Bank app

I bank at 5/3 which is a familiar name in this part of the country. But it could be any bank, really. This is my checking account, and my short term savings for emergencies or vacations. The everyday income and outgoing money that runs the household. This app is my pivot point for short term money decisions. Checking this often throughout the day is really important. Being able to check what has come out at any time of day, or anywhere is critical. Saves me from making spending mistakes because I wasn’t aware. Everybody’s life is hectic and complicated. It’s so easy to ignore bills coming out. Random costs that come through as the days go by that weren’t planned for are the most dangerous. And having two parents pulling from that account makes it even messier. Easy to say yes to everything when you are unaware of your account balance. So I check this app often, especially before I make a purchase. At the very least I check it first thing in the morning, and end of day in the evening. That way, as parents and spouses, we can warn each other to tighten the reigns. So easy to just check. But makes a huge difference. The added benefit of my bank app is if any fraud did happen, I can see it immediately.




Friend of mine I work with mentioned this popular app back when it came out. I have been using it ever since. It is a significant part of my money success, especially becoming debt free, and mortgage free. It gets all kinds of criticism as much as praise. It’s not perfect. The account updates can be inconsistent, even sort of buggy once in awhile. The budgets are helpful, but sometimes they don’t sync well enough and can be late to reflect actual numbers. But I think the longer term benefits far outweigh these. It’s my dashboard for all my accounts. Being able to see if I am actually getting ahead is my favorite part. It will show all my assets and debts, along with a total net worth. That’s the golden ticket for me. Checking it and moving these numbers in a positive direction is the power it provides. It visualizes what your money is doing as a whole. What loans and debt do to destroy your financial picture. For me to calculate all these separate accounts by myself and tabulate them weekly, or even monthly would rarely happen. Mint gamifies it for me. I am constantly aware of keeping depreciating assets or debts away, and building my growing assets to increase my total score: net worth.



Health Insurance Provider app

My health insurance provider is United Health Care. They provide an app that has a way to see and track your deductibles, balances. We use a high deductible plan because we have so many chronic conditions in my family. This makes it expensive in the first part of the year. Out of pocket costs are high, but come down, or mostly go away once we meet the deductible amount. So being able to check progress is vital. Knowing you are only a few dollars away from meeting an amount makes a big difference than always wondering, and not knowing where the finish line is.



Other apps

This is the surprising part. It’s easy to think I use stock trading apps, retirement planners and all kinds of financial calculators in my app collection. Fact is, I rarely need or visit these subjects. I have an investment account, but I purchase mutual funds, and don’t buy individual stocks. I am never trying to beat the market in any short term sense. If I buy or sell anything, it’s pretty uneventful, and can really just do it on a laptop when I have free time. Same for retirement. It’s all being deposited automatically, and the funds the money is going towards is predetermined. I have no reason to check these types of accounts or do transactions in a way that I need the convenience of an app on my phone. Regarding all the loan calculators available out there, I really don’t deal with getting loans and the interest costs, so have no use for them. Pretty simple really.




Your car will be worth exactly LESS than the day you bought it.


This is the single factor that matters most when looking at automobiles, and their role in our financial lives. They never add to it, they only subtract. They are never assets because assets grow in value. These are consumables, like a refrigerator, or a pair of shoes. Sure, quality matters because you don’t want to turn around and have to replace or repair them more often than necessary. And it’s a fair call, within a very limited reason, to consider what you like and the style. But the idea that a car can add to your bottom line or be a financial move is completely wrong. Buy a new car, and it can lose up to 20% of it’s value when you sign the title. Where else can you devalue your money so quickly? It’s like magic. And cars are usually our second biggest expense second to housing. Uh oh.

Investing in expensive cars.

You’ve heard this before. Buy as much car as you can afford. High end luxury brands only cost more, and will drop in value just as fast as something costing less. Look at older european cars that sold for $70K and you will find them at used prices only a tenth of their original selling price. No brand is immune to this. If you spend more, you will lose a similar percentage, just on a bigger number. Another secret is that expensive brands are very very expensive to repair. Another mistake is to buy cars too loaded, with the most options, because it will help your resale. This will also get you in trouble, because they only add to the cost, and the ROI on that money practically disappears after purchase. Especially if it’s a “limited edition” option, or some new technology. Guess what, nobody will think that rare paint color or designer version is special later. Your car is not the next collectible. And new tech isn’t worth much either. If it isn’t standard, it will be in the next, or later years. An example: when airbags were a new item, people would pay thousands extra for them. Seemed like a really valuebale safety item, only available on the best cars, right? But, they quickly became standard equipment on every car.. And nobody would ever consider paying extra for an older car that had early, optional airbags in it. It’s just another used car with air bags. See?

