Keeping Up Appearances

Day 154 | $61,994 paid | $28,723 till freedom

Yesterday, I wrote about how the NMHD challenge will would most likely be completed in time if I get a decent bonus and don’t experience any disasters.

Well, shortly after writing that post, I got into my car, put the top up, and noticed a 2-3″ crack in the rear window.

Disaster experienced. I guess I didn’t knock on wood while I was writing that post.

The car is 13 years old and the top is original, so after spending so many summers under the strong Texas sun, the material of the vinyl top and the plastic window have weathered considerably, leading to the window’s current brittle and crack-susceptible condition.

By now, the old me would have scheduled an appointment at the Honda dealership for a brand new top installation, costing about $1,500 to $1,700. The current me? I got out some duct tape and put it over the crack.

I stepped away to admire my handiwork. My car looked completely trashy.

  

It’s bad enough that it already has this patch on the right side, but the duct tape? That was a new low.

I immediately went into panic-mode. What if people see me with my car in the parking lot at work? And what will friends and dates think? I care less about what people in general think of me–like if I’m driving down the highway and somebody sees duct tape on my car–but people who know me? Not cool.

I can’t have co-workers, friends, and dates thinking I’m poor and can’t afford to fix the top of my car.

So I Googled the costs and called my friend who had replaced the top on his S2000 a couple of years ago. All the data was saying $1,500 to $1,700 to replace the top.

I went back and forth in my mind–should I order a new top or not? I weighed the pros and cons, and I was leaning towards not doing it and thinking about temporary solutions. And then it struck me–why not just find black duct tape and stretch it across the entire window? So I did.

   

After I was done, I stepped back to admire my handiwork and breathed a deep sigh of relief. Ahhhhh, much better! Not perfect, but better. And $5.83 hurts a lot less than $1,500.

After I was done working on the convertible top, I pulled all the huge, angry weeds speckling my grassy lawn. When I was done, I had a fairly sizeable pile of weeds, and I wondered why there were so many weeds this January as compared to last January. Then I realized that it was because I hadn’t been able to afford the $20 or $30 to fertilize the lawn like I did last year. So there I was, pulling weeds, once again trying to maintain the appearance that everything was under control and that the coffers were full.

It’s funny how much I care about appearances. I don’t really have frequent conversations with my neighbors across the street–a middle-aged couple with two kids who tend to keep to themselves–but I’ve wondered what they think of the metamorphosis of my now nearly-empty garage and the addition of roommates. Do they think the single guy who bought the house across the street when he was 27 got in over his head financially, lost his job and/or can’t afford to keep up with the  mortgage payments, so he’s selling off his stuff and getting roommates to help with the bills? Do they think I’ve hit rock-bottom? Do they feel sorry for me? In short, are they judging me?

I saw the father out in his driveway over the holidays, so I took the opportunity to walk over and apologize for my roommate’s car that she had left directly in front of their house for three weeks while she was away on vacation. Then I let it casually drop (as casually I could, anyway) the reason for the roommates and vehicle sales. 

It’s weird, but it felt good to get it off my chest, to explain the situation, to no longer worry about feeling judged.

Deferred Expenses and Prioritization
On 9-21, I listed out some expenses that I was deferring in the name of early student loan paydown:

  • Dress shoes for work
  • Rear tires for car
  • 8GB SD card for camera
  • Motorcycle repair
  • Decorative soap dispensers
  • Speaker system for my computer

On that list, I purchased one item, the rear tires, and that was because of safety. I started wearing different shoes that I already owned to work, I use my phone as my camera, I sold the motorcycle, and I didn’t buy the dispensers or the speaker system.

The list has received some additions over the past four months:

  • Eye exam & contact lenses — I’m stretching out the remainder of my contacts past their recommended two-week lives so that I don’t have to pay for an eye exam and new lenses until after NMHD
  • Mole exam — I have some sketchy-looking moles, and even though I’ve had moles removed a few years ago that raised my then-dermatologist’s suspicions, I’ve decided to wait until after the debt is paid off to pay the specialist co-pay and get an exam
  • Landscaping for my yard
  • Convertible top
  • New lenses for my sunglasses– UV coating is chipping off the current lenses
  • Bathroom faucet handles — The faucet handle of one of the sinks in my bathroom cracked and now it just spins around the bolt instead of actually changing the temperature of the water. I don’t need two sinks and one of the handles works just fine, so I’m holding off on replacing the pair.
  • Blinds for living room — I have three outdoor blinds for my living room windows, and the one in the middle is broken and sagging in the middle. It doesn’t look too trashy yet, so I’m deferring the expense.
  • Doorknob for garage door – Something is sticking internally and the knob is tricky to operate. WD40 doesn’t help. I can still open the door, so for now, I’m deferring this expense

