An Ode to Debt

skunk cuddle

[Sup y’all! Please enjoy this fun little ditty by resident blogger Lance who likes to stop by any time he thinks we need a quick kick in the ass ;) You might remember him from our Financial Confessional Series or perhaps his beautiful classifieds around Valentine’s Day. He’s got no shortage of opinions!]

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Ever have a friend or co-worker that emotionally drains you every single time they’re around? The second they come through that door you just cringe and pray they don’t come sit by you and start a conversation? Yet for some reason we continually put up with it?

That is debt.

Instead of cringing at the sight, the world has taught us that debt doesn’t really hurt us and that we should in fact embrace it like a kind friend who is helping us get what we deserve. Then later when the bill comes, that same kind friend surprise attacks you right in your financial back with a dull rusty knife.

What Debt Should Truly Look and Feel Like

Have you ever hit a skunk while driving on the road? I never have, but I’ve seen a few dead ones and I’ve smelled even more heading down the highway.

Debt is like hitting one of those skunks on the road, stopping your car, picking it up and licking it to see if it’s still alive, then putting it on your lap and taking it to work with you and then back home where you place it on your pillow and spoon with it all night long.

Debt is a stink that doesn’t go away, yet we’re so willing to incorporate it in to every aspect of our lives!

How can something that seems so normal… be so wrong?

How can something feel so good up front… then penalize us so harshly in the end?

Here’s a poem for you. Print it out and put it in to your wallet to remind you just how two-faced debt is:

“An Ode to Debt – How It Loves You and Hates You”

Debt is a neighbor that borrows your tools and never gives them back.

Debt is a soft comfortable blanket that makes you feel so good, only to discover when you get up you are covered in cat hair.

Debt is a friend that visits every day and consistently kicks you in the crotch as you just lay there smiling on the ground saying, “that’s okay, see you tomorrow.”

Debt invites you to go out to dinner on their dime but forgets their wallet.

Debt is your other neighbor who asks for help to move, and then when you show up has nothing packed or ready to go and expects you to do most of the work for them.

Debt is your boss that tells you you’re in line for a huge promotion and raise that you excitedly tell to your family about, only to see your boss leave the company the next week and the new boss give you the pink slip.

Debt is your sister-in-law who borrows your Redbox and says she’ll take it back before 9 pm and then doesn’t return it for 31 days.

Debt is your buddy who asks to drive your new car and then jumps the curb.

Debt is your fiancee who leaves you standing at the alter.

Debt is your child who decides to use your bathroom to take a dump right before you planned to take a nice long bath.

Debt is your air conditioner that breaks down on the first 100 degree day of the year.

Debt’s brother is the air conditioner repairman who says it’s going to cost way more than he originally quoted you, then tacks on five extra days while he “waits for the parts to arrive.”

Debt sleeps with your spouse, and on the way out of your house asks if you want to play golf the next day.

Tell me again, why do we love debt so much?

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Lance is a former blogger who loves talking about money, but hates running a blog. We’ve given him a spot here anytime he has something juicy to say ;) You can find him on Twitter @Lance_Finance.

Other Posts from Lance:

My Accidental Side Hustle: Making Frozen Meals!

frozen meal hustle

[Got another one for our Side Hustle Series today! This one comes to you from Dan and his wife of PenniesAndDollars.com who stumbled across a great opportunity by putting themselves out there and really just being *nice*. Two magical ingredients that can take you pretty far in life :) Hope this inspires other food lovers and cooks out there!]

My wife and I make 5 frozen meals a week for $100.

We never set out to make this a side hustle. A friend of ours recently had a baby, so we made her a (free) frozen meal to help her out in the first couple days, and it turned out she really liked our cooking!

My wife was originally looking to do some baking on the side for money, but when she reached out to friends and family it didn’t seem like any of them were really that interested. However, the friend that had previously liked our frozen meal said right away that she’d be willing to buy more meals from us! Both her and her husband work full time and have 3 kids, and they just don’t have the time or energy to make dinners themselves.

My wife and I are such cheapskates that it just blows our minds that someone would be willing to pay to have meals made for us!

But after asking our friend several times if she was serious about the service, and receiving an absolute affirmative each time, we settled on $20 a meal.

How It Works

Each week, we offer 5 meal options. Almost every week, she’s chosen all 5 options. A few times one won’t sound good, so she’ll ask us to make a double batch of a different one instead.