There is no such thing as a new car.

That’s right. All those cars at the dealer lot are only new for the sales people. They sell new cars. You buy a used car. Think about it. If you tried to turn around and sell a car you just bought new off the lot, where would you list it? The used car classifieds. Not the new car classifieds. And when somebody is considering what price they should pay you, they refer to the Kelly Blue book value of USED CAR prices. You see, they are all used cars anyway, so skip paying more for something you think is new, and get right on to buying cars that are already used. In fact, the further you can get from the car’s manufactured date, the closer you can get to it’s actual value.

Buy at the bottom.

This is the point at which a car stops free falling and starts to level off a bit. I like to think of this point being somewhere between 5 to 15 years old. Approaching 20 years and more actually becomes a losing proposition because parts, and people willing to work on them start to diminish. Ten is really a sweet spot for many cars. You can almost buy them, put some miles on them and if you needed to, sell them again and you aren’t out very much money. Dependable cars that have been lightly driven and maintained are out there if you do some research and get to know the used car listings in your area. After a few weeks or months you will start to spot these. A ten year old car with 30K miles is a real bargain if it has been garaged and cared for. It’s only been lightly broken in and is functionally new for many miles. Most makes of cars are easily capable of 100K miles, and many are known to double this mileage.

All cars need repairs.

If it has a motor, it brakes and needs maintenance. New or old, every car needs oil changes. Tires wear just as quickly on new cars as old ones. Brake pads too. So knowing these things are unavoidable, the key is to have as little paid into this situation as necessary.

Don’t waste all your money in one place.

Just like any investment, or in this case, expense, what you spend in total on cars should be a proper percentage of you income. Like less than half. So, if you have a $50K income, the most car stuff you should ever own would be less than $25K all together. It’s no different than any other expenditure or investment. You need to look at it with proper amount of allocation.

So remember:

Your car is not an investment. It’s an expense. The more you can limit this expense, and still drive something you like, the better off you will be. Your money will be freed up to invest in things that are actually investments. Like savings, mutual funds, property. You know, things that become worth more money over time.


Celebrating UnMortgage Day


Celebrating UnMortgage Day

Perhaps you’ve heard of it? It comes every year, January 13. We started celebrating it in 2012. One of my most favorite occasions to note on the calendar. Although it is rarely given the attention it deserves. In my wife’s words, it’s “a national holiday in our family.” January 13 is when we celebrate, but really, people can celebrate it any time. In fact it’s the personalized part I like most. Each household can have their own special date all to themselves.


Okay, what am I talking about? January 13 is the date we paid off our mortgage in full. The day we painted the door red and burned the mortgage. Bought the farm without buying the farm. Kicked the bank out of the basement. The day we became full owners of our own private Idaho.


It’s not an interesting date by itself. Just one of those days early in the year that get ignored while we think about the future. All the good holidays are over for quite awhile, and we begin our struggle with dark days, cold weather and some of the first real snow falls that we know will be a months long haul until Spring. It’s not born out of a sacred tradition, but it is a date of deliverance that I will never forget. Like a graduation date, holy communion or marriage; you are different afterward and it really can’t be taken away from you. And I do cherish it almost as much.


It does come from a similar place. Sacrifice. Work. Self denial. Hope in the face of doubt. A new freedom... The sense of before and after as a life event is there too. Becoming a different person, never to be the same, but without any outward sign of it. It just becomes something you carry with you. I don’t look any different though. There’s no badge. No title change like people referring to a doctor. But it’s there, if only as a silent reality.


But why does the date mean anything? Oh, it is just a wonderful way to revisit, re-experience some of that tingly excitement. When I go back to that time, all I could think about was the goal. Tracking it. Chasing it. Running it down like one of those packs of dogs chasing the Iditarod finish line. Scheduling the money transfer, and walking into the bank was like an out of body experience. The unreal feeling of unmortgaging our reality. Buying your own freedom can get to you.


So, on this nondescript January day, I remind myself of where I used to be: A very normal situation. Modest suburban house. With an acceptable loan against it. Modest lifestyle. A very normal everyday experience.