It’s funny: I’ll go way over my $50 entertainment budget and spend close to $200 to $400 when I’m out with friends, but I won’t drop a couple hundred for an eye exam and contact lenses, instead choosing to risk my vision . Likewise, I won’t spend $30 or $50 or whatever the co-pay is to make sure I don’t have skin cancer, and I won’t spend $30 to take care of the weeds that are trying to take over my yard. I’m wearing sunglasses without UV protection because I refuse to spend $100 to get new lenses, and I refuse to pay $20 for knock-offs. I get annoyed by the garage door several times a day, but I won’t spend $20 to replace it.

And yet, I’ll go out to the bars  and blow $400 in a single month–even though I have a flask in my back pocket!

What does that say about me? Am I unable to make intelligent decisions about my priorities? Are my values messed up? Am I being overly risky with my health?

Some of the expenses I’m deferring are for minor annoyances and inconveniences, but other expenses are for some fairly meaningful things.

There are obvious links between the $400 entertainment spend and what I find entertaining as well as whom I choose for my friends. My three good friends in Austin are very similar to me in certain respects (and I didn’t consciously realize it until sitting down to write this post). We all work at the same place, we’re all within a pay grade of each other at work, we’re all single, and we all live alone in our own houses (well, I used to, anyway), and we all like to go out. When we go out, we spend money.

Now, what if my group of friends were different? What if my friends were broke and couldn’t afford to go to bars? Or what if they weren’t broke, but their version of fun didn’t include the bar scene, and was less expensive, like cook-outs, poker, game nights, or maybe MMORPG, for example?

Would I be downtown spending my hard-earned dough on food and drinks? Quite unlikely.

But here’s the thing: my version of fun is what it is. And my friends are who they are. I’m sorry I’m not sorry. I won’t apologize for either.

In order to fund this unapologetic attitude, I have make sacrifices elsewhere in my life. Time will tell if I have to pay a price eventually for not paying a price now.

(That being said, Luke’s bachelor party is in Vegas this month and I turned down the invitation, so there’s about $2k that I’ll be saving.)

Speaking of Entertainment Expenses
On 9-2, I listed my entertainment expenses for fiscal August that occurred pre-NMHD. They came in at $1440.

Sarah asked for an update on the entertainment expenses. In December, I spent $242 on entertainment. $125 was spent with a credit card and the charges are listed below; the balance was spent using cash, which I don’t track.

Granted, this is December and I didn’t show my $380 entertainment spend for January, but I still think I’ve come a long way. Pre-NMHD, I was spending $1,400 to $1,500/month in entertainment. I’ve averaged $284 from September through January. That’s an 80% decrease.

I’d be lying if I said I don’t miss certain aspects of that old life, but this one’s not nearly as bad as I imagined it would be.

My HBS Classmates and Student Loans
Sarah asked me what my HBS friends think of NMHD and what they’re doing about their loans, so I’ll try to cover that here.

As a general rule, I don’t talk money with my friends. I don’t like talking salaries, how much they made on the market today, what they paid for their car, etc. It makes me uncomfortable, I don’t really care that much, and a lot of people regard that kind of information as private, anyway. So face-to-face conversations with my grad school friends about loans are very limited.

We all graduated almost three years ago, so I have to assume that my friends who are making  $250k+ in consulting and banking paid their loans off long ago. Those guys and gals are all happily off the hook.

I ran into an old friend from HBS the other day, and I told him about the challenge. He  was shocked and exclaimed something to the effect of, “But you’re how old? 28? You gotta live it up! You gotta take advantage of these years.” I tried to explain that I’m still having a blast–definitely not traveling very much, but still having a blast. I don’t think he bought it.

