A Tale of the $20 Printer and Thoughts On Clown Cars

December 2013 I purchased a Canon Pixma MX922 printer from Amazon.com for $70. It served me well for the basic scanning and printing functions I threw at it. Never any issues with Drivers or the hardware not working properly. Wireless printing, easy configurability. I’ve owned several Canon products over the years with very few problemns. Last week was a different story…

My Canon All-In-One would not power on suddenly after printing something just minutes earlier. I missed a gym session due to all the time / angst involved in getting the device to work. A few of the items I tried.

1. Tried unplugging and plugging it into multiple outlets. No dice. Power cables almost never go bad so I crossed that off the list pretty quickly.

2. Attempted to do the “hard reset” which involved holding down the on button and pushing the stop button multiple times.

3. Power supply – I did a little research on the cost for one, it was $30 and pretty much a gamble. In an ideal scenario that’s all it is, a task involving unscrewing the defective one and replacing with the working module. However many folks have done this step and the device still wouldn’t work. Then I’d have to deal with the hassle of returning a PSU  back to a vendor, potentially incurring a restocking fee and paying shipping on my own.

4. Looked in Amazon at prices for a newer printer. Canon still makes the MX922 new, available for more than I payed as part of the Black Friday special. However it was $70-90, money I was not interested in spending. The MX 492 runs between $50 and $100 with average reviews. Average is fine, it’s not like I will be using this a bunch.

After weighing my options I decided to check out Facebook Marketplace. There was a lady selling the printer in Grapevine (about a 45 minute drive from where I am) for only $20. She said it was two months old and lightly used. Perfect! I make arrangements, grab money from the ATM on my lunchbreak, and head over there. Dealt with horrible traffic jams but I made it. She was nice, we exchanged money and I went on my way.

The printer works like a charm and you’d never know it was $20. I know No More Harvard Debt and Aaron Clarey both like to shop at Goodwill. I wonder if their experience is pretty similar. Maybe I wouldn’t find top name designer stuff, but something that looks nice for a fraction of what it’d cost new in a store and would look the same after the first wash? Not bad?

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My $20 used wireless printer. How Mustachian…

 

My next purchase may be a Digital SLR again. Back in the 2008-2011, I owned a Canon Digital Rebel XT with the kit lens. It literally took the best quality pictures I’ve ever seen in my life. Even 6 years later the best iPhone simply can’t compare. My father was also into photography growing up. He had some expensive high-end 35mm cameras on borrowed money, but it was fun to just go places and take some shots.

One topic I’ve been thinking a ton about is the relationship between money & happiness. There is a funny video about contentment (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lpVqXrvyBYM) and it’s totally true. Many of the things we buy don’t create true happiness. You just end up getting a spike of satisfaction getting something you have been craving. Sure there mey be exceptions to the rule, for folks who know the nuisances of the items they buy and have a genuine need for associated features.

The auto industry is notorious for these practices. They market these $40k+ cars with videos showing no other traffic, on freshly paved mountain roads, as the perfect accessory to your expensive $750k house, or high paying job…  You on the other hand have a reliable car that gets you from point A to point B, with little or no fanfare. Then you see a shiny new RWD Chevy Camaro or Ford Mustang on the TV, or for me an Infiniti Q50 Red Sport or Audi S5. These cars have either power, massive luxuty, a fabulous 10+ speaker studio on wheels, 400+ HP. Your materialistic friends will be in amazement when they see you go down the road in that shiny new machine and view you as highly successful.

The reality of the situation however is a bit different. With that high powered or luxury new car, come a few challenges.

1. Spending a lot mof on gas. Most of these cars aren’t great on gas. The Infiniti gets 20city/26hwy, the 2017 Camaro SS 17/27, Audi S5 18/28. Numbers have gotten a lot better, but if you drive 15000 miles a way you’re looking at $1800+ in gas. Close to $10k in 5 years.

2. More expensive maintenance. I love electronics but things tend to break more frequently than the tried and true mechanical systems that have been perfected over several decades. Plus all these sensors and computers are more likely to go bad.

