tenants to live in.

I told them to bring it on in.

They sprayed.  We paid them $80.  We didn’t eat out again that month.

Two weeks later, I called them back and said I need you to come back.  I’ll pay you 80 more dollars.

He said Nope.  We guarantee they will leave within a month or we’ll do it for free.

I did not remind him of the original non-guarantee they made.

The fleas finally left us alone.  And we enjoyed our apartment.

7.  THE JOB THAT NEVER ENDS

I was hoping for Sylvan to be a stepping stone, a very short stepping stone, into a teaching job that paid what I considered pretty decent.

I had no passion for teaching, mind you.  I just didn’t know what else I was gonna do.  Remember the math degree thing?  Yea…

I’ll make this extra long story rather short.  I wanted to get out of there and make money, but more so to get insurance so I wouldn’t have to worry about my wife getting sick or hurt.  I thought surely by the end of the semester I would get a teaching job somewhere.  Then, by the end of the summer someone would hire me.  Then, by the end of December someone would hire me.

Nope.

I did have a guy at the State Department of Transportation that had a job lined up for me.  He told me about it in September of 2012.  And that was great!  I was so excited.  But nothing ever came of it.  I kept waiting and waiting on a word from him.  He just told me to be patient.  It was coming.  It came… 9 months later… when I already had another job.

Also, my boss and her boss on different occasions creeped carefully around the idea that maybe I didn’t need to work there.

That’s just like Alabama.  No need to hurry.  We’ll get to it when we get to it.  (i.e. No Child Left Behind.. anyone?  anyone?)

Also, during this time I was studying for the first actuarial exam.  I wanted to be an actuary because I was qualified, and they make lots of money after they’ve aced all the tests.  But I had to do the first 2 on my own.

I studied hard and often.  I practiced much.

And I failed the test.

All of this spans the time frame from when I graduated college until about a year after we have been married.  I left a lot out.  But you get the gist.  Is it gist?  Or jist?  Gist.  Jist has a red squiggly under it.

Let’s go through them again.

1. GET A JOB

As you can tell, I know that it isn’t fun.  It’s heavy, it’s mean, it’s embarrassing, it’s a nightmare to us introverts.

But if I, a naive, tender-hearted, horrible with meeting new people introvert, can put myself out there a hundred times and eventually find a job that way, anyone can.

Unfortunately, I have no fool-proof process other than just do whatever you have to do.

Clean the toilets like they’ve never been cleaned before, bag the groceries like they’ve never been bagged before, serve food, rake leaves.  Parts stores, retail stores, fast-food restaurants.

Teach the children who have been rejected from every school because they’re punks.  Maybe even love them sometimes.

Get a job doing something.  Get paid very little.  Take your lunch.  Be the very best worker at wherever you’re working.  Go home.  Apply for more jobs.

“I never quit a job until I had another job.”  –  Ashton Kutcher

2.  PARENTS

Looking back, I should have been more appreciative about this “issue.”  I didn’t have to worry about anything because sweet ol’ Mama was taking care of me.

That’s 4 months where I didn’t have to pay for anything.  She fed me.  That’s awesome!

I should not have complained.

Go live with Mama and Daddy.  Don’t spend unnecessary money.  They don’t mind.  They love you.

Pull your weight.  Don’t be a bum.  Help out any way you can around the house.  When the time is right, you’ll get out of there and maybe even repay them.

3.  TEETH

I pray that no one ever again has teeth issues in any way.

When my beloved was in pain, I was in pain.  I needed to do whatever it took to ensure that she was without pain.  And it took a brother to help.

It’s hard asking for help.  But we must learn how to receive.  And we all need people who are willing to give to us in a time of despair.

I’m very serious about this:  most of my ability to get by in college and my early post-college life was because I was able to receive.  Now, I didn’t have much of a choice, but I had to take help where I needed it.  And being stubborn does no one any good.

When you do not accept a gift, you are stealing a blessing from the giver.  Don’t be no thief.

“Please swallow your pride if I have things you need to borrow,

For it won’t be long til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on.”

4.  THE WEDDING

It is my hope that all would marry.

I’ve only recently begun watching The Office.  And it is great.

I’m just passed the part where Michael and Jan are living together and Jan has racked up an enormous amount of debt for Michael.  It’s very interesting because the ever cheerful, carefree Michael Scott is all of a sudden upset and clearly worried about his financial situation, even if it’s only for 1 episode.

His reaction was to jump a train and leave town, which is hilarious.  But Jan’s response is actually wonderful.

She basically says we will get through this together.

My wife never made me feel inferior for not having a job or not throwing in any money for the wedding.  When I had student loans to pay off, she never said do that with your own money.

As mentioned in another post, we were extremely fortunate for her not to have any debt.  But she took on my debt, and she never made a fuss about it.  I mean, she knew it was not ideal.  But she knew it was her burden along with mine.  And burdens are much lighter when carried together.

I’ve been married for 4 years so I’m an expert….

Every moderate to critical financial decision should be made together.  If you are in serious debt, every decision is critical.

If you are already married and the two of you decide to spend more money than you have, the solution would be for both of you to produce or repay that money.  Also, if you marry into debt, lacking a better way to put it, you are now in debt.  Because you are NEVER your own person when you are married.  Everything is shared.  And that’s exciting.

