Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Story Time With Jonathan

For some reason I'm thinking today about some poor life choices I've made.  You've heard me talk ad nauseum about being debt-free except for the house for almost five years now--but I could have been talking about that even longer--had I been smarter.

The story starts with my experience while in broadcast school.  I headed to the Twin Cities with five maxed out credit cards and a new car loan.  Despite working a full-time job and two part-time jobs I was still struggling to pay the bills and stay current on my debts.  Then I got in a crash that totaled the car--and the insurance settlement didn't pay off what I owed on it.  I was getting calls from creditors all day.  It was then that I decided that I would not let myself get so far into debt ever again.

So after getting my first job in radio, I set about to paying off all that debt--before my student loans started kicking in.  I drove a crappy car that I bought from a friend for $300.  You can imagine what that was like.  And when that one died on me, I bought my sisters old car for $900.  I gave up golfing--and a six handicapper turned into a guy who struggled to break 95.  I ate alot of 89-cent microwave meals and cold cereal and I didn't see many movies.

After a lot of sacrifice and hard work (and a job change) I finally paid off all those credit cards and other debts.  So how did I react?  Did I start paying more than the minimum on my student loans?  Did I start a rainy day fund or start saving for house?  Nope.  What I did was immediately return to the behaviors that got me into the original trouble.

I bought a Jeep Wrangler because I could now "afford the payments".  I put my wife's engagement ring, my share of the wedding costs and our $5000 honeymoon on credit cards and I made just the minimum payments on the student loans.  I guess I thought I "deserved" all of that stuff--since I had to "sacrifice" for so long.

But then my wife found out she would be losing her job--and suddenly I realized that the hole I had dug for us was even deeper than the one I was in back in broadcast school.  Man, did I regret returning to my old free-spending ways.  It's a good thing that week 60 Minutes did its story on Dave Ramsey--showing me the way to debt-free living.  And so began another round of sacrifice and repayment.

Today, I wonder what our lives would be like if I hadn't gone back to being Mr Money-Grows-On-Trees.  Would we have been able to buy a better house earlier?  Would a "delayed honeymoon" trip to Hawaii been even better--knowing no interest would be tacked onto all of those charges? 

It's unfortunate that I had to learn the hard way the price you pay for deciding to go right back to destructive bahavior after sacrificing to get out of a big hole.  Please learn from my experience--and keep in mind today that the long-term benefits area always worth the temporary pains.

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