3. Depreciation. The more you pay for a car the quicker it will depreciate. If a car is worth 50% of its value in 3 years your $50k car becomes worth $25k. The $30k car is worth 15k. A used car cheaper for $15k will lose a lot less value. Even if it’s $7500, that’s still a bunch of money in savings that can be used for debt, or investing.

4. Stress – I’m guilty of this too, you constantly are looking around for where to park to avoid door dings and spend extra trying to keep the car in tip top shape. Then if the car payment, living expenses and other payments are a high proportion to income, a situation emerges where one single repair becames a huge event. Can’t pay for it cash and have to put in on credit cards.

5. Less investment income. Most younger folks who buy these are not maxing out their retirement savings or doing and type of passive investing and some live paycheck to paycheck. They’re missing out on the power of compounding.

6.Sitting in traffic. MMM has written a few times about that how people sit around in these expensive sofas on wheels are just polluting the environment and the bank owns the car not them. What good is 400+ hp if Mon-Friday you are sitting in stop and go traffic most of the time. The luxury part I can kind of understand, if you are spending an hour or more each day.

At the end of the day though if you love a sporty or expensive car and can truly afford it, who cares… I’m paying mine off by 2019, possibly sooner.  I really have learned a lot from my millenial peers who are kicking butt and taking names. Also a lot from the ones who can’t stop buying fancy items that they don’t really need. Higher salaries, high expenses and extreme credit cards don’t equal winning. Savings rates dictate more if you’re going to win in the long term.

Last but not least, I am constantly reminded of the need to go out and have fun. Recent events of late really affirmed that. Feeling alone is a horrible feeling, luckily I get to see my friends later today. I have to constantly work at making new friends and cutting ties with the ones who are always down or make less than a half-hearted attempt to socialize.

One final thought is you can’t take the money with you after this life is over. Push hard for financial independence / early retirement but also don’t have major regrets along the way. The paradox of life is you don’t really know what you regret until life has already gone by. For that I’d say learn from old people. There is wisdom that comes with age.

Mid June Update – Back From Mexico!

Mid-June 2017 update

Yesterday I returned from Puerto Vallarta where I got the joy to experience the unity of two friends in marriage (yes one of my ex and I initially wasn’t going to attend). The trip was a balance between having as much fun as possible I’ll also being practical. I had fun but didn’t go overboard.

Specific to credit card debt my balance as of today is $8,055. I will have an additional charge of approximately $90 which includes food and alcohol for 3 nights at the resort. I paid some friends $100 in cash to watch my dog, a cheaper rate than leaving her with a dog watcher (~$150). There were some other meals involved at the airport / miscellaneous purchases that were ~$100. I saved $200 by doing DFW -> AUS -> DFW on Wednesday then DVR ->PVR.

I started reading a book called Bachelor Pad Economics by Aaron Clarey (assholeconsulting.com fame). It’s one of those books that really makes you take a step back and assess whether the decisions being me today are having a positive impact on your future. A common theme is to focus on having fewer things and more experiences of people. The concept of not being the richest man in the graveyard is a common theme.

Between my company and insurance I’m being charged a $25 dollars fee per paycheck again because I have not completed proper coaching pertaining to being overweight. Have one session remaining and would gladly have began earlier, but I’m at the mercy of the coach’s schedule and my own with work. Not a huge sum of cash but the principle itself is what bothers me….

A little over halfway through 2017 a time I reflect on the things that worked, didn’t work and what I’m doing to help me get closer to my goals. What prolific thoughts do I have????