Because we decided to chase after something completely exotic, and drive toward an impossible goal, we flipped it all upside down. Being almost 20 years away from retirement age without a mortgage defies conventional wisdom. It’s not a sensible thing to strive for. A crazy dream to own it outright and the emotions that went with it. Finally making the dream come true. Grasping the brass ring. Not believing we were finally holding it right in our hands.

I never want to forget that day. I never want to forget that feeling.


Savety First: The importance of order in personal finance


Savety First: The importance of order in personal finance

My first lesson in first things

When I was younger, in my teens and college years, I worked labor jobs. Being male and strong, these were the best paying jobs available. Auto plants, loading docks. It’s very physical. You’re moving and using that young strength the entire shift. Using machinery and loads that weigh hundreds or thousands of pounds. These jobs taught me a whole variety of things about what it means to work, and what it means to truly labor. They also taught me something you might not expect compared to serving tables at a restaurant: the power of forced habit. Walk into any work environment that uses heavy equipment, and you will immediately notice placards posted that say “safety first!” with a reminder of relevant procedures. It’s even baked into the language used. These are hard people, but they won’t hesitate to say something to you with a “hey! safety first!” pointing out a miss if they see something wrong. Hard hat. Steel toed shoes. Safety glasses. And every job or piece of equipment has a specific way it is to be used, usually with a safety procedure before and after. One forgetful moment can cause horrible life changing injuries to you, but also the people around you. The only way to ensure things don’t get forgotten is to make it a forced habit. Safety comes first, and everything else comes after. It is priority one. Every time. All the time. The entire blue collar work environment knows that this is the only way it works. The lesson is this: The order you do things dictates the probability of what ends up happening.

The order you do things in real life can steal your money

What does this have to do with personal finance? Well, what you do with your money first, second or fifteenth says a lot about where it ends up going. Most people prioritize paying bills first. Rent, car, electricity, phone bill. Things like that. Makes sense right? You miss those and life kind of comes to a halt real fast. And after that, food, gas, insurance and everything else that makes for a normal adult existence. Nothing extravagant. What’s left over you wholeheartedly intend to put into savings. Because saving money is important. So savings ends up being number 8 for some people. Or number 20. Is savings really an important thing in this list? Let me tell you from my experience working with manual laborers, and dangerous machinery—savings might as well be last because it isn’t going to happen.


When something gets put a dozen steps down on your priority list, they tend to happen almost never. Not because you didn’t try or care. You had big goals and heart-felt intentions. You want them to happen. It’s just that 10 things already happened, and the unexpected birthday party got added to that list, and well...that’s just what there was time and money for. Next month will be different.


But next month ends up the same just for different reasons. Saving and getting ahead on your goals is still mucho importante and you haven’t forgotten what it means to you. You’ve worked so hard. And the whole year passes and now you are looking at holiday time and there is just no way, so you are promising to yourself that come January, things will be different. It’s frustrating. You are embarrassed and angry at yourself that saving and getting ahead on things isn’t actually happening. Oh sure, work is going well, everything is getting paid, and life is really pretty good. But you know the saving part is a real miss and it is really hurting you financially and spiritually. You want saving money to be a habit in the worst way. But life keeps getting the better of you, and it just isn’t fair.


Habits need to BE forced

The only way to truly make something a habit is to make it non optional. Remember safety first? There are some parallels in your own life. You wouldn’t leave the house without getting dressed. I mean, even in a crazy I am so late and running out the door way, you still find time to put some pants on. You make it happen and everything else follows. Or when you jump in your car, first thing you do is buckle up that seat belt. If you didn’t treat these as non negotiable they wouldn’t happen either. Thankfully, most of us are wearing pants, so we can do this. Savings and financial goals are no different, and will only happen if they are treated the same way. You must force saving to come first.


The easiest way I know how to do this is to set up automatic withdrawal to a savings account or 401k directly from that check. Make it the FIRST THING. This way it isn’t up to you to protect that money and put it somewhere when you get the chance. I like this technique because you don’t even get to see it or touch it this way, and the amount is predetermined. Whatever works for you, the point is it needs to be moved to the very top on your list, right up there with putting on pants first. This turns the tables on the order of money events in your life. Now, everything else in your financial life happens after the saving part. If you got paid, you got savings.