We have all the meals ready by Sunday, and then she swings by and picks them up, or we drop them off at her place depending on what’s more convenient at the time.

This hustle really works out well for everyone. Our friend gets a home cooked meal every day of the (work) week, and we make some side money in the process. We also make the meals big enough for her family so that there’s always leftovers for lunch the next day, although apparently her husband likes to do a second supper at midnight :)

Our schedules are all over the place, but since we give ourselves a whole week to make the meals, we can whip one up whenever our schedule allows. And whenever we make her a meal, we usually just make a double batch so we that we have one for ourselves too with little additional effort!

The Types of Meals We Offer

We try and keep a good variety of meal options coming for her, which has actually been a good exercise in broadening our own cooking and eating horizons too! We’ve gotten out of the pasta and casserole rut now, and are currently trying out Chinese cooking (or Chinese ‘inspired’ cooking) for the first time with some sweet and sour chicken balls and orange chicken. I’m looking forward to giving chimichangas a shot next! The recipe looks easy, but we’ll see.

We’ve also asked her to give us a 1-5 rating each week so we know what to offer again. Maybe she’s being a little too kind with her reviews, but 26 of the meals so far have come back as a ‘5’, four came back as a ‘4’, two as a ‘3’, and two as a ‘1.’ Since so many of the meals come back as 5, we don’t re-offer anything less than a 5 now.

Keeping Everything Easy Prep

frozen meal prep

Before our friend started buying meals from us, she had gone through a company that offered a similar service. Her biggest complaint with them was that they still had her doing some of the prep at home.

From a culinary standpoint, I definitely understand why they had her do this. Some parts of meal prep almost have to be done right before it’s time to eat. But I also understand why she didn’t like this. If she’s paying $20 for a meal, it’s completely reasonable for her to expect 100% pre-prep, and no dishes!

With this in mind, we have turned every meal into a casserole or something that can be reheated in a casserole dish. This way we can package it in a disposable aluminum 9×13, and all she needs to do is throw it in the oven and thaw it out. Once she’s done, the 9×13 can go into the trash. The only exception is the soups, where we’ve frozen them in the bag and she does need to get one of her pots dirty.

How Much We Make

While we bring home $100 a week for these meals (5 x $20), of course it’s not pure profit as we have the expenses of the food. Our goal is to at least make $10/hr of profit though, so we try to stick with meals that cost less than $10 to make in under one hour or less.

We’re paying Midwest food prices and not New York food prices though, so sticking to the $10 food cost is fairly easy. We did make some chicken spinach artichoke lasagne the other day that did cost $15 with all cheese and special ingredients (and took over an hour), but that was averaged out by the Mexican soup that cost $6 (beans are a cheap filler) and barely any time at all. Each meal also costs an additional 50 cents for the disposable casserole pan. Leave a comment if you know where to get them cheaper – .50 a shot adds up!

(Editor’s note: I wonder if you could just invest in some nice solid containers that you can just have her return each week to not only save $$$ in the long run, but also the environment? I feel like that wouldn’t be too much trouble for anyone? Maybe give her a box to throw them all into too that’s completely sealable so she doesn’t have to smell or clean anything, haha…)

Also, some of the prep time doesn’t require our full attention. While we’re boiling pasta, for example, we can take 5 minutes to do a few dishes or start work on another meal. Furthermore, since we usually end up with a meal for ourselves as well, it is often time we’d spend on meal prep anyway. And if our hourly pay is low some weeks, the flexibility of the gig still makes it well worth it in the end.

All told, we typically spend $40-$50 of the $100 on buying her share of the groceries. We started this gig at the beginning of this year, and so far have just put all the profit back towards our own groceries allowing us to not have to tap our own grocery budget at all. We have been drawing down our pantry a little though, so we’ll see what happens there.

Is It Scalable?

We’ve discussed growing this side hustle by advertising for more customers, but for now we’ve decided to just stick with our one friendly customer. Scaling it into a ‘proper’ business requires pursuing licensing and needing a separate kitchen along with all other kinds of costs and requirements, and that’s not something we’re interested in at the moment.

Can Anyone Do This?

If you have some spare time anywhere in the week and know how to cook, you can probably do this gig too. You do need enough freezer space to store 5 casseroles though, and as an FYI you can’t stack them (or anything else on top of them) as you’ll then tear the aluminum cover.

