Getting by is not enough
I dreamed of travel. I wanted to see the world. I saw great pictures in National Geographic and I wanted to go there. I saw photographs of the Seven Wonders of the World and I wanted to see them. I had a taste of travel St. John in the USVI in 2006. It was 2008 and I was $90,000 in debt. I was an IT Consultant in Silicon Valley and doing okay, but the debt was holding me back. I paid $1500 a month in child support and alimony. Nearly half my take home pay went towards it. I was getting by but that was not what I wanted.
That’s when my oh shit moment happened. I was sharing an apartment with my girlfriend in Mountain View California. She found work in Los Angeles. She was deep in debt too and could not turn down the job offer. My cheap $750 a month apartment was now $1500 a month. My utilities and cable bills doubled. I did not have enough money to cover my monthly needs and reduce my debt. It was time for a change. I needed to reduce my expenses. There was nothing cheaper I could rent even if I could afford to move. I felt trapped. I had a budget and I had a plan but progress was taking too long. I had to make a change.
Getting my debts down
I loved my 2004 Xterra, but the gas mileage sucked. I sold it and bought a 1992 Toyota Camry. I picked the Camry as it was the second-best rated car on Consumer Reports. The $8000 I made from the sale of my Xterra sale went straight to debt. I dropped my cable and the $140 a month payment. I piggy backed off my neighbor’s wireless until DSL was installed for $19 a month; it was slow but did everything I needed it to do. I changed to regular coffee in the morning, no more lattes. Many mornings I would just drink the coffee at work. I had a payment plan but it was not enough. I knew what I had to pay every two weeks but I wanted more progress. I stuffed my car full of stuff, went to the flea market and sold everything I could. In two weekends I pocketed over $2000. I didn’t miss anything I sold and it kickstarted my payment plan. I put every penny toward debts. I started with the smallest bill and paid it off. I picked the next bill and paid it off. The money I was paying toward the small bills rolled into the next bill. Each time I paid off a debt I used the money to go toward the next. All of my attention was on making money and paying bills.
Income is the key
What’s missing from many books and forums is the income section. Making money is the key. You need to increase your income. You need to work two jobs and get a better job. I did side work on weekends and after hours. This was the only money I could spend on myself. My entire paycheck went to bills. If you are making $15 an hour you need to change. You need to put in the time and learn a skill to get you out of the rut. I spent eight months reading and studying every night and every free moment I had. I didn’t date. I didn’t go to a bar and I didn’t watch TV, except with my kids twice a week. I earned my MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer) and that landed me my first real job in IT. Maybe IT isn’t your thing. There is a shortage of skilled labor and it’s only going to get worse. Welders, plumbers, electricians, mechanics are all in demand. It doesn’t matter what you do but a skill is needed to get you past the $15 an hour mark.
I worked on a career for seven years and it finally paid off. I landed a great job. My days of contracting, with the crazy ups and downs, came to an end. I wasn’t going to Travel anytime soon, but a steady job and good salary was exactly what I needed.
I listened to everyone I could. I read every article from Dave Ramsey and anyone else I could find. In four years, I was debt free. In five years, I had $50,000 in the bank.
Have a goal
Being ‘debt free’ is not the goal. I wanted to travel. Maybe you want a new car. I wanted to see the world. I traveled to Hawaii, Turkey and Greece, and Puerto Vallarta Mexico while I was still in debt. Each was paid for in full at the time of the trip. I paid off a trip to the Big Island in 2011 before I paid off a trip to Kauai in January of 2008.
Once the debts were gone, I started thinking bigger. I wanted 3 weeks or a month away. I went to Machu Picchu Peru and Mexico in 2013. A trip to Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia was next in 2014 after we went to Belize for a week. I set the goal to travel and made it happen. You can do it too. Being debt free is amazing. Traveling the world is like nothing else. My dreams were happening. My dreams are still happening and I have not had a single debt since February of 2013. I traveled for the entire year in 2016 and paid for it all with money I saved. I incurred no debt.
Get debt free and travel the world. Let me show you how to do it.