One of my former classmates and current colleagues at work is taking steps to pay down his and his wife’s debt–she also graduated from Harvard. They have four kids and one on the way. The family values education (clearly), so while he admits that I’ve inspired him to pay his debt down early, they’re not able to dig as deep as a typical family might: they’re still sending their kids to a very high-end private school in South Austin, and they’re still springing for supplemental enrichment activities like piano lessons. Beyond that, I don’t think they spend a lot of money: decent-sized house but not huge; good neighborhood but not high-end; mid-tier used cars, etc.

It’s each to their own, really. If I had to guess, I’d say 40% of my old classmates have paid them off already, 40% are making regular payments and not really sweating it, and 20% are making an effort to get out of them early. But that’s just my guess–I have absolutely no clue.

Roommates: T minus 5
I don’t talk about my roommates in this blog very often because I’m not one for gossip and libel. The first one looks and feels bad and the second one can lead to a lawsuit, which would oppose the goals of this blog.

That said, I’m looking forward to living alone again. When the smells coming out of the kitchen are the smells of my food, when doors are not being slammed (for no apparent reason) so hard that walls shake, when I clean the kitchen top to bottom and it stays like that for longer than an hour, when run and empty the dishwasher when it’s full of my stuff, not somebody else’s, when I don’t have to tell somebody to take their rotting food out of the fridge because it stinks, and when I don’t roll through the front door to find the lock like this:

It was 3 AM this morning when I saw it like this, so I sent an email out to the roommates. One of them said they didn’t know what happened and the other one never replied. When I got back from a run later today, it was fixed:

Odd. How the heck does that even happen, anyway?

On the whole, the roommates are good roommates–things could be a lot, lot worse. I just think that my tolerance for living with strangers is low–as it probably is for most people.

Only five more months to go.

Landscaping Business Update
Michael and I spent an hour and a half a few Saturdays ago driving out and meeting with a potential client about his yard. Michael said he’d have the quote done by the end of the weekend. He bought the software and has become an expert at it, so he’s become the de facto quote guy. I hadn’t heard from him by Sunday night, so I checked in. He told me he had spent five hours on it and still had another five to go. I was blown away. 10 hours to give a quote? Was he serious? Ludicrous! I admired him for his dedication and work ethic, but that was way above and beyond!

Michael was convinced that if we provided a high-end quote complete with graphic renderings of the new yard, we  could close the deal. I strongly disagreed, and I told him it would likely not come down to pretty pictures, but the cost, and that he was running the risk of wasting a lot of time. He was already too far along to change course, so he sunk another five hours into the quote, we reviewed the costs together, and then sent it over.

I followed up with the customer after a couple of days to confirm receipt of the quote, and he replied back that he had gotten it, but was still collecting quotes from other companies and would have a decision within a couple of days.

It’s been three weeks and we haven’t heard anything. We lost the bid, and Michael lost ten hours of his life.

It’s frustrating for me, and I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be for Michael. I don’t think he’ll be making that mistake ever again.

All that being said, it is an extremely slow time of the year for our (seasonal) landscaping business. We’ve had two jobs so far, we’ve lost two bids, and we have three interested clients who are slowly moving towards the quote phase. Hopefully things pick up soon. If  I keep spending $500 over my budget every month without incremental revenue to offset it, my timeline will be impacted.

I’ve considered picking up a second job for the weekends, but I don’t really want to give those up to work for somebody else, and I can’t think of anything entrepreneurial to do off the top of my head. I’m willing to work on the weekends to build my own business, but I’m not willing to work for somebody else for $10-$20/hour. Furthermore, my job is fairly stressful and my weekdays are packed with work and the gym, so I really value my weekends for relaxing and getting things done that I didn’t get to during the week.

It’s sort of like how I consistently blow my grocery and entertainment budgets–I know there are expense and revenue changes that I have to make, but I’m not really willing to make them because I feel like I’ve already changed so much about my life as it is.

I think that if the five-month outlook didn’t look so healthy–if it didn’t predict me paying off my loans by the end of May (month 9)–then I would feel behooved to make some structural changes in my life. But since things are looking fairly rosy, I’m just not motivated to dig deep and go the extra mile.

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45 Comments

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45 responses to “Keeping Up Appearances

  1. Cheryl

    Hi NMHD, seems like you are a bit stressed on progress today. Looks to me that your numbers are doing great! The bars at the top are telling the success story and they are not even close. Enjoy the progress!

    As a comparison my grocery bill is around $300 per month too-and that includes me taking lunch to work most days. I decided that cutting that back is not worth it, food=fuel for the body and since I have been eating better I feel better. Not worth saving maybe $50 to not feel good. And not have my one craft beer a day!