When you’re just starting out, you’ll probably want to find customers among people you already know who won’t care that your kitchen isn’t licensed and inspected, though obviously you still need to use common sense and keep everything clean and all the food safe. Your friends might also be more open and tolerant as you figure out what works and what doesn’t when starting out. On the other hand, a stranger might be more honest in rating your meals. And if your meals don’t actually taste that good, you’ll avoid pissing off a friend by selling them subpar meals at $20 a piece!

For us, finding a customer just took a single Facebook post. It may be that easy for you, or you may need to turn to Craigslist or classifieds. Just keep your ears open, and next time you hear someone complaining about meal prep, jump in and make them an offer!

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Dan Palmer aims to take a wholistic approach to personal finance by blogging about everything from the underlying ‘why’ of personal finance, the every-day nitty-gritty hacks of frugal living, and the ‘how’ of investing and growing your wealth. You can find him at penniesanddollars.com.

Editor’s Note: For all those who do like cooking for themselves, a friend of mine recently launched a meal plan service that helps with planning cheap meals if anyone’s interested… It’s called “$5.00 Meal Plan” and they’ll email you a weekly meal plan that contains ten recipes to make each week. The plans are easy to prepare, don’t use exotic ingredients, and will cost you less than $5 a meal if you plan and use coupons. More info can be found here: 5DollarMealPlan.com.

***Enjoy reading about side hustles?*** Check out the 68 others we’ve featured over the years! :)

Financial Confessional: “We Used to Blow Our Money on Motorcycles & Airplanes”

plane in the field with mountains in background

[Welcome to another Financial Confessional! This time Amnesty stops by from Primal-Prosperity.com to share how drastically different her old life of buying toys compares to her recently found freedom. While I doubt all of us have bought planes or home music studios, I’m pretty sure we can all relate at some level ;) A good thing to think about as we head into the weekend!]

To the outside world it appeared we had everything.  My ex-husband and I were were bringing home a combined $200k (mostly that he made) and boy did we have our toys…

  • his and hers motorcycles (plus a third for off-roading)
  • airplanes (yes, real ones and yes, plural!)
  • a room full of musical equipment (so that I could have my “garage” band)
  • and more cars than drivers – including buying and selling a car almost every single year

We were having a lot of fun, but spending almost everything we made. We had no extra savings or an “oh $hit” fund, and it was starting to take a toll on our relationship.

It hadn’t always been that way though.

I was raised to be very financially responsible and started maxing out my IRA and employer matched 401(k) since my first corporate paycheck out of engineering school. I always had a couple of thousand dollars in my checking account. My now ex-husband on the other hand, who was 31 when we met (I was 25), had never participated in a retirement fund. He told me once that he didn’t want to save too much of his money, “because he wanted to enjoy it.” It took awhile, but I finally got him signed up for his employer 401(k).

Even though we continued to put money away for retirement, we barely saved anything else. Work was inconsistent for me in the area where we lived, so I no longer had the option of a 401(k). I even switched from contributing to a Roth IRA to a traditional IRA just so that I could get some of the tax money back to have on hand. One year I didn’t even have any funds to put into an IRA at all.

At first I tried to be the reasonable one and suggest that we don’t buy every last toy. But, well, you know how that goes over in a marriage when you’re not financially compatible. And since I wasn’t the main bread winner and couldn’t control how anyone wants to spend their money, I decided to get in on the action and surrender and just have fun.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right? :)

Here’s where all our money went…

Let’s start with the airplanes.

small plane mountains

Our first plane was actually pretty reasonable. It was a Cessna 150 that was selling for only $10,000. We went half in with another couple that ran an airplane maintenance shop which was an added benefit. It was the perfect little trainer for me to take lessons and solo around in. However, it seemed to always have maintenance needs so we never really took it too far and especially overnight. And being a 2-seater, we couldn’t take up other people with us either.

I know… first world problems.

So we got out of our half of the C150 and then bought a Stinson with another partner. It was a 4-seater, we affectionately called “the station wagon”. This was more in the $30,000 range, but still not too bad as we had a partner.

As an aside, I want to mention that many people are surprised to find out that a small, older airplane can be bought for the price of a car. But I remind them that it is the maintenance and upkeep that will always be the worst part from both a time and financial perspective. Hanger/tie-down fees, insurance and maintenance can easily add up to $500 or more per month, for just a small airplane. And that doesn’t even include gas!