But what about rent, mortgage, utilities? You might be thinking this sounds sort of foolish or even selfish to keep back money first, and then pay these after. Ah, but this is the beauty. Now, since savings is first, you view the rest of your life through a different lens. What you agree to pay for where you live and the car you drive and everything else must now fit in the amount left after you’ve deducted for your savings goals. When the order you pay for things comes after you already took your savings, the saving part never gets left out. Amazing. What you decide you can afford regarding everything else in your life is subject to this smaller amount. But it’s the only amount you let yourself see. The order you do it is key. It’s far easier to say no to things when the money just isn’t there in your checking account. You see, if savings is what’s left over, it’s very hard to say no to things, because obviously, you have the money. When savings is forced to come first, you run out of money quicker, making you say no, or limiting spending by artificially keeping your visible funds smaller than they actually are. And when something truly unexpected comes up that you need more than what fits in your budget like a car repair, guess what, you have money for that.


Do it first. Do it first. Do it first.

So to review. 1. The only habits that you can expect to keep are the ones that are forced and first. If it isn’t first, it might as well be last. The best intentions will not keep you safe. Or put your pants on. 2. Getting paid needs to equal getting saved. Bills and everything else must come after. The order determines what and how those things happen. If spending comes first, it will win every time. So remember this simple rule to stay out of financial danger and not get hurt: Savety first.




52 habits of my debt free life

  1. Where I shop for clothes: Marshall’s or TJMaxx.

  2. Rarely eat out. But when we do it is local and funky. rarely formal.

  3. Favorite online shopping site is Amazon

  4. Lifetime Mac user.

  5. Diet Pepsi

  6. Don’t own a suit. couple sport coats always get me by.

  7. Our refrigerator is 25 years old. Cheap GE bought with first house.

  8. Own 3 vehicles. 2000 Cherokee. 2005 Saturn. 2000 Dodge pickup. All have 100K+ miles on them.

  9. 4 year degree from a state college. art major.

  10. I’ve never flown first class.

  11. Grocery shopping at Aldi’s. Kroger is second. Whole Foods almost never.

  12. Married to the same person for 20 years.

  13. Children go to the same public school that my wife and I attended.

  14. user from way back when it launched. Love it. It’s my money dashboard.

  15. Washing machine is a standard top load Maytag.

  16. Millionaire Next Door was a pivotal book for me.

  17. I have a habit of keeping old clothes longer than I should.

  18. My DSLR camera is a 2007 Canon 5D.

  19. Nike+ user. In the Black level, so I have some miles running.

  20. Don’t own any vacation property. I use the rent-as-you-go plan like everybody else.

  21. I don’t clip coupons.

  22. Buy store brand grocery items majority of time.

  23. Don’t shop at Club stores like Sam’s or Costco. They just make you buy more of what you don’t need.

  24. Eye glasses come from a discount retailer. I also have a WalMart brand pair as well.

  25. In our family of four, we have 6 bicycles. One of them is worth more than one of our cars.

  26. I don’t wear a wrist watch.

  27. Not uncommon for me to do my own car maintenance or repairs.

  28. Physical fitness is a habit. Will spend on sports equipment, but not a regular gym member.

  29. I invest in mutual funds.

  30. I don’t buy individual stocks.

  31. Read a daily newspaper every day with breakfast.

  32. Coffee

  33. Lawn mower is a Sears Craftsman model that is 15 years old. Push, no assist.

  34. Don’t own an electric can opener.

  35. Maintain a bank account at the same bank from age of 14. Even though the bank name has changed multiple times since then.

  36. Never taken a finance class.

  37. I am an early to bed person.

  38. Watch very little television.

  39. Never inherited money from anybody. Always wonder who does? must be awesome.

  40. Check my bank account at the beginning and end of each day. Catch fraud and surprise spending that way.

  41. Shoes are an item I will spend full price for the best brands. They last years longer. And my feet are problem free.

  42. Just like many of you, still wish for nicer flooring and better counter tops in the house.

  43. Love to give money to panhandlers. I don’t even care what they do with it either.

  44. Chocolate is favorite flavor for most things.

  45. Glasses over contacts

  46. One of our cars is a manual shift.

  47. Dogs AND cats.

  48. Charcoal grill. Weber. So simple and works better than anything.

  49. Iced tea is the best thing on a hot summer day.

  50. Actually don’t use a written budget. I know, bad.

  51. Tap water.

  52. Buying flowers is money well spent.



All you need is less

If you haven’t noticed, less is trending hard in all sorts of things. Design. Engineering. Fashion. It’s that elegant restraint that makes things better by not doing any more than is necessary. Less shows an intelligent ability to make the right choices, nothing more. Less has the ability to make difficult things look easy. When it’s done right, you want to say to yourself, “of course! why didn’t I think of that.” It appears obvious afterward, but experts always know, the elegant solutions are the hardest to find. Usually because they are hiding in plain sight, out in the open.