My wife and I wanted to take the Bible literally; “…a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

We wanted to become a completely independent person.  One person.

There was a little overlap.  Her father continued her car payment until it was paid off (about 6 months).  My father continued paying my car insurance for a little while (about a year?  I can’t remember).  We’re very thankful for both.

Other than that, we wanted to do it ourselves.  And there’s no possible way either of us could have done what we did together on our own.  And I do mean financially.  There is no need for separate bank accounts.  There is no need to split bills.  There is no need to have your own money.  Impulse buying is bad.  Shopping addictions are bad.  Hoarding a secret stash from your spouse is bad.

These things tear apart what was intended to be sown together.

I’m very fortunate to have married a woman who thinks $15 for a nice, dine-out meal is expensive.  It’s adorable.  She is as frugal and patient as they come (too patient really, I do not enjoy looking in every store for the best deal).

I realize that it isn’t always the woman, but the man who may be the issue.  Neither circumstance wins.

If you find yourself (or yourselves) in a situation such as these I actually urge you to seek marriage counseling.  As a matter of fact, I feel so strongly about this, that if you email me directly with your hometown information, I will personally research the best possible marriage counseling options in your area.

It will be a Christian.  Go ahead and expect it.  They’ll pray and stuff.

5.  JAMAICA

That was just a free story.  Nothing else to talk about, but I do advise that everyone leave the country and enjoy an all-inclusive resort before you die.

6.  FLEAS

I hope you don’t get fleas.  I hope nothing bad ever happens to you.  But chances are bad things will happen.

And there is always something.  Always.

And many times these somethings will take precedence over the trip to Disney you wanted to take next Summer.  In our case, it’s a trip to Europe that keeps being postponed.

We returned from our first vacation to a flea infestation.  We returned from another vacation to find 2 separate traffic violations in the mail (they make them $60 and don’t deduct points from your record just so you won’t fight it, regardless of how bad you want to) and a letter from the IRS stating we messed up on our tax return and we actually owed money instead of receiving a refund.  We returned from another vacation to find our cat had completely destroyed our leather couch by….. turning it into his litter box.

We bought a house, and now we must maintain it constantly.  Phoenix digs holes all the time, the new sink is leaking, the dish washer broke shortly after moving in, the light in the closet won’t turn on all of a sudden (it isn’t the bulbs, punks, already tried that).

There is always something.  And there will likely always be something.  We have to prioritize and pay money at times when and where we really don’t want to.

You may have to grab those shoes at the dollar store instead of the mall.  Or you may have to eat at a fast food joint instead of a steak house.  Or you may have to eat the off-brand “shredded wheat” instead of the actual good stuff.

There’s no shame in any of this.  I hate that society screams otherwise.

7.  THE JOB THAT NEVER ENDS

Oh, but it does.

Would you like to know the greatest secret to finding a better job?

Have friends.

Seriously.  You have no idea how far that can go.  Yes, it helps greatly to have acquaintances and to know important people.  But having friends that truly care about your well-being will, in my opinion, be an even greater benefit.

I have a friend who is pretty cool, but he has a long way to go before he is as cool as his dad.  His dad was doing everything he could and more to help me find a job in our most desperate hour.  It didn’t work out, but it wasn’t due to his lack of trying, and it would have worked if not for a different calling on my life.  You can bet on that.

I was actually pulled out of Sylvan by another friend.  He pulled me into his job that (1) I didn’t know anything about and (2) I wasn’t qualified to do.

I thought I would be teaching and coaching because I didn’t know what else I could do, but I am still employed with this company, and it has been the source to more blessing in our home than I ever thought possible.

And now, because of where I am in this job, I have some time to focus my thoughts and ideas on other things that I am passionate about.  There is room for creativity that may make way for an even brighter future.  Who knows?  Even this blog is due to a friend’s idea.  I didn’t even think of it!

But it certainly didn’t come over night.  I was at Sylvan for more than  a year when I thought I might be there for 2 months.  I was studying to begin a career as an Actuary.  I had a job lined up with the state that I didn’t get a call for until after I had another job.

You may be stuck for a while.  There may be false glimpses of hope that pop up along the way that only leave you more frustrated and disappointed than before.  The only thing I can tell you is persevere.  And believe that it isn’t forever.

Nothing is forever except eternity, and we’ve already discussed that.

Where Does Your Hope Lie?

A great man used to tell us

“Life’s hard.  Then, you die.”

Tough words to live by, right?  How many people want to believe that?  Isn’t is just cynical and depressing?

But it’s true.  I have proof.

“Life’s hard…”

WORK…

What is the American Dream?

Yes, we have much opportunity here.  We are able to accomplish whatever we choose to accomplish.  It really is amazing, and we really do live in an incredible country.  Whatever you want to do, your opportunity to do so is available.

But.  I would say that the majority of Americans don’t chase their dreams and that the American Dream has become diluted to I can work and make all this money.

Let’s label the former mentioned American Dream as Babs and the latter as Buster.

If we are chasing Babs, we are working constantly.  We are excited to work.  But there is always something mixed in with that work that we don’t want to do.  So… work isn’t always fun.

Then, there’s the fact that the beginning stages of chasing Babs results in little to no income, has to be done during our spare time that doesn’t really exist, and carries an enormously high risk of failure with it.