  1. Death by 1000 cuts – little shit adds up fast. Like that $10 membership, or $15 glass of alcohol. Or fancy entree that costs twice as much as everything else on the menu. I write a god damn blog on this and sometimes I don’t look at my expenses as closely as I should.
  2. You can’t be a penny pincher with everything. There is a time and place. You can’t take things with you when you’re dead. So live a little. If you’re like me get the v6 instead of the slow 4 cylinder. Or a moderately fast / light road bike over the heavy cheap one you will regret riding every time. Or for special events like weddings, family you haven’t seen in a year, it’s okay to splurge a little bit.
  3. Insurance – Get it. Self employed are at a disadvantage because it costs way more. Without it you’re looking at medical bills for years, or bankruptcy instead of a 6 month inconvenience.
  4. Work within reason. I got my Bing certification along with Google AdWords / Analytics. I work hard while at work but I really try not carry it with me. I may hit up a library or Starbucks after work, but it’s always things that will help drive me further long term. Closer to 6 figures/year. Today without any debt I’d be doing amazing, with I’m still doing really well compared to many other millennials.
  5. I love vacations. Hope to do more while I’m young enjoy to enjoy them and have no physical mobility issues.  I also have 3 more weeks left of vacation for the year…. Why the heck not?? 😛
  6. Lighten the fuck up – Joan Rivers was right. Life is short, you should enjoy it. Some folks just want to be a victim, complain all the time and do nothing to change the situation. I used to be like them. Life isn’t perfect but focusing on the solution works tons better.

Here are some pics from my trip. I could write a lot more about the trip, but I know my audience… Be well. Live with passion. ❤

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No More Medical Debt – My Immediate 2017 Challenge

Just when I thought I could sit down to smell the roses after paying off the student loan debts, appendicitis struck. Though my stress levels would be higher if I had the car loan, student loan, *and* medical bills.

There will be more bills next month when I get the appendectomy. A rundown of the bills so far are below. I was going to put it into a spreadsheet but didn’t have the inspiration at 1AM on New Year’s Eve. Not all of these are from the ER  directly. Some are followups after the fact and other include lab work.

So for the first phase I’ll be paying about $4,500 according to estimates. Aflac may reimburse me $1,000 based on 2 days spent in the ER. Getting an itemized bill from the hospital that I’ll submit next week. Worth the $125 that I paid for it. Trying to be as aggressive as possible in getting this debt gone. Unlike the car that is 1.9% fixed, the credit card will jump to ~13% Truthfully though my credit card is at 0% until January 2018. Go Chase Slate card.

I paid over $13k in student loans during 2016. The total for medical debt should be around half that. Thank god I have insurance though. Even with deductibles to hit, I’m still getting a pretty huge discount. Not how I wanted to start the new year, but it’s a short-term reality.

Thanks for reading my blog. Have a Happy and Safe 2017.

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Hospital Emergency Room Bills after Insurance

Month 53: Why 1984 won’t be like 1984

It is now 1984. It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers, initially welcoming IBM with open arms, now fear an IBM-dominated and controlled future. They are increasingly and desperately turning back to Apple as the only force that can ensure their future freedom.

Oh wait… Not that 1984, but $1,984. As in my student loan balance. That’s about what my computer, a MacBook Pro cost when I purchased it in early 2014. This is a moment to celebrate. Why? For the first time ever my student loan is below $2,000. Progress my friends, it’s all about progress.

What about Retirement? $18,223 in my 401k and $362 in my Betterment Roth IRA. So $18,585 total. Credit cards? Credit card balance is around $1400. Each paycheck I make a $700-800 payment toward that with plans to increase once student loans are gone.

Now what about the car???  Current payoff is $29,169.81 at 1.9%. That’s down from $1997.39 from $31,167.20. I have another payment coming up in a week which will drop it below $29k.

Not being content with where I am today, I started to do a little bit of job searching. Interviewed with a local employment agency for a contract gig. The position sounded interesting and I think would be a step forward in my career. However I don’t think they would be able to match my benefits aside from medical and dental. 160 hours of vacation, essentially unlimited sick time, paid holidays, 5% retirement matching… As a contractor, you need to plan for all of those things.

It’s important to look at the big picture when making big moves like working for another company. Can’t afford to leave money on the table. I’ve been following a little bit of Alex Becker‘s work, read his book 10 Pillars of Wealth where he talks a lot about working for yourself and the benefits of a cash flow business. I also am in the middle of Scott Alan Turner‘s 99 Minute Millionaire ebook along with The Procrastinator’s Handbook – Mastering the Art of Doing It Now by Rita Emmett.