But did you ever consider how “less” is important to your personal finances?


More gets you less.


Really? But isn’t more...more? Having more things, even if you can afford them, quietly drags on your finances. Even if everything you have is paid for without credit cards, the way it should be, stuff adds cost. More clothes, shoes and snowboards? More closet. More things that go like cars, motorcycles and jet skis? More garage to park them in. More flat screens, latte machines, furniture? More house. Plus, the need to insure it all and upgrade each item as it ages. There is cost on top of cost going on here. It really taps into you income.


This seems obvious. Living the good life has a cost, right?


But is it really all that good? I mean, have you ever found yourself wanting to have finally saved enough to buy that certain “thing,” for your home or hobby. Right color. Really nice, new model that will end all need again? I mean, it’s perfect. Even your friends say so. And then a year later it’s just another tired version of “whatever” that you are putting up with until you can get the better one? It’s a trick question. That’s pretty much most people. It never really ends.


Having more means having less wealth. Sounds counterintuitive. Let me explain. Things, especially luxury consumables that come from retail stores, auto dealerships and travel agents depreciate. More things...depreciate more of your money. It’s like investing in stocks that only go down. Here is an example of how to think about consumer products: What if I told you I had a great investment opportunity. All the rich people are buying it. I have a new version every year. The return on investment is -40% upon purchase. That’s right! A guaranteed negative rate of return. Yes, it may lose even more value, and may not be redeemable at all after a certain time. Sounds ridiculous, but that’s what you invest in when you buy retail goods. You are plowing your money into depreciating assets. This is how people with big incomes can manage to actually be poor.


If you have big paychecks, and it all goes into payments on cars, homes, and lifestyle items—you will look and feel like you are doing well financially. But you may actually have a lower net worth than somebody that works at the post office and owns less than you. Lifestyle and consumer goods put a constant drain on your monthly budget, robbing you of accumulating true wealth. Stuff that goes up in value. Like money. Which is what wealth actually is.


Money is invisible, until it is spent. But once it is spent, it’s gone.


Cash. Investments. Real estate. Things that have positive worth don’t reflect on lifestyle by themselves. You can’t see somebody’s holdings. Some guy wearing a tee shirt, driving an old Jeep can have just as big an investment account as a guy driving a Lambo in Los Angeles. Only he could have even more because his lifestyle is so much less.


This is how less becomes more. Money doesn’t care about your taste in things.


Best of all, needing less allows for more happiness. When your needs are small, your ability to be satisfied becomes so much easier. I live in a nice neighborhood. Clean, safe. One of the better school districts in the area. But not too nice. I have neighbors that work for the cable company, post office. Maybe half are office types. It’s a very modest area. More domestic cars than imports. Know what I mean? If I saw a Range Rover on our street I would think they were lost. Based on my income, I could live in a much different part of town. But living where I do, below my means, allows me to lower my material expectations. I wouldn’t make a lot of expensive purchases on things I don’t really need because it wouldn’t fit in to my surroundings. Like that lost Range Rover driving around, I would look a bit ridiculous. My level of lifestyle stays nice and easily obtained. A 15 year old Cherokee fits right in. In fact, most of my material needs are easily paid for in cash. My lifestyle affords me happiness by being so easily attained. Better yet, if I had a financial setback, took a lower paying job, it wouldn’t outwardly affect how I live. I wouldn’t lose my cars or my house. Very little would change. Living a bigger lifestyle in a more expensive area of town, that would not be the case. I would feel the need to spend up to it. And all of it would be much more at risk if something were to happen.


Raising children in this environment has benefits as well. There is a healthier level of expectation from them as well. Holidays are not out of control with expensive wish lists. The peer pressure around what’s cool is so much less. They don’t want high end designer things because they don’t know what most of them are. And they certainly don’t expect them, because they aren’t around it. Spring Break isn’t going to Cancun. My kids won’t be driving new BMWs to high school because they would never even expect it. If we lived in a better area, that might not be the case. In some areas, all these things are practically required just to socially fit in. Kids or adults. Kind of crazy if it wasn’t fact.


All this business about less. Less drain on my money, okay. Less bad materialism, alright. I get it. But what’s the plus side? Is there anything I get more of?