It’s pretty much a hobby that we’re good at that we want to make a living doing.  The percentages are against us.

There are so many reasons to give up.  Always an excuse to quit.

If we are chasing Buster, we have a job that pays us enough to do many of the things we want to do.  We have happy wives (or husbands).  We have awesome kids.  We have pets.  We have nice stuff.  We have a house.  We have things.  And things are fun to have.

But.  There’s that job…. the one that gets on your nerves on a monthly, weekly, daily basis, the one that causes you to go to sleep on your anger, the one that is to blame for your hypertension and risk of heart disease.

We feel like we can’t complain because it’s such a good job and it pays so well.  We’d be foolish to leave it.

Do either of these sound familiar?

TIME…

  1. Remember to stay in shape.

  2. Take out the trash.

  3. Remember dental hygiene.

  4. There is always dirty laundry.

  5. There are always dirty dishes.

  6. The dishwasher is broken.

  7. Your 1-year-old is hungry.

  8. The grass needs cutting.

  9. Feed the cat.

  10. Feed the dog.

  11. Love on your spouse.

  12. Make money money make money money money.

  13. Pay the bills.

  14. The refrigerator is leaking.

  15. Get 8 hours of sleep (yea right).

  16. Get the box spring from your sister that she’s been trying to give you for a year.

  17. Remove kitchen sink.

  18. Install new kitchen sink.

  19. Build up cabinets for new counter tops.

  20. Next free weekend, visit family.

  21. The next free weekend is in 2 months…

You may have multiple kids in school. Make sure they stay healthy, fed, up to date with homework, etc.  Make sure to attend as many sporting, gymnastic, dancing events as possible.

Also, don’t forget to remain informed in the upcoming election.  Everything you read or hear is manipulated half truth so the only source you really have is…. well… nothing.  So rack your brain trying to figure out what you can even do.

Ummm…. what else do I have to do today?  I know I’m forgetting something.  I’ll remember when I leave the place I was supposed to remember it at.

And, of course, MONEY.

Ever heard one of these?

“You don’t have a retirement plan?”

“You really NEED life insurance.”

“You’ve gotta build your credit.”

“Why haven’t you consolidated your loans?”

“You need to buy a house now while the market is doing so well.  Now is the best time to buy.”

“The market is going to crash this year.”

“The market is going to crash next year.”

“Interest rates are at an all-time low.  You need to get on it now.”

“Renting is a waste of money.  You need to buy.”

“You should be investing in gold.”

“You should be investing in silver.”

“Why don’t you have your 401K set up?”

“You should probably get a credit card.”

(TRUE SERIOUS ACTUAL DISCLAIMER:  I am NOT telling you to do none of these things.  We will talk about them all at some point.)

OK… I need to focus on getting a retirement plan.  What are my options?  I could invest in gold… or silver… which one will offer me the highest return?  And how much do I have to invest?  $25?  OK, that will get me about $302 in 10 years.

So… 401K… who do I call?  Does my company even offer something like that?  Does my company HAVE to offer something like that for me to get one?  What is a 401K?  Will I get 401 thousand dollars?  Because that’s what it sounds like…  It doesn’t matter I don’t make money.  We have no excess.

Alright, no retirement for now.  But what about life insurance.  That one guy seemed very concerned about my well-being when he said I needed it for my family…  and it can build cash value so… if I pay $150 a month, I can get $50,000 when I turn 70……. What?  $150 a month?!  And Smokin’ Hot Wife will only get $200,000 if I die?  That won’t even pay off the house!

Well, let’s just skip to the credit card.  We should get one, apparently.  But Pops told me never to get one.  Was he right?  Everyone keeps telling me to build my credit.  A credit card can do that, right?  23% INTEREST?!?!?!  WHO LET THESE PEOPLE OUT OF PRISON?!?!?!?!?  Screw that.  No credit cards.

Since we have no savings and money is very tight, let’s see about consolidating our loans.  We have a car payment and credit cards.  In 3 years we can be out of debt.  But if we consolidate, they ‘re telling me it will take 7?  That can’t be right… Is that right?  The Daewoo isn’t that fancy.

Babe, we gotta buy a house.  Everyone keeps saying the market is gonna crash and we won’t be able to find a good interest rate.  We have to buy now.  I know we don’t have the money but we just have to.  Everybody says so.

(The above mentioned thoughts and situations are not entirely my own and have been fabricated to some degree.)

Geez, people.

Simply thinking about this stuff will drive a man insane.  Your mind is swarming.  Always.  The brain is never at ease.  It’s no wonder we forget milk.  It’s no wonder we forget names.  It’s no wonder we forget what 7×12 is.

It’s no wonder!

I wish the main concerns in my mind were of the easier type.

Like… when will the Braves make the playoffs?

Or… I sure hope Todd Gurley puts on his big boy shoes this weekend.

Or… I wonder how Rick is gonna get outta this one…  Negan is awfully scary.

Or… UGH!  I want one particular thing for lunch, but for some reason they think closing on Sunday is a good idea.

Seriously,

How in the world is ANY man (or woman) able to focus on all this stuff?  How?

Have I painted a clear enough picture that life is hard?  These are true adulthood thoughts.  And they can escalate as quickly as we want them to.