My last point and this is a big one. Don’t stop. Live is a marathon, not a sprint. Just because you had a setback or 5 doesn’t mean you let that break you and give up. From 2009-2011 I went a year without a regular FT job, not qualifying for unemployment and over $42k in student loan debt. I was down, depressed and unsure my future. Today I am on more solid footing. Not balling by any means but I’m way better off than those dark days.

Applying my own advice to different areas of my life, learning from experts to save time, minimize frustration and see results.Hope to share more with you on that soon.

Month 52 – Navient $2,479, Retirement – $17,912

Sorry if these updates are getting boring. I’m making progress still. Down to $2,479 from $15,402 just one year ago and $2,970 one month ago.

month52updateMy retirement is steadily growing. 401k is finally vested after 3 years and up to $17,654. My Betterment account is up to $258.

Other than that I did get a raise even though it was less than I was hoping for. Still need to keep looking for more jobs but not trying to get crazy stressed about that. Kind of question whether to put so much effort into a search when it’s not mandatory.

Speaking to the big elephant in the room. This blog… is called Debt Free 32 – One Man’s Mission to get rid of $45159.35 of debt. The 32 part is because I planned do to this by age of 32. Today is my birthday… I’m 33 now, not 32. A couple months short of my goal, but still making great progress since the start of this blog. Over $45k in payments. Under $2,500 left on the student loan. Worst case this sucker will be gone by December. Best case – October. Then I can celebrate and reflect.

Wrong Path?

This post I decided to dedicate to the topic of people in my life making poor financial decisions.

Situation 1

One of my friends recently moved from out of state to the DFW area. She has been looking for work for the past few months. Thanks to her connections, she will likely be getting a well paying job within the next few months. The couple took out a 401(k) loan that they plan to pay back over the next few months. Without the 401(k) money as a resource they would be on seriously shaky financial ground. Flash forward to today, they just moved into a luxury apartment for the rent is $1300 dollars per month (my apt is a comparable size, in a slightly less desirable location but still 5 minutes away and $773). Eventually they plan on purchasing a house, but today she doesn’t have a job and for all intents and purposes he doesn’t have a job.

A few years ago they owned a home in another state that went through a short sale because of the downturn in the real estate market. For as long as I’ve known them the husband has not had a full-time job to help support his wife, instead he chose to pursue his passion for theology which doesn’t really pay well and he earns nothing from. I think most people would have a come to Jesus moment where they would work a job that is not ideal but helps their family hit their financial goals. This has not been the case.

The wife is also providing financial assistance to her parents and brother. My guess is this has amounted to over $100k over the past decade. It’s very noble that she’s cares so much about her family, but I don’t think she is concerned enough about herself.

It’s not my place to cast judgment on my friends, but I wish I was able to impart wisdom on them. They haven’t realized it now but I think they’re setting themselves up for financial failure in the long run. looking at the power of compounding, the importance of having a sizable nest egg and not living beyond your means, They’re failing on multiple counts. On the bright side I think she will be back on target in the next 2-3 years. I have tried to help the husband with finding a job but haven’t been so successful at that. He doesn’t seem very motivated and I can’t force someone to be driven. Sure I believe in the power of faith but also that god allows us to help ourselves.

Situation 2

One of my other friends recently confided in me she has over $120,000 dollars in student loan debt. At what interest rates you might ask? Between 5-9%. Currently she is on the income-based repayment plan, commonly referred to as IBR. She quit her stressful corporate job and instead works as a babysitter. Although she’s well paid for what she does, she’s making minimum payments on her loans while interest accrues. Combined she and her husband grossed over $100k last year. Gross vs net though, two very different things.

Let’s look at a compounding. Starting out with a $120k balance and paying $300/mo. I don’t know exactly how much she pays but it’s probably less than that. I used this calculator so no idea how accurate the numbers really are.
Year 1 : $127,505
Year 2 : $135,713
Year 3 : $144,692
Year 4 : $154,512
Year 5 : $165,254
Year 6 : $177,004
Year 7 : $189,856
Year 8 : $203,914
Year 9 : $219,290
Year 10 : $236,109

Luckily in her case she is set to inherit 2 houses in the US and another in another country. Down to road she could sell those and be student free. Not everyone has this luxury and what does that leave her with? An underfunded retirement plan, no real estate and probably some hefty tax bills. She’s given up hope and is just paying what she can for now.