  2. Jen G.

    I’ve been reading your blog pretty much since the beginning, but haven’t commented until now. I was diagnosed with cancer at 23 (with no family history), caught it early and have now been in remission for 5 years. I’m frugal by nature, but I’ve learned not to compromise on my health. Get the mole exam!

  3. As someone who graduated from HBS a few years before you, I feel like the student loan issue is a total mixed bag. I paid mine off, but that was primarily due to saving a ton before b-school and not having to take out a lot of debt. I had friends in school who made way more than I did before b-school, yet then took out 100% of the cost in the form of loans because they had spent all their money.

    Old habits die hard, and I have to assume these big spenders are still big spenders, even if they have the paycheck to back it up, and that they still have their loans. Keeping up appearances can be VERY expensive.

    I find it really hard to discuss money with my HBS friends. I have chosen a less lucrative field, but it makes me happy. Good friends of mine have, or will soon go through .com IPOs or something similar and probably will never need to work again. I just try to worry about myself and what works for me, but sometimes it is hard.

    Most importantly, I agree with Jen G. Go to the Dr!!!!

    • Kevin

      +1 to this. I was your classmate – no way the number of our fellow ’09 grads with paid off loans is anywhere near 40%. First of all, the truly rich didn’t get any loans – the foreign sultans and trust fund babies, etc. Second, the number of $250K+ jobs out there is slimmer than you think – maybe if you are at Goldman or Bain Cap, but even consulting a few years out is barely that. And maybe 10% of our class has those jobs. The vast majority of our class is people like you and me – with incomes firmly in the upper-middle class, not in the “1%”, but with a mortgage, maybe a few kids, a car payment, etc. I can comfortably make my monthly HBS loan payment, but if I have extra, there are several places it goes first before it goes to the student loans (even though at 6.8%, it’s the most expensive debt I owe – nearly 2x my mortgage!). Kids need college savings, 401ks don’t fund themselves, windows need replacing, etc.

      You’re lucky and unique. That’s why this blog (and your journey) is so inspiring, ESPECIALLY to your classmates. Keep it up.

      • Hey, fair enough :) You and NTF both seem to be on the same page–I guess since I’ve already paid down $62k in five months and am still alive and kickin’ it, I figure it can’t be that hard and others have gone down this road before. Maybe I’m wrong…

      • Sarah

        Did you guys find it hard to fit in amongst the foreign sultans and trust fund babies? How many of those types were there at HBS?

        • I didn’t. That stuff isn’t really talked about and it’s more inconspicuous than you might expect. Other than my group of friends, I didn’t even know who came from money and who didn’t…and it wasn’t really something I thought about. So I couldn’t even tell you how many of those types there were.

    • It’s a very interesting question, and you raise some really good, reasonable counter points. I agree with you about talking money with our classmates–I’m very happy where I’m at in life, but when one of my friends dropped his salary at lunch one day, I definitely did a double-take and questions of whether or not I chose the right career path immediately assailed me. My career decision was more of one on geography than it was on position, industry, or company. As you probably heard in HBS, you can’t have everything: working in the right industry, for the right company, at the right position, in the right city. God bless Austin.

  4. Cheryl

    One more vote, go to the Dr!!

  5. I agree with some of the other comments here, go get that mole exam! You really shouldn’t endanger your health just to pay off your loans a little bit sooner.

  6. amb

    Yep, another nag…get the mole checked
    if it is strange enough to catch your eye, it merits a visit to the dermatologist

  7. mama of four

    I had skin cancer at 37. I pay out of pocket every year for a head to toe skin exam from a board certified dermatologist, and I am a pain in the butt for that exam. I also check myself out (using a mirror for the hard to see parts) at least quarterly. The peace of mind is invaluable to me. Skin cancer is no fun – I had a friend who died from malignant melanoma at 25, leaving a husband and two small children, because she didn’t think a mole was worth bothering about. Listen to your readers and go to the doctor!
    Same with the contact lenses. If you were prescribed medicine to deal with an infection or a chronic condition would you only take it every other day to save money? Eye infections can cause permanent damage.
    I recognize you’re young and single and want to hang with your buddies but cutting back on the alcohol-related socializing would help your health and your budget. There are activities that don’t involve alcohol and can still be fun. And you might meet an equally fiscally responsible young lady as well. :)

  8. Sarah

    Great post, thanks for answering my questions. I’m so nosy :)

    Good job on finding a cheaper way to fix the crack in your window. I’m sure it took a lot not to take it to the dealership to get it fixed. Duct tape is great! Also don’t worry what dates think remember you are trying to find less shallow, frugal girls. Those types won’t care and will be impressed by your ingenuity.

    I have to agree with the other commenters, please get those moles checked.

    December’s entertainment expenses looks great, good job! I hope you will keep posting your entertainment costs from now on.

    Sorry about the lack of landscaping gigs. I guess people are still trying to pay of credit card purchases from the holidays. I’m sure it will pick up in the spring.

    • I think your questions were great–I was honestly thinking of ways to weave in some things I’ve been thinking about lately and wanted to share, and you gave me the topics that allowed me to do so. Thank you!

  9. First of all, I think your black duct tape solution was quite inspired. Very aesthetically pleasing and nothing that jumps out when you look at it. People see what they expect to see, so I doubt your co-workers will notice and if your car is otherwise clean and undented, dates won’t care either.

    Now take a deep breath about your finances and commit to at least your dermatologist visits. As for the contacts, you usually can wear them for more than the two weeks, but make sure you clean them well and switch to your glasses regularly. You can also buy a cheap pair of sunglasses to go over your contacts while you drive.

    While I understand you love your friends and hanging out, you should think about what it is you get your of those evenings with them. Is it picking up girls? Is it the alcohol or the bar scene? While you discuss wanting a semi-permanent woman in your life, what kind of weekends would you envision if she were there? It sounds like your guy friends are other single guys just hanging out and plan to eventually ‘get to that more serious stuff later.’

  10. Jim B

    Agree with Kevin – I would be surprised if 40% of your classmates are debt free and I think those $250k+ gigs are the exception, not the norm. NMHD is very inspiring and if nothing else makes me realize that even after graduating from a top tier school you have to “man up” and deal with the debt mountain.

    If it makes you feel any better I went to Chicago Booth and recently stuck a strip of duct tap across the window seal on my truck. Likewise it initially seemed a bit lame but 6 weeks later the tape is doing fine and given that I live in a decidedly mixed neighborhood in New York, its probably a good thief deterrent. Not sure how many of my peers are duct taping up their trucks but who cares?

    Keep going, its all good stuff.

    • Super-awesome that you are driving around with duct tape on your truck. I hat-tip from me to you, sir.

      See comments to Kevin and NoTrustFund regarding your surprise–now I feel like my estimates were completely off. I guess I give too much credit :-/

      Thanks for your continued support!!

  11. To finish, in most cases of single guys like you, they will slowly pair off and stop attending nights out. It is perfectly normal and you too would have eventually reached that stage. Unfortunately, you were basically forced into that stage by your debt repayment plan, which makes you unhappy and resent it – since you did not come to that stage naturally.

    Perhaps after the debt is paid off, just go to half of what you were spending before.

    • Jane, definitely agree that going out every weekend with the guys is unsustainable in the long run. And while there used to be eight or nine of us at one point, the crew has declined to about four or five over the past year due to wives and girlfriends, which is exactly what you described. So, we need to recruit. Or…we need to grow up :) The thing is, I think that having time with friends is important. Am I at one extreme right now? Sure, probably so. But quite frankly, it’s a lot easier, financially-speaking, to pack a flask and go out with my friends than it is to go out on dates. Even cheap dates can be more expensive than filling a flask up with 1/10 of a bottle of Svedka that cost me $21 after tax.

  12. Excellent job on the S2000 top repair. Looks great and you saved tons of cash. Even if you *did* have $2k to throw at a new top, do you really want to do that on a car that’s 13 years old? Personally, I think modifying or extensively upgrading a car is just a waste of cash. It peeves me to no end when I see huge new 20″ rims on an old 90′s Ford Explorer. It’s just tacky and ridiculous and shows that you’re trying to show off, when you don’t have real bling bling. If you really did, you would drive a Rolls Phantom. LOL. My own car actually has a cracked fog lamp right now and I can’t even bring myself to buy the $90 replacement lamp off eBay even though I do have the cash easily. I just see cars as too much of a money pit I guess.

    I don’t think you should worry or give a care about what others think of your material possessions – especially your friends, co-workers, etc. They shouldn’t judge you anyway, if they are real people. That’s the problem with America in general I think, and especially with the younger crowd. Everyone tries to keep up with the Joneses and they go broke in doing it. If you’ve ever read The Millionaire Next Door, you’ll realize that there are NOT that many true millionaires around in America – even those who made $500k+ a year salary and end up broke in retirement. You make great money and at your current rate of frugality, you’re on track to retire younger and earlier than 98% of your peers, and you’ll ultimately have a lot less stress in life. For every item you consume, you equally expend a unit of stress over it, or more. So reduce the consumption of material goods, and focus on experiencing your life instead.

    • Thank you for the compliment. And No! No, I do not want to drop $1,500 to repair my $10k car! :) And if the crack doesn’t spread (I can’t put black tape over my entire rear windshield due to safety reasons), then I probably won’t. That being said, it’s not a fog lamp, it’s the roof, so I kind of need one that keeps the rain out so the interior doesn’t get destroyed. Same story if the clutch were to go out or I needed new brakes–a functional roof is not a nice-to-have like fog lamps or 20″ wheels, it’s actually pretty critical to the car’s overall health. Important distnction. What’s the alternative? Sell the car and buy a different one? The sales tax alone would make that a non-starter.

      What is keeping up with the Jones? 20″ wheels, or making a car watertight?

  13. Sarah L

    Dude…go to the dermatologist! Come on. It’s not an expense, it’s an investment in your future health.

  14. Kevin

    Good point. Yes, it’s important to have a safe and reliable car — especially a watertight one. But the thing is, that S2000 isn’t your average car. It’s a sporty roadster. So when you bought that car, you most certainly went after it for the coolness factor rather than the reliability factor. If course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a cool car. I myself hope to own a Lotus Exige or Elise someday but I’m obviously going to do that only if I can easily drop $50k cash on a pre owned one. But besides that point, I believe that if someone is in debt, and/or has no kind of savings or retirement account, they shouldn’t be driving cars that go beyond their means. You could seriously trade that S2000 for a great reliable Toyota or Honda that costs less than it would cost to replace the convertible top. You could sell your $10k S2000 and come out with a $1500 used “regular boring” car that is a lot cheaper to maintain and probably better gas mileage and you’d have a few Gs in Equity to go towards paying off the rest of your debt. And in the meantime, if you need your sports car fix, go rent one for a weekend or drive a friend’s roadster around for a bit. A friendly challenge for you! :)

  15. shana

    Silly boy! Go and get your moles checked. Tell the doctor to bill it under a preventive care procedure code and it’s free to get them looked at. (All preventive care is now covered at 100% with no copay)

    I am also joining the crowd saying that the $250k+ jobs are few and far between. There might be some out there, but even with an HBS degree – I can’t see paying a new grad that much – and I work in compensation so I stare at salary data all day long.

  16. Cheryl

    Someone in the post just made a mention of a book, the Millionaire next door is a fantastic book. I highly recommend it! Its not often that I read a book that I go back to over and over and changes my thinking. And NMHD, if its not in your budget I will send one to you! :) Not kidding.

  17. Cassie Olson

    I am a single girl living on my own and my grocery bill is about $400 a month (but that includes prescription cat food which is about $80) So it’s about the same as yours. I think for someone who, like me, does not want to eat processed and frozen foods all the time $300 is pretty typical.

    And I really don’t want to nag you, but please go to the doctor and have your mole examined! It’s an expense you will NOT regret in the long run. And I have been where you are with the contacts, I was stretching mine as long as possible and it actually did cause irreversible damage to my eyes, so what I would say is just wear your glasses more often. It isn’t wearing the bad ones so much as wearing the bad ones all the time. I hate wearing my glasses, but it’s really important to not always be wearing contacts, especially when they’re old.

  18. Alex F

    This made me smile. I decided that not washing my car was a frugal move, so I put 13,000 miles on a white sedan in the last 7 months. With the snow a lot of grime built up on the car, to the point where opening the trunk would make your hands dirty. My sisters came for a visit, told me it was disgusting and promptly paid for a car wash. The shock of it looking nice gives me so much pleasure that I intend to keep it that way. Kudos on the black tape. I imagine that in Austin the top will come down soon enough, anyway.