“…Then, you die.”

I used to be terrified of death.

I was probably 7 or 8.  I would have nightmares where I would die in some way (falling from an extreme height is one I remember most vividly).  I would fall and hit the ground, I knew I that my life was over, and everything would go black.

And that was the afterlife.  Nothingness.  Darkness.

I would wake up out of breath and go to Mama’s room and tell her I was scared, but I never told her what I was scared of.  I was scared all the time.  Some days at school I couldn’t even concentrate.  I would think the worst would happen every day and I would die and experience darkness for eternity.

I don’t know if everyone goes through this fear but I know at some point we all think about it because He has put eternity into man’s heart.

We all know it.  We all discuss it.  We all ponder it.

“Life’s hard.  Then, you die.”

Honestly, some of the best wisdom I’ve ever received.

This is what I hear when someone says I need a retirement plan:

There is no hope for you without a retirement plan.

When someone says you need to build credit?

There is no hope for you without credit.

When someone says you need life insurance?

There is no hope for you without life insurance.

There is no hope…  There is no hope…  There is no hope…

Let me tell you something about hope.

It isn’t in work.

It isn’t in time.

Listen!  It isn’t in your country!  It isn’t in your president!  Not your Congress.  Not your ballot.

It isn’t in money.  It isn’t in gold.  It isn’t in silver.  It isn’t in life insurance, credit cards, loan consolidation, retirement, blah blah blah do this, do that.

It isn’t in that crap.

If you put your trust and hope into these things, your trust and hope will fail you.  We put way too much thought and energy into these WORLDLY PATTERNS!

We must look beyond the world for trust and hope.

Please, taste and see that the Lord is good.  He is compassionate even on the unkind and evil.

Why put stock into possessions on Earth where the thief approaches and the moth destroys?

“I have been blessed to make hundreds of millions of dollars in my life.  I can’t take it with me.  And neither can you.”  –  Denzel Washington

(Go to 2:50 to hear, or just watch the whole thing)

If you are sick of your hope failing you, hope in The Unfailing.

Do not conform.

Street Sweeper, Baby

A co-worker told me recently that I’m just like Jon Snow, a bit naive but a great leader.

I’ll take the compliment.

I don’t agree with why he said it.  Our discussion was about people and the general intent for just about everything we do.

I believe most plans or actions made by human beings that result in catastrophe originate from pure motives.

Co-worker disagreed me and called me naive.  But he called me Jon Snow so it’s all good.

Now that I think of it… what an excellent way to point out a character flaw!

“Hey man…. you are just the worst person I’ve ever met, and I really hate you.  You are a disgrace to humanity, and I question daily why God wanted you here… but sometimes when the sun is in my face and I have to squint, and you’re a pretty good distance from me, and if you grew your hair out, you remind me of Jon Snow sort of.”

Alright… I can live with that.

I am naive, though.

When I was roughly 12-years-old  I desperately wanted to be cool (shocking piece of information: I wasn’t always this cool).

Back then, cool was listening to Nelly and Eminem (Marshall Mathers, Slim Shady, etc).  So listen to them, I did.

And I knew every word to every song on the 2 CDs I had.

But the albums were edited due to explicit content.  So I knew when to stop singing along and when to make a weird scratchy noise.

It had to be difficult to edit some of those songs… I know in certain instances there was just music for like 10 seconds.

Then a word like “and”

Then 10 more seconds of just music.

The funny part, and the part that made me naive, is that I didn’t know what was being said in the uncut versions.

No idea.  I didn’t even know there was a different version.  It took a very long time before I found out I was listening to a “clean” version.

I don’t even know how long it was… but it was probably when Ned told me I was dumb for not knowing.  Ned always had some good jokes.

I was so far behind.  I didn’t know anything about what was going on in the world.  I didn’t know trends.  I didn’t know fads.  I didn’t know fashion.  I didn’t know anything!

I was good at school though… Around the World in 3rd grade? I almost got all the way around the room.  I was 2 people away from returning to my desk.  No one else had gone more than 2 spots.  And we had 30 kids in a classroom!

I lost on 13-8=??…

5… the answer is 5… and I wasn’t quick enough…

But anyway.  I knew some school.  I just didn’t know anything else.

But… if you could see me now!  I am obviously up to date with the latest fashions…

…….

Everyone else wears gym shorts and t-shirts all the time, right?  Sweat pants in cooler weather?

An interesting thing about fashion… you guys notice how kids these days are wearing the tall socks with shorts?  Yea, that isn’t new.  I’ve been doing that since high school.  I guess it must’ve caught on, finally.

It compliments the calves!

Smokin’ Hot Wife doesn’t believe that I started that.  And she shouldn’t.

Because I didn’t.

But there were 4 guys who were a few years younger than me and played football with me in high school who did start it.

And I’ll take that to the grave!

But leather jackets are coming back into style.  I’ll take full credit for that one.

Anyway, I was naive.  Still am to some degree.

But a life lesson that I have discovered in very recent times is that nothing should be mistaken as common knowledge.  And I hate when anyone tries to act like it is.

May I please generalize?  Everyone knows that the sun is the sun.

That’s not what I mean.

Does everyone know where Istanbul is?  No.  (Just looked it up.  It’s in Turkey.  I thought it was in Russia.  Point proven.)