As the saying goes… “If it flies, floats or f*cks, it’s cheaper to rent!” Although, you can ignore the last ‘F’ with the right partner and financial compatibility :)

After awhile, we just really didn’t want partners anymore, so we sold this airplane and then went back to a two seater and got a Cessna 140, by ourselves. This plane was in great condition, and with no partners, we were actually able to use it to fly on multi-day trips.

This cost us in the upper $30,000 range, so we did what any good little consumer would do – we took the money from our HELOC! We had bought our house during the boom years where housing prices doubled in a very short amount of time so we had some good equity. And, really, what good is the money just sitting there if we can’t access it?

(As all you readers know, that is not the way to use HELOC money.)

Onto the motorcycles

bright red motorcycle

While my husband had always rode motorcycles, I got tired of being on the back of one. So, I bought my neighbor’s Enduro bike for cheap, at less than $2,000. It was a blast to ride, but it really didn’t go much over 45 mph, so I couldn’t use it to commute to work because I took roads that were 55 mph posted.

So, we kept that for off-roading, and then I bought a used Kawasaki Ninja 250 for a little less than $3,000. Still fairly affordable, and I LOVED that bike. I’m 5’2”, so it felt very comfortable. Even my bigger guy friends loved taking it out because it was so much fun to ride.

But then, my ego got to me and I wanted to move up into the big boy bikes. My husband had just made a recent upgrade, so I felt it was only fair for me to upgrade too. I started looking around and fell in love with a Honda 599 that was a flat black finish. While it was technically a sport bike, it sat more upright and was a ‘naked’ bike, so the Harley crowd didn’t turn their nose up at me… too much.

Out the door, it was $8,000. We were making good money though, so why not treat myself? I had been able to sell the 250 for almost the same price I bought it at, so that was something! And of course, since I went from a red bike to a black bike, I had to get all new gear to match. That was easily an extra $1,000 spent without batting an eye.

But as cute as I must have looked on that bike, with my matching gear and all, the thing was a monster for me. I knew it didn’t quite fit before I bought it, but I was told that I could have the seat cushion shaved down and re-upholstered and have the bike lowered – just to get to the point where I could barely put both toes on the ground at the same time. Sure, just about another extra grand… why not, sold!

Even after the modifications my body size to bike size still made me feel like I didn’t have quite enough control. I missed my little 250 terribly, and I didn’t ride the new 599 nearly as much as my old 250. When I finally did sell the 599, only several months later, I was able to get about $5,000 or so for it, and I was stuck with the $1k in gear since there aren’t many 5’2” female riders where I lived.

That was an expensive lesson. Did I mention that I never actually test rode the bike before I bought it either? I didn’t want to until it got lowered – another dumb lesson learned.

The music room

I love all kinds of music and have played multiple instruments throughout my life. So while we were buying airplanes and motorcycles, why not go for music equipment too? That was just a drop in the bucket as far as costs go.

So I went all in and bought drums (both an electric set and an acoustic set), then a weighted full size keyboard, guitar, amplifiers, bass, you see where this is going…

I wanted my music room so that I could play with my “band,”and the costs certainly added up. Probably to the tune (pun intended) of more than a couple thousand dollars. We never did make it as a real band, but a friend did let me play with his onstage occasionally. and at least my neighbors loved listening to us… Until one of them had a baby, haha.

Other splurges

In addition to all the toys we bought, we also went on a few spending sprees… Top of the line appliances, even though most of the current ones worked just fine, $2,000 for a dining room table, even though we hardly even entertained that much, it was crazy. Though I’ll take the sole blame for these decisions.

We also each had a car, but we still bought extra ones that cost a few grand, just for fun, even though they spent a lot of time in the mechanic’s shop. And, I insisted on expensive vacations. Let’s not forget the thousands of dollars I spent on flight training for both powered airplanes and gliders over the years too!

At one point, I even got an extra apartment to rent so that I didn’t have to commute to a new job I took. I hated long commutes, so I got a tiny studio so that I can live closer while my ex was traveling a lot for work. Only it never really felt like home, so I rarely spent any time there and would just drive back to my real home every day instead.

More money wasted thinking it would bring me happiness.