This may be the best part of less. When all you need is less, you have more freedom too. If you were to pick up and move, how long would it take you? If you have an expensive house with little equity, it could take you quite awhile to sell your house at a price you could accept. And how big of a moving van will you need? The more you have, the more you have to deal with. The more things you have, the more headaches you have. Things and lifestyle weigh you down, but they also weigh you down spiritually and emotionally. When you need less, you are freer to commit to your convictions. Live the way you feel is right. You worry less about other people’s approval. Needing less, you can be more available to your community. Your family. You don’t need to make painful choices because your bills demand it. You can take more chances professionally. Explore options that would be out of the question with a bigger lifestyle. You can be a more honest, braver, creative version of yourself. By answering to less, you can are free to be more of you.


All you need is less to get started


Are You Flying Above the Weather Financially?


Are You Flying Above the Weather Financially?

Aviation lends itself to metaphors. Taking flight. Perfect landings. Mach speed. It just has great stuff to work with. Who doesn’t want to compare to something so inspiring? You can race a Formula One car, but if you’re really good at it, “you’re flying.” And if it’s a tough race, you’re in a “dog fight.” Personal finances can put you in positions that deserve these phrases as well. My favorite is how planes fly above the weather.


If you have flown very often, you have experienced air turbulence. As powerful as commercial jets are, if they are flying at or below the cloud line, it’s surprising just how easily they can be tossed around by nothing but air. All those moving weather conditions create this chaos. The pilot will often come on the intercom and tell us passengers that once we get to altitude, or above the weather, we can expect a smooth flight. And you know what, it always amazes me how dramatic it is when the plane levels out and everything gets super still. You are looking down on the cloud line and everybody sits back in quiet confidence.


Money life, and our trip through it, works in a similar way. Taking off and getting started in life is hard. It takes a huge amount of energy and dumb courage.


Which is why God gives us youth.


But once we are up and going, we realize we can actually do this thing called taking care of ourselves. And then we get all impressed with ourselves. Take on a lifestyle. Get a great credit score. Borrow money on things we can’t afford. Find out that our jobs aren’t quite as easy as we thought. Making moves we really can’t handle.


All this stress about bills and money to fund them is turbulence.


When you are stressed with paying big bills every month, you are always desperate for another toy to bring some sense of short term happiness. A vacation to get away from everything. New car to show (fool?) yourself that you are a success. A vicious cycle. Even a really big paycheck can’t power you through all this and smooth your flight. When you owe banks every month, you are one paycheck away from disaster. And your brain knows it. Down deep you can’t escape this. You do and say things because you need to. You walk away from your ideals, and generosity takes a back seat because “...I got bills to pay.”


Sound familiar?


We can end up stuck at this altitude forever. Even accept it as normal. But why?

There is no car loan or vacation that will ever get you above these things.

The key is to ditch all the weight of owing, and keep only what we can actually own.


Gain altitude, and really fly.


At whatever income level you are at, there is an amount of lifestyle that you can comfortably afford without a second thought. I will tell you, it is quite a bit less than you think. And then a socially embarrassing bit lower than that. The idea is to dump stuff creating any drag on you. Holding onto a $25k car loan to avoid a $500 repair bill once in awhile on a cheap used car makes no sense in 3rd grade math, and it shouldn’t make sense to you either. Even the so-called good debt of a mortgage should be looked upon as suspect. A short term necessity you are in the process of severing from your life with great prejudice. If you can’t see yourself pouring into your housing and paying it off in less than 10 years, get out of it. If you can’t afford to own it, don’t keep it. Having and owing on doesn’t work. Radical lifestyle slash and burn. You need to look at your situation like an emergency. This mindset will get you to a place that is free from the bonds of credit and debt. No credit payments. No car payments. No mortgage. People will tell you this is all unnecessary. A mistake. Don’t listen to them. When some financial expert tells you these things, ask them what their net worth is. If they can’t answer about their own money, they aren’t fit to tell you how to deal with your money.


I am telling you this from personal experience: when debt has no hold on you, a quiet will occur in your soul. You are in rare air.


Things have just become simpler for you in a way you couldn’t have predicted. You look around and realize life isn’t so expensive after all. Food, electricity, water...all these things are actually not that big a deal when they are all by themselves. The marvels of modernity have provided the basics at a really good price. A normal paycheck now feels like way more than you even need. And come to think of it, spending it all doesn’t seem all that interesting after all. Building up large sums of money is now staring you in the face. All while your immediate need of it has disappeared. Very interesting.


Now you can breathe. And think clearly.


Enjoying nice things is fine, but you are loathe to risk your freedom to them anymore. Comparisons and opinions of people we don’t even like fall away. The way you get satisfaction from life can now be about things that aren’t materialistic. Money becomes a tool to serve you now. Kindness, generosity are luxuries on their own you realize. You no longer fight the clouds and weather of debt, so you have energy to pour into new things. When a plane gets altitude, the other benefit is that it requires less fuel to maintain speed. It’s literally going through thinner air. It has less drag on it.

Simplicity and contentment take hold of you. Your true motivations become apparent to you. Just like a plane above the clouds, you can see things at great expanse. Life doesn’t scare you at every turn. Serious illness and car accidents can still happen to you, but you can take them on with great focus and patience. You can now be the more honest version of yourself. Because you are free from most financial risk, you can be braver about your life and how you live it. You may become bolder and more creative in your professional life, because risk is taken out of the equation. Ideals and priorities take center stage and become the way you pilot your way forward. Happy flying my friends.


5 Reasons New Shoes are Better than a Gym Membership


5 Reasons New Shoes are Better than a Gym Membership

  1. Cost. I like this one because it’s almost not fair. The average monthly cost of a gym membership is much higher than almost any pair of shoes you would train in. Gym memberships vary quite a bit, so let’s just pick an average city, say St. Louis, MO. A gym membership will run you around $105.00. And you pay that over and over again throughout the year. You can buy some really fine trainers, with lots of style for that price. And if you buy them at a specialty store, they will usually analyze your feet and gait and match you up with a shoe specific to your needs. Shoes at this higher price also will take very good care of your feet to avoid injuries. So if you end up needing 2 pair a year, that’s $210.00 for shoes. Compared to $1,260.00 for the gym membership.

  2. The hours are better. I know, your gym might be open late, or even 24 hours. Fair point. But you know that there are many times you get there and it is packed to the point you really aren’t able to do anything more than wait in line for your favorite elliptical machine. Or avoid that guy that sweats too much. So you end up avoiding those times of day, and working out at times of the day that just aren’t convenient to you.

  3. Effectiveness. This is where a portion of you will just disagree. That portion being people that sell gym memberships. ;) Let’s start with this number: 67%. That’s the percentage of people with gym memberships that NEVER USE THEM. So, statistically, you aren’t likely to even go to the gym. Contrasted with the fact that most people wear shoes. Okay, I’m joking here. A little. But another thing to consider is just how effective walking or running are to overall health. Many studies about just these two activities and just how good for you being outside, spending time and covering distance can be. Personally, I’ve tried the gym routine when I was younger, and it wasn’t until I made jogging my workout machine that my weight went down and stayed down. The other thing I discovered was that i didn’t need machines to work out the rest of me. Old fashioned squats, push ups, sit ups and pull ups will do wonders.

  4. They go where you go. Gyms are really tough to pack in an overhead compartment on the plane. A pair of running shoes are so portable! It’s the gym you take anywhere. When I put my shoes on, I only need to walk out my door to get to my workout. Some gym memberships do tout that they have locations around the country. Okay, that works if it happens to be the hotel I happen to be staying in. Finding some place across town in an area you’re unfamiliar with is not my idea of convenient. When I pack my shoes, I just check with the hotel front desk, and they always have a number of routes to suggest based on the distance you are interested in. They get asked all the time. The other benefit when I go jogging in a different city, is the chance to sightsee. You get to know the place in a way you never would otherwise.

  5. It’s a habit. Just based on the fact so many people don’t even use a gym membership sets you up for failure. But those new pair of shoes have now become your new best friend. They are nicely worn in. You have developed a familiarity and spent literally miles together that make you look forward to lacing up and getting out there. Maybe you’ve even discovered that you’re capable of some new things along the way. Ran your first 5K or triathlon. Or just fit in your clothes better. There are quite a few people that claim they do their best thinking of the day on their daily jog. So who knows? A pair of shoes can create the kinds of habits that you are really looking for when you consider how best to spend your hard won time and money on fitness this year.


Are you convinced? Some good money reasons here, but also some good-for-you reasons. And above all, when you compare a simple pair of shoes to a gym membership, the shoe choice allows you to OWN your equipment and workout routine. That’s better for you financially as well. Pay for them and you’re done. Use them as much as you want. When you sign up for a membership, you are signing away your future money. Working out is hard enough without piling on debt and regret and shame. Don’t OWE your workout. OWN it.