Does everyone know the difference in metric vs standard units of measurement?  No.  (The US makes this extra difficult by the way.  We’re like the only ones still using standard)

Does everyone know the slope intercept formula?  No.  In particular, my ex-students at my first job out of college.  Didn’t matter how many times I told them.

NOTHING is common knowledge.  We cannot expect people to just know things.

Please stop making people feel stupid for not knowing something that you just happen to know.

I’m talking to you, IT folks!  No, I don’t know what you’re talking about.  Dumb it down as if you were speaking to a child learning for the first time.  And stop using big words.

And brush ya teeth!

I digress.

(I’ve been using that word for years… Just now looked it up… Never have used it correctly… But it works here…)

So… point!  I have one.  Promise.

I have always been naive.  And you can’t expect anyone to just know something.

(Transition)

My mother’s financial situation:

Only last night was I made aware of something very important about my mother and her raising us.

She had no leadership.

I knew that.  But it never struck me as relevant to her financial issues.

Mama said I have to be positive when I talk about this so… She WILL be debt free.  And it IS in the foreseeable future.

I’m not only saying that because my Mama told me to.  I’m also saying it because I believe it.

I’m not sure how this message will be received, because it will be directed towards men and women who are significantly older than me.  And I’m not so sure how I would take advice from a child.  But parents of teenagers, I’m talking to you.

Forgiveness has already been granted here and no bitterness remains.  But growing up, I was never made aware of the extent of my mother’s debt.

I knew she was broke.  But I just thought everybody said that.

Now, I’m not saying I needed to know as a very young child.  It’s probably best that I wasn’t.

Use your own judgement when dealing with your own children.  If you see that your 10-year-old is wise beyond his years, maybe bring it up to him then.

I can’t put a specific year on it.  Obviously.  My only child is not even 2.  I can’t bring him into our financial world.

He’ll just say “Truck.”

Or “Uck” because he can’t say the “tr” yet.

My point is that I’m really not the ideal source for this kind of advice, BUT I have experienced it secondhand, and I do believe it is very important.

So if you can handle a 29-year-old, very young daddy offering up some wisdom, here goes:

Include your children in your financial issues.

If you’re rich with no issues…. You probably aren’t reading this.  So good.

If you’re well off with no debt, teach your children to budget.  Set up an allowance.  Grow ’em up to be like you.

If you are not well off and are accumulating debt, have a serious sit down with your children.

Include them in your budget that I hope you have laid out.  If not, budget now.

If you can’t afford something that your child wants to do, don’t let them do it.

I can hear you know:  You don’t know what it’s like.

You’re right.  I don’t.  I can imagine this is hard.  But you must limit what they do.  It isn’t worth the debt.

It may not always be wise to let them know how much money you make or have.  But that’s why I’ll leave it up to you to determine when they are ready.

DISCLAIMER:  I do believe that the “street sweeper” that Nelly referred to was, in fact, a gun… who knew?

Everybody likes lists I think, so let’s end with one:

  1. Don’t expect your children to know anything without being taught.
  2. Including your children in money affairs will negate the naivety.
  3. If you can’t afford something for them, don’t do it.
  4. Don’t let them listen to crap.
  5. Let them listen to Metallica.

Ned and Darla: A Nerd’s Guide to Student Loans

If you read the previous Ol’ Ned post, I’m sorry.

As my smokin’ hot wife pointed out, it was prematurely posted, for I received new information later in the same day that pertains to student loans.

And I left out some stuff.

Some good stuff.

Let’s try it again.  And this time I’ll spare you the ridiculous intro.

Ned really did ask me if he should pay off his smaller loans or bigger loans first (student loans).

Ned’s case is similar to mine: a lump sum payment that consists of multiple sub-loans with different interest rates assigned to them.

Example:

Ned’s loan breakdown might look something like this,

$1500 @ 6.8%

$3300 @ 5.4%

$6000 @ 4.8%

$2000 @ 6%

And so on and so forth.  I assure you it looks way worse though.

Ned’s monthly minimum payment will be each of the sub-loans monthly payments broken down individually after applying compound interest DAILY and dividing by 120 (10 years, 12 months per year).  Then those payments will be added together.

$1500 @ 6.8%  –> $24.67/month

$3300 @ 5.4%  –> $47.19/month

$6000 @ 4.8%  –> $80.80/month

$2000 @ 6%    –> $30.37/month

total = $183.03/month

If you don’t believe my numbers, look up the compound interest formula and plug the numbers in for yourself.  But you should just trust me.

Compound interest is the 8th wonder of the world.  He who understands it, earns it…  He who doesn’t, pays it.  —  Albert Einstein

Sometimes certain loans will not begin accruing interest until you’ve graduated.  Some will begin as soon as you get them.

Those numbers would get tricky.  So for the sake of time and my sanity, the above numbers were configured assuming that Ned’s interest began to accrue the day he started paying them off.

Which to my knowledge never happens.

(Look up the difference in subsidized and unsubsidized loans.  One starts accruing interest immediately and the other doesn’t.  Or somethin’ like that.)

A crappy characteristic of loans is that interest comes off first.

This process has a fancy name, but I’m not going to use it because it’s dumb.

(Unless it pays me)

Seriously, I’m not fully educated on the true meaning and really these terms only make things more confusing.

Brilliant business plan really.

“So who is our target customer?”  –  dude 1

“The common folk.”  –  dude 2

“Well then we need to make up some words so we can rob them legally.”  –  dude 7

The best way to deal with it is to not look at how much of the minimum monthly payment is interest and how much is principal.  You won’t like it.

They know exactly how much money you will owe over the course of 10 years if you pay the minimum.  That’s how they determine those monthly payments.

Look at this:

$1500 @ 6.8% with a minimum payment of $24.67 over 120 payments is what??

$2960.63

That’s a lot of interest.  Nearly double the loan.

Listen peeps, I understand profit.  I’m for it.  Profit is necessary for an economy to grow and be sustained.  But often times it does not sit well with me, particularly when the powerful feed on the powerless.

Because make no mistake about it, someone is getting filthy rich off of your debt.

Back to Ned’s question, which insinuates that he is very well aware that he needs to combat the federal government…

I mean his student loans…

Let’s say Ned is on month #1 of his loan payoff, so he owes $183.03.

Pay it.  Let it clear the bank.  Let it clear the student loan website (I can’t use company names in my posts, so let’s call them Sallie Mae, or Navient, whichever you prefer).

Once it’s cleared, go back and make another payment.

Let’s say Ned has $200 over the top in month #1 that he wants to put towards his loans.

The reason you need to make 2 separate payments is because if Ned wanted to make 1 payment of $383.03, it would all be dispersed the way Sallie Mae wanted it to be dispersed, which will be spread out over all four loans.

And we don’t want that.

We want to focus on one at a time.

So Ned will go back and will now be able to apply all $200 toward whichever sub-loan he wants and it will go 100% to principal.

So…

$1500 – $24.67 = …. not $1475.33

I really don’t know how much of the payment is interest, and I can’t find it ANYWHERE on the search engines (not mentioning any until the pay me), but it’ll look more like $1495.

Sickening, I know.

But after applying $200 to this loan, it looks like $1295!

Now when Ned comes to month #2, Sallie Mae is going to say his monthly payment is $158.36.

Sallie Mae does not want you to make another payment towards the $1500 loan this month.  They want it to continue to accrue interest.

So always ALWAYS ALWAYS budget for your original minimum monthly payment.

Pay the minimum in month #2 ($158.36).  Then go back in once it’s cleared and pay $24.67 (your original minimum anyway) towards the $1500 loan.

You haven’t gone over your monthly budget.  And you’re fighting interest.

Fight the good fight!!

Dang, I still haven’t answered Ned’s question.

Small loans or big loans first?

I say small.

You could do the bigger loans first.  It may not make a ton of difference either way.  But which one seems more attainable?

In my case, the smaller loans had the higher interest rates, but I’ve been made aware that this is not always the dealio.

Without discussing numbers, I advise you to pay off the smaller loans first because it’s quicker, easier, and ADDICTING!

You’ll see after that $1500 loan goes away how exciting it is.  You’ll see an end in sight.

So there ya go, Ned.  Now tell everyone to subscribe to my website.  I know people are in debt.

Onward to Darla.

You should know by now that Darla is not her name.  But she is real.  And she really did ask me about her student loans.

Darla is less than a month away from completing her master’s degree.  Very awesome for her.  I can’t wait for her raise so she can fix her oven and we can continue family dinner night.

Just kidding.

About some of it.

Darla has a single loan, and it is already accruing interest.  She read the original Ol’  Ned post and asked if she needed to make two separate payments on hers.

She does not.

But I still would.  Because I like to be absolutely certain that my principal only payment is, in fact, principal only.

But it most likely won’t make a difference.

And if you are in the same situation as Darla, a second payment in the same month will likely result in the following month to show a balance due of $0.

That’s ok.  Just make sure you still  make a payment.

Don’t ever miss a payment.  And don’t ever be late.  In any type of loan.  Or bill in general, for that matter.

Eat saltines and drink water if you have to.

Make sure that wife and baby are well-fed though.

Lunchroom Pizza

I loved lunchroom pizza.

I don’t know the demographics of public schoolers vs. private schoolers vs. home schoolers vs. non-schoolers, but I can imagine most of us were enrolled in public schools.

But as I found out last week, our lunchroom was not fancy schmancy.

I mean… I knew.  Trust me.  It was a small school in a small county in the state ranked in the bottom 5 in everything but cows and catfish.

That is to say, I knew it wasn’t the best around.

But I wasn’t sure to what extent.

Then a buddy of mine dropped a bomb on me.  He went to a school where there were 2 different lines in the lunch room with DIFFERENT FOOD TO CHOOSE FROM!!

Hooooooooooold up….

You tellin’ me if you didn’t want caviar and lettuce wraps you could go get a burger?

“Yes,” he says to me all matter of factly, confused at the tone of my voice.  Quite pompous really.

Goodness gracious… we had 2 lines.  So we could keep the lines a flowin’.

But there was 1 food option, unless you wanted salad (girls) or nothing (non-humans).

I just so happen to be non-girl and non-non-human.  So I ate that lunchroom goodness, and pizza was my fave, yo.

See my mom always made spaghetti at home, a cheap and easy delicacy that I still love to this day.  It’s even better the day after, heated in the microwave for all those keeping the books at home.

We’re actually having it tonight… What an awesome world…

Anyway because of having it at home I didn’t want spaghetti at school.  However, it was so popular with everyone else because their parents made chicken fingers all the time.

Chicken fingers??  They make those outside of school??  I was so jealous upon receiving this information, because I also loved chicken finger day.  Or fried chicken day in general.  It normally landed on Thursday.  Pizza day was Monday.

Now that I think about it, they had a solid schedule goin’ on.  They knew Mondays sucked, so they threw some pizza goodness in there.  With fries!

I forgot about the fries.  They were always the main side with pizza, and that does not make any sense at all.

But I didn’t complain.  I had pizza and fries.  Who cares if I have practice after school and a combination of such foods sit heavily and painfully on the tummy?

The thing that bothered me about pizza day though was that lots of people didn’t like it.

They didn’t like pizza day.

They were above it.

They = wimpy, snobby little children from a town that boasted a population of about 26

above = higher, mightier, holier, more deserving, etc.

it = pizza day

Now… don’t get me wrong, if you could see the pizza you might think Oh those poor children have to eat that??

But you just haven’t tasted heaven.

Much to my disappointment, my late public educational career brought with it a new style of pizza in our highly convenient styrofoam trays.  And it wasn’t near as good.

I’m still mad about that.

Sigh…

Our public school system offered (and still offers I’m sure) free and reduced lunch based on total household income.

My parents were divorced when I was very young.  Our school was divided into 3 sections when I was there; Kindergarten was stand-alone, elementary was grades 1-6, and high school was grades 7-12.

I can’t remember exactly all that transpired and when but before I started kindergarten I know my 2 brothers and I lived with just my mother.  My mother had no stacks on deck, mind you.

No, we never missed a meal.  We never had to walk 20 miles to get anywhere.  We never were evicted (though I do think my Mom was close once).

I can’t say for sure if we ever got free lunch.  I think there were a few years when we did, but I am absolutely certain that we never paid full price for lunch.  It was a pretty significant reduction.  Full price for lunch was $2/day.  Reduced lunch was $0.40/day.  I could eat lunch for a week for the price that others would pay for a day.

I obviously am very grateful for it now because I know how much it helped Mama.  Instead of paying $30/week for her three children to eat lunch, she paid $6/week.

But even at a young age I was embarrassed of it.  I didn’t want anyone to know.  Even my best buddies.

It’s amazing how money is such a touchy subject, especially when you have no control over it (i.e. an elementary student).

But kids are mean, and I had no idea how people would react if they knew.

I’ve found that the same fear translates into adult life.  It’s hard to watch others buy awesome houses and cars and selfie sticks and rental properties and Little Debbie cakes while you sit back with your $0.99 microwave dinner watching your 1972 tube with a rabbit ear antenna wrapped up in aluminum foil to get a glimpse of the local 6 o clock news.

It’s even harder to come up with an excuse not to go eat lunch after church with people you love.

What do you say?

“Uh, sorry, man.  I can’t today I have to go… feed my goldfish.”

“It’s gonna take you all day to feed your fish?”

“I also have to…yes.”

Bad example… The point is I’ve been there.  It’s easier to say than do (as are most things), but own it!

My father, who I will from now on refer to as Pops, summed me up recently in a way I never thought about.

He was talking with a customer at his shop when somehow I and my older brother were brought up.  I’m not sure how name dropping works on these things so until I do, my older brother is Ned.

I’m paraphrasing, but…

“Ned can handle idiots; Kyle doesn’t have time for ’em.”  –  Pops

And I thought about it… Wow… He’s right.

You’re right, Pops.  I do not have the time or energy or resources to entertain nonsense.

But I also don’t have the time or energy to portray myself in a way that is inaccurate.

Therefore, I will not say to you that I can go get lunch and everything is fine when it isn’t.  I’ve done that before.  And I was tense the whole time stressing about all the money I don’t have.

Not very enjoyable.

So the reason I can’t get lunch is this:

I would love to, but I have already reached my dining out quota for the day/week/month/year/decade/lifetime, and I really Really REALLY wanna get out of debt.

Some will offer to buy your meal, which you accept greatly.

Don’t take away their blessing.

One day you’ll be out of debt and remember that day and pass it on to the next guy or gal.  And so on and so forth.

The key here is budgeting.

BUD — GET — ING

BUDGETING.  BUDGET.

I don’t care how you say it.  I don’t care if you mispronounce it.  I don’t care if you don’t say it at all.  I don’t care if you use a different word and mispronounce that one!

BUDGET!

Budget everything.  Know exactly where every single penny is going.

Set aside money for gas in your cars.

Set aside money for groceries.

Set aside money for miscellaneous crap.

Set aside money for free and fun time.

See?  You can still have fun.  It’s actually a requirement from me.  If you are going to listen to my advice, you better listen to all of it.  Enjoy yourself, especially if you are married or engaged or in a real relationship that’s leading somewhere.

The idea is to not get out of control.

I budget monthly, but I break down groceries and miscellaneous into weekly sub-budgets.

When my wife and I were first married and for about a year, our weekly expenses on groceries were a very meager $40/week.

And I still get upset thinking about that.  Our first year, 2012, brought a combined household income of less than $20,000.  That was before taxes.

I’m not mad about it really.  But I don’t want anyone to EVER experience telling your wife that she can’t get something she wants from the grocery store.

Because I have, and it is miserably wrecking to a man’s spirit.

So takeaways:

lunchroom pizza = awesome

having less money than others = ok

budgeting = necessary

telling your wife no = never again

please please please please please…. budget now.  Benefits will come.

Do Not Conform

So I used a bible verse to talk about money…  What are you gonna do about it?

I believe that Jesus wants us to live fulfilled lives on this earth and in this lifetime.  And as many Americans can agree, debt is not fulfilling.

It is heavy.  It is mean.  It is… interest?

When I first realized the amount of student loans I would have to pay back, I was floored.  But let’s back track and discuss the three biggest lies of our wonderful society.

Lie 1:  Know Your Future

We’re led to believe that at the age of 18 we’ll know what we want to do for the rest of our lives and what school we want to go to for training in said lifelong obligation.  So we run straight into college with what we think we want to do… Why?  Why did I do that?  Why didn’t I learn how to build houses or do landscaping or… record some hit rap albums? (I don’t know what kids do these days).

I digress.  I wanted to play football.  And it could ONLY be for the University of Alabama.  I should mention that I wasn’t good enough (or didn’t work hard enough, whichever way you want to look at it) to play football with Alabama.  My folks always said I was stubborn.  What do they know?

Thus began my college career of not being diligent in the classroom, not playing football, and choosing a major I thought I wanted, telecommunications.  No need to discuss my entire college career, but I did switch colleges and changed my major to undecided, then to math, my point being that I was NOT ready to be my own man at the green ole age of 18.

Anyway…

Lie 2: College is a 4 year process

HA!

Well… it isn’t exactly a lie.  Many are able to finish in four years, but it’s borderline unbearable, an absurd amount of hours per semester and almost guaranteed that these students do have an idea of what they want to do for a living.

But for yours truly, it took five and a half years.  And that was after spending the last 2 years as a diligent student who the lesser folk envied.

They’d all be like “Dude! How’d you make a 103??”

And I’d be like…. “Bonus.”

And they’d be like… “Gah…”

So a Bachelor of Science from Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville ALABAMA!

But it’s in mathematics…. Crap.  I really didn’t think that through.  And not in math education, mind you.  Straight math.

What I’m s’posed to do with that?  I can’t teach:  no education degree or certificate.  I can’t rack up loads of dollars as a titled mathematician:  no doctorate.  I can’t go back and get a masters degree:  well… I can, but I’m not going to because screw that.  You get your masters.

Which brings me to…

Lie 3:  There’s a job waiting for you!

Let me be clear; there are many recent graduates who DO think things through from a young age and REMAIN devoted to their early callings and ARE diligent throughout the process and DO receive job offers upon graduating.  I like to call those people punks.

I don’t know percentages so I won’t use them.  But 99% of people are normal.  And normal people don’t get those job offers.

So here I am, a broke, nay, a POOR college graduate with no job and a future wifey (five months after graduation, we’ll talk about that in a later segment).

Did I mention I had student loans?  Yea.  A lot.  Again, I will talk about how I managed my money in college later.  It’s very important.

But for now, loans.

Did you know the federal government regulates student loan interest?  Mmm… Well it does.  And they normally sit around 6%.  I know what you’re thinkin’.  Not too bad, right?

WRONG!

Student loan payments are set up (most of them) as a ten year pay off at roughly 6%.  Most of mine were 6.8%.  I had more than one…

I can’t remember an exact number, but my payoff amount was sitting just at $40,000.

FORTY THOUSAND DOLLARS!!!!

For a just graduated, almost married 23 year old!

Listen, this is no one’s fault but mine, and I need to make that clear, but it truly was a difficult time.  And I seriously did not believe it would ever be paid off.

Jump ahead a few months to my first job, a subject that I will discuss later (sorry, I know you’re really into my awesome, exciting life).

Not much income flowing in the household, even with my wife working.  We did without some conveniences for a bit, no cable or internet, no new cars, I had a flip phone for a while, and, most importantly, no saving money.

Our minimum monthly payment on my student loans (thankfully my wife had no debt) was $442 once our graciously gracious grace period of 6 months was over.

If you’re doing the math, that’s $53,000 over the course of ten years.  When I realized that I actually called the loan company to make sure it was right.  It was.  And I’m sure I sounded like an idiot to the ever so friendly customer service representative.

But the fact is I was indeed dumb, or ignorant I should say.  I was completely oblivious to the real world as I was all too often reminded of as a child.

The real world is dumb, but a 6% interest rate isn’t so good anymore, right?

There are many resources available that will tell you to pay off loans in chunks and to pay well over the minimum, but the authors of such resources don’t know what it means to be below the poverty line.

I do.  It sucks.  And so does debt.

How does “Do not conform” apply, you ask?  Paul meant it so that we would avoid following worldly patterns.  Money is very much a worldly treasure and the way the world wants you to use it is very much a secular pattern.

Our God is compassionate, and he wants you free from worldly patterns.  Unfortunately, most of us are not so rich that we can carry on in our day to day with no regard for finances.

But we can be good stewards of what we’ve been given.

I will attempt to teach you how.