My father died with serious debt. Over $50k as I recall, mostly from medical expenses. I wasn’t blessed with a silver spoon in my mouth. I’m not perfect. I love my friends and family and wish the best for them. Seeing my father poor from the age of 2 up until I was 20 left a lasting impression on me. He didn’t have any much control over his situation, due to his renal failure. As long as I am able to I’m gonna fight damn hard to learn from all of this. To do otherwise would just be plain ignorant Life is more than money, but a few poor decisions can haunt us for a lifetime.

32 – Reflections on Life

So currently my blog is called Debt Free 32 – ONE MAN’S MISSION TO GET RID OF 45159.35 OF DEBT.
I may be renaming it in the near future. The style of this post is more raw from the heart vs my standard super logical approach. I’m turning 32 in less than 2 weeks.

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What thoughts are associated with 32?
Reflection for one. Relationships, loved ones lost at an early age. Completion of High School, each of my three college degrees, the incredible amount of progress I’ve made over the years with my personal fitness. Moving 1500 miles away to Dallas without a clue of fully knowing what to expect. Six months of applying to jobs  in a career where my passion was dead but just did because I that’s what I spent a half decade doing. Surely nothing wrong with that strategy right?+ Struggles with paying back a debilitating amount of Student Loan debt proportional to my income, five figures of interest accruing over the years. Interviews where I had a sinking feeling in my stomach that this job is going to be like torture. An MBA graduate at 24 there I was interviewing for a job paying $36k with no room for advancement and trying to sound jazzed about it. Almost getting a job paying over $50k a year only to have the HR people tell me they weren’t hiring for the next 3 months.

Then…. I reached a tipping point. NO LONGER would I let debt paralyze me. I’m intelligent,  maybe limited at times anxiety and overanalyzing situations where people are busy or don’t connect with me…. but…. Other people my age have been able to get out of debt. A long time watcher of the Suze Orman show since the early 2000s I saw their stories each week along with people who had a much deeper hole to get out of. I only had $47k of student loan debt. Some people have six figures and work as a barista at Starbucks. One guy on Suze’s show went to school to become a pilot. Things didn’t work out and he had $200k of debt making less than $20 per hour.

What advice would I give to myself? Move. GTFO Long Island. Too expensive to live, staying with your parents because you can’t afford to be on your own is not good for your emotional and mental health. Being in place where your neighbors stare at you 60% of the time going in and out of the house is crazy. Having shootings just a mile away from where you live and gas stations robbed at gunpoint is crazy. Seeing your folks pay $9k/yr in taxes on each of two houses each year is crazy. The amount of stress most people have and all the gang activity is crazy. DON’T be status quo. DON’T get stuck working that job you only took as a temporary measure. DON’T be the 30 year old guy who works at the video store and still lives with mom and dad because they never strived for anything else in life.

As far as things TO DO. DO invest in yourself both mind and body. DO make friends of the caliber you think will enhance your life not take away from it. DO invest at an EARLY AGE. DO be a contrarian and value investor, the media uses people as pawns in ways, when the stock market is tanking that’s the best time to invest (I would’ve doubled my money if I followed this advice). DO diversify and avoid expensive fees from financial advisors. DO listen to people smarter than you who have turned their lives around.

Last but not least…. 32 is still really young. I was chatting with someone on a dating app who is… Wait for it…. 57 years of age. Great guy, in awesome shape, established and very handsome. Just practically a guy who is probably going to retire in the next 5 years vs me having 30 left. If he was in his 40s sure but technically he is older than my mom and almost as old as my dad were he still living.

Ric Edelman has predicted many of us who are alive now will live to over 140 year due to advances in science and medicine. I don’t know about that but even if we shift closer to 100… Still a long time.
My main message to my readers / friends who read this is….

Embrace life. Don’t get stuck so much in thoughts that you forget to enjoy all the wonderful experiences out there. Many things are temporary in life including debt. Keep calm, smile, enjoy being single or with that special man or woman in your life. Be happy for who and what you are.

That’s all I got for now. Happy Sunday! 🙂