    I tend to be on the side of people that think your high rolling friends are accumulating expensive tastes faster than they’re paying down debt. People are bad at changing behaviors.

    My question for you is how much do you think your neat tendencies played into your ability to get into Harvard? Someone that is such a perfectionist as to seriously consider spending $1500 to make a minor cosmetic repair on a 10 year old car, is probably the sort of person who is driven enough to get into Harvard. The guy saving $9 with the dirty car, not so much.

    All I’m saying is some of what you want reflects your virtues more than any materialism. I’m enjoying the posts. Thanks.

    • That’s ridiculous! I can go up to two or three weeks without washing my car, and that’s during a severe drought when it rains every couple of weeks. Past that, and it’s bath time!

      Yes, I’m a perfectionist, but I’ve gotten better in the past few years. I call it being conscientious…maybe to a fault :)

  19. Nate

    I’m a new follower of NMHD and love it!
    Your grocery bill seems high to me and I would love to see a post listing item by item what you bought for a month.

  20. Hey, I just realized that TaskRabbit is serving Austin, so that made me think of it as a way for you to make some dough on the side as a task runner. Some caveats though:

    1) There’s an “interview” process that a person has to review and they have to do a background check, so the wait for approval after you’ve applied to be a runner takes weeks.

    2) While I made $1k last month running tasks, I also am not otherwise gainfully employed, so I have the time. As you said, your weekdays are pretty packed, so it might be weekend only and might not be lucrative enough. In SF I see weekend work reasonably often, but I have no idea what Austin’s postings look like.

    However, there are good things:

    1) Maybe you could make enough dough on short and sweet tasks to just cover your entertainment budget excess problem you keep running into.

    2) If you do tasks for businesses, it might give you ideas for your own business to start.

    3) You might meet people who know they need yard work done and they’ll like your TR work and therefore consider you for it, or you might meet people who you could suggest it to who hadn’t been thinking consciously about getting it done. Who knows. I’ve made LinkedIn connections on pretty much every task I’ve done.

    Anyway… it’s worth just checking out their site right? http://www.taskrabbit.com

  21. momo

    Your neighbors were judging you. If you feel like they weren’t after talking to them, they were. Also, since you dropped some knowledge on them as to what was going on, they’re really talking about you now.

  22. cooldudetyler

    Wow, I began following this blog in it’s early stages two (or three?) years ago while living in California. I forgot all about it and have recently come back to check it out now that I’m on a mission to pay off my loans. Ironically, I now live in Austin – I never noticed that you lived in Austin when I first started reading it.

    The real funny part is this post that shows how much you frequent some of my favorite locations (the park, molotov, etc).

    It’s sort of trippy and inspiring to be catching up on this blog and realizing that here is an example of a REAL person who lives very similar to me that had the same issue with student loans, and managed to pay them off. The fact that you live in the same city and visit the same places sort of drives the reality home to me.

    Three years ago I was 24 when I checked out this blog. I was ready to begin a committed effort to pay off my student loans. I got distracted by dating, and ended up forgetting all about my student loans. I followed one trajectory (not paying loans), you followed the other trajectory, and paid yours.

    When I first saw this blog I was about 50,000 deep in student loan debt… and still am. Part of the reason is my ridiculous entertainment budget and lifestyle, and the fact that I type this from my amazingly expensive apartment in a high rise in downtown Austin (not gonna be living here much longer hopefully).

    I guess I’m a little shocked by the realization that if I had kept following your blog earlier I might have been inspired to pay off my student loans while I still lived in San Diego, and would be in a completely different financial state right now.

    How strange.

    • Your comment seems filled with regret. It shouldn’t. You’ve had fun. Now, onward and upward. No regrets. It’s never too late to start paying down debt. I was 27 when I started, which is roughly your age now.

      • cooldudetyler

        I think you hit the nail on the head. I just went through a major breakup and have no strings – so now is the best time. My first step is moving out of this apartment downtown and finding a cheap room on CG. No more stumbling home from The Ranch, but at least I won’t be getting eaten alive by interest :).

        Thanks again for the inspiration and effort you put into your blog.

        • There’s a way to still enjoy a lot of that stuff while you go through the financial transformation, and trust me on this–it’ll all be there waiting for you to enjoy it guilt-free/debt-free when you’ve paid off the rest of your loans; W 6th isn’t going anywhere.

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