Are You Stuffocating?


There is this picture that news sites use all the time. The home that is completely cluttered with kid toys and late night TV products stacked high with laundry on top of it all somewhere. Kids are out of control. And some glimpse of a parent at a complete loss. It’s always different people, but it’s the same picture. It must be the easiest picture to go out and take. People at home, with so much crap they don’t know what to do.


For all the chaos in this situation, there is a stifling paralysis. I mean, would you have friends over with a house like that? What if they were offered a dream trip around the world or the chance to move to an inspiring place for a year. They probably couldn’t because they wouldn’t know what to do with all their stuff. Not being able to do truly meaningful things because their stuff has them stuck.




That compulsive need to desperately get more stuff, when we haven’t even become adjusted to the last dump load of stuff in a long line of stuff. And no place to put the stuff. And trying to pay or credit card jive for each round of stuff gets stuffed on a long list of other stuff we keep meaning to get to when we get time to it. Stuffity-stuff-stuff-puff-and-stuffins.


Stuffed numb and dumb.

Stuffed full of junk food plastic nonsense.

Stuffed full of guilt and shame.


Then we make excuses for our misbehavior. Kids make us do it. (really?) We worked hard so we deserve it. It’s those advertisers. Blame them. Yea, it was China, because they make it all. It’s the American way. (I bet Lincoln’s log cabin?) It was on sale. We actually saved money! What a pile of...


For all the promise of having stuff, not much happiness comes from it. Stuff just can’t fill the hole it promises to fill. I mean, getting a package in the mail, or unwrapping a present can be fun. But it’s just for a moment. And stuffing ourselves with all these mini moments keeps us from breathing in and living with any true contentment. We know this. When we are honest with ourselves.


As people, we were never meant to serve stuff. To get more stuff to be happy. Most decent religions recognize this. Having fewer things, and only the things we need to make the most of life, allows us freedom. That way, our stuff serves us. And only in ways that have nothing to do with stuff.


I have a few things that I have saved over my life. That I hold dear. But they aren’t worth much of anything in dollars. They mean so much because they remind me of people in my life. Or moments that were pivotal, that I like to remember.


Don’t blind your vision of the life around you with so much stuff. None of it will be of any value to you once next year’s fashion comes around anyway. Being available to life’s possibilities is so much more meaningful.


It’s all we are ever left with any way.


Burn the Mortgage Anniversary


Burn the Mortgage Anniversary

This month is our anniversary, but not in the expected sense. We celebrate our wedding anniversary, birthdays, holidays, like most people do. But we have an additional anniversary we celebrate: our mortgage pay off. The day we burned the mortgage. That’s right. Burn baby, burn. It ranks right up there in life moments. Everest. Swimming the channel. Mortgage ignition. And it is definitely an accomplishment as a couple. You both need to be firing on all cylinders. Communicating. Supporting each other. So why not? I love the idea of celebrating it again and again. Isn’t it worthy? I think, for sure.


When I say celebrate, it’s not that we throw a party. Actually, the days of openly celebrating a mortgage burning belong to the days of yore. When people borrowed money only to pay it all back. Not to keep it around indefinitely. Sad really. I would love to share our excitement the same way we do other notable family dates, but it is so rare these days, that it would be rude. Or come off as bragging. The very idea seems bizarre to most people. It’s not even considered to be something to work toward, because it’s seen as impossible (not true!), or a poor use your money (as if paying interest is).


When this time of year rolls around, I can’t help but reminisce on that day. I really cherish being able to revisit that feeling of anticipation. Like walking on air. Like we had just gotten away with something. Almost afraid at what we had just done. Like stepping out onto the moon or something.


I hadn’t planned on paying the balance off in January on purpose. It just happened that way. But afterwards, I wouldn’t have done it any other way. The fact that we did it at the beginning of the year fits right in with every new year’s reflection that comes after. It’s a great reminder that we can do anything if we really put our minds to it, and work together as a team. That seemingly impossible tasks can be conquered one step at a time. When I look forward at what kind of new goals I should be considering for the year ahead, it’s a reminder that I should aim high. A shot in the arm that says, hey! you can do what people say you can’t! Look at what you did! It’s an undeniable fact. Looking back at something like that is a great way to look forward. I feel like every year deserves reflecting on this untethering moment. Letting it drive toward new goals. Inspiring new growth. Here’s to keeping the home fires burning.