My husband still wanted and dreamed of more

All the purchases above were things we actually bought. But my husband still wanted more and more, while I was starting to want less and less as time went on.

He wanted a boat.

When I asked why he wanted one so much, he said because all his friends had one. In fact, that is the BEST reason to NOT get a boat! Why? Because people with boats love to have guests go out with them!! We always brought food and drinks for everyone, paid for gas, etc….

But, my husband still felt like a free-loader and insisted that we should have our own. We both loved to sail and we rented boats often, but that was still not enough. He wanted to ‘own’ one. Boats are a blast, but the thought of cleaning, maintaining, trailering, etc was just too much. Remember the rule of the three ‘F’s?

Luckily we never did get the boat.

I left the relationship and started fresh

When I finally ended the relationship, at 32, I needed to purge. I wanted to start fresh, so I packed up my paid off car with only what would fit in it and left everything to him.

Yes, everything.

We had an easy split of finances. We both kept our own retirement funds, I took my car and he took all the loan payments including the HELOC and all the toys. All I asked for was half the equity in the house, which he paid me over time.

I walked away from this situation fairly unscathed financially, but it was the luck of the real estate market that saved me in the end; not my own choices.

I was still far behind the curve ball when it came to saving and investing too. Even when I was on my own and making a great salary, I still had the habit of buying more than I really needed, and saving less than I was capable of accomplishing.

Sometimes habits take a while to break.

But I did gain some pretty valuable lessons, and over the next few years, in my 30’s, I started to become much more financially savvy. Through simple living, a high savings rate and real estate investing, I was able to achieve “financial flexibility” in just a few short years.

Now I live in a 320SF condotel with my current husband and I don’t even own a car. We have several rental properties with 4 owned outright, including the unit we live in. Life is good. I still continue to have first world problems, but like most people, we just need to change our mindset and realize how very fortunate many of us really are.

I’ve since learned that non-essential stuff actually makes me less happy. I don’t want to own things anymore that weigh me down and keep me trapped and location dependent, and I really don’t want to be stuck in the corporate world seeking a steady paycheck. I no longer want emotional attachment to “stuff.”

As the commercial says “if you’re going to own something, own the experience.” No maintenance costs on that!

Do I regret any of this?

in glider plane

Not. One. Bit.

Would I have been financially independent by now had I just saved more money and focused on a steady income? Absolutely. But while I’d never recommend that people spend with reckless abandon, I believe in living a life with no regrets. And I can’t deny that I had a blast!

I learned to be assertive, take risks, face my fears and get out of my comfort zone. These are things that money can’t buy.

One thing I will never forget is that my second glider solo flight was on September 10th, 2001. I was on a high that day, and then at a very low the next morning. It is an important lesson to remember how quickly things can change in life.

Now at 43, these are the things that I really don’t have a desire to spend a lot of time and money on. So I’m glad I got it out of my system when I did.

I also met some really amazing people, and surprisingly, I got a lot of “free” experiences out of this lifestyle too. When you hang around a small airport, you get to know people. So I got to get free rides in all sorts of cool airplanes including private jets, open cock-pit bi-planes, experimental aircraft, trikes, and on…

I got some free flight instruction, and I got to experience maneuvering (and crashing!) a hang glider that was winch-towed. I even posed as a ‘runway model’ – quite literally – for an informational poster!

runway modeling literally

[I had my bathing suit on underneath!]

All said, however, I’ve also learned that a life with minimal stuff and low spending can also be very adventurous. While I still enjoy adventures, I find that getting outside of my intellectual and emotional comfort zones can be just as fulfilling and exhilarating as physical ones.

Now I strive to seek a life of freedom, and not just financial freedom. I want freedom from location dependence; freedom from defining myself by “what I do”; freedom to give back generously; freedom to think slow; freedom to experience vulnerability; freedom to love unconditionally; and most importantly of all, freedom to know I have enough.

Thanks for letting me share!

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Amnesty blogs at Primal-Prosperity.com, where she describes herself as “FIRE’d up, wild and free”. She has developed a workshop program called The Real World M.B.A.: Creating a Life of Meaning, Balance and Abundance which focuses on a multitude of topics like sustainable real estate investing, decluttering, location independence, and the art of setting D.U.M.B. goals. Say Hi!

Like these confessionals? Check out the previous ones we’ve shared: