I’m Doing It: Right-Sizing My Balance Sheet

Day 77 | $35,083 paid | $55,634 till freedom

Oh, man…so many emotions and thoughts and whatnot going through my head right now.

Before my bike broke (again) this afternoon, I was having a heck of a weekend. I went downtown with the crew on Friday and did something we haven’t done in a long, long time–go to Dirty Sixth. We started out with Jager bombs at Barcelona, followed by Jager bombs at Latitude, followed by Jager bombs at The Library, followed by Jager bombs at some hole-in-the-wall across from The Library, followed by Jager bombs at Pure, followed by dancing at Malaya, and ending with pizza at Rapollo’s. It was a great, great night.

On Saturday, I went hiking at Enchanted Rock with Danielle, the same girl I went to the Paul Simon concert with. It turns out she can be low-maintenance.

This is a pic I took:

To  be honest, Enchanted Rock really is the ideal date, and it might even be the new litmus test for a potential girlfriend going forward. It tests whether not the girl is sporty and adventurous, can keep up, enjoys the outdoors, and isn’t afraid to break a nail. Danielle and I walked all over the park, scaled some near-verticals, had a protein bar picnic on the top of the Rock, and even did some legitimate, flashlights-required spelunking. The drive to get there was full of twisties, and with the convertible top down on the S2000 and the tunes blasting, it was an excellent Saturday to be alive. 

All that being said, the date was not necessarily cheap. The park is 100 miles away and costs $6 per person. At 25 mpg, I consumed eight gallons of 93 octane gas to get there at about  $3.80/gallon, so 2*$6 + 8*$3.80 = $42. Danielle did prove her sportiness on the date, and there will probably be a follow-up date. Truth be told, I’m not completely sold on her–she’s obsessed with always having to be right–but I’m not even completely sold on having a girlfriend at this point in my life, either, so it’s probably more my fault than hers. I do think we enjoyed each other’s company for the most part, though, so we’ll see where it goes.

Getting Rid of the Bike…and the Murano
Saturday night I spent sleeping away my exhaustion from Friday night’s revelry and Saturday’s hiking, and I woke up on Sunday morning to ride my motorcycle down to Town Lake for a run. I started up the motorcycle, and the engine had a really hard time turning over, a lot like it did before I replaced the battery only a few weeks ago. I went for a run and got back to my motorcycle, pressed the ignition button, and the stupid thing wouldn’t start. I had to do another one of those running starts to get it moving.

I called the shop to see if if it was normal for their batteries to go dead after only three or so weeks, and they told me no, I probably have a bad charging system or bad  ground or something. I then proceeded to spend three hours taking all the plastic fairings off of my bike and looking for frayed wires making contact with the chassis. I couldn’t find any problems.

While I was reassembling the bike, wondering how in the world I could justify taking my bike to a shop to get it checked out for problems when I already knew it would cost $300 or so to get it fixed, I decided I would just store it. Then I decided I would just sell it.

Allow me to explain. This bike has taken its fair share of abuse. I bought it with 17k miles on it for $4k, and during the 14k miles I’ve put on the bike, I’ve crashed it no fewer than three times. I low-sided it twice when I took turns too quickly on cold tires, and I high-sided it into the grass going into a turn way too fast. The bike does have frame sliders, so each time I fell it just slid on the frame sliders, a mirror snapped off, and the fairings got slightly scratched up. It still looks super sharp from far away, and it’s only upon really close inspection can one see any of the damage. The pic I posted the other day was after I had crashed three times. Mechanically, it’s in great shape. Each time I fell, I was able to dust myself off, limp back to the bike, and start it right up, and drive  away just fine–a bruised ego really being the biggest damage sustained. I’ve done regular oil changes with synthetic oil, regularly cleaned and oiled the chain, and over the summer it got new front/rear brake pads, air filter, chain, and sprocket. The only thing it needs is a solution to this blasted electrical issue, and it wouldn’t hurt to get a new tires.

But I’m at loss as to what to do now. I really don’t know what’s causing the electrical issue. I don’t think it’s a result of the crashes since I last dropped the bike in February and the electrical issues didn’t start until August, but who knows. It might be a residual issue that’s only coming to light now. I don’t know. I guess between the below average aesthetic condition of the bike, this battery issue, the fact that it needs new tires, and my debt mission, it’s just a good time to sell it. The bike has been a lot of fun, and I know I’ll be getting another one once I’ve paid off my debt and accumulated some cash, but for now, the bike goes.

It will make an excellent learning bike for somebody, especially if they’re good at fixing stuff. I really don’t think I can get much for it. $2000, maybe? I’ll have to replace the worn bar grips, replace the bar-ends that got scratched up from the crashes, and I’ll have replace the mirrors which were cheap eBay purchases that are shedding their fake carbon fiber finish. I also have to get the turn signals working again because I accidentally twisted a wire off of the resistor while I was trying to tape it because I thought that that was the source of a bad ground that was wearing down the battery. All-in, I’m probably looking at $50 to $75 of material costs. I did change the oil while I had the bike apart today, so there’s a freebie for the new owner. 

Hopefully I’ll get it fixed and up for sale next weekend. One could argue that the bike won’t sell as well–damage aside–due to the fact that we’re entering winter, but I actually think that this is a great time to ride since the weather is so mild, and I hope others realize that, too.

And while I’m selling the bike, I’ll be selling the Murano, too. I tested it out, and a shovel and a pick-axe fit just fine in the front seat, even with the top up. Since those are the two main tools I use for landscaping, and since Michael has a Tahoe with a trailer hitch for transporting all the other tools, I won’t be jeopardizing the landscaping business. And on the plus side, this effectively gets me out of being the designated driver for the crew. I’m a bit concerned about how I will do things like yardwork at my house–the car came in handy getting ten bags of topsoil back to the house when I had to bury the soaker hose. I’ll also have absolutely no way to transport my roadbike, but that’s less of a problem since I never really ride it, anyway. In fact, I bought it for  $1,200 a year ago–maybe I should sell that, too? 

I imagine I can get $8 or $9k for the Murano. I’m going to wash it next weekend, take some pics, and launch it on Craigslist.

I don’t want to count my chickens before they hatch, but I’m looking at about $10k of incremental cash here between the bike and the car, not to mention reduced insurance and operating costs.

I will definitely have to buy new tires for the S2000, though, since I’ll be driving it in the rain. I didn’t realize how bad they were until I looked at them today. Check it out–they’re practically racing slicks! I’m going to have to cool it on the drifting.

So…Why the Sudden Change?
This whole time  I’ve been encouraged by several folks to get rid of a vehicle or two, and this whole time I’ve justified keeping my fleet because of wanting to grow my net worth and not simply getting rid of an asset to pay down my liability. After spending hours of tearing the bike down and messing around with it, I finally took the time to consider 1) what my life would be like without the bike and Murano, and 2) the size of the dent their sales would put in my debt paydown. I felt the load on my shoulders that I didn’t even realize I had lift a little. It felt good–life would be less complex, and I’d be that much closer to my goal.

So I decided to sell them, and the load on my shoulders that had just recently become known to me lifted entirely.  I wish the bike and Murano were already out of my garage and my loans were already another $10k  lower.

It was an incredible–and incredibly surprising–revelation.

I guess I just started thinking about my buddy Khalid who owns a house and only has an S2000, and he’s doing just fine. He doesn’t complain about not having an SUV for household chores. I also think life will be so, so much simpler when I have only one vehicle to worry about.

I want to take this opportunity to talk a little bit about the concept of “living below your means.” I’ll credit my dad with trying to instill this mentality within me when I was 22. In July of 2002, I had finished my degree and had raced in my last regatta, and my parents had come to Ann Arbor to help me pack up my stuff and take me back home. I had landed a job at a tech firm in Austin making $52k/year as a supervisor in a factory, and was starting in a few weeks.  More used to making $11/hour or so as a carpenter, I had no idea what to do with my new salary. I literally had zero debt to worry about as my parents had very graciously funded all four years of my public school education.

We were at a restaurant, eating lunch before hitting the road, and I asked my dad how I should manage my finances. As everybody knows, there aren’t really any good personal finances courses in high school or college–or if there are, I’ve  never heard of them. Anyway, my dad told me to accumulate at least six months of living expenses in savings and to live below my means. The first part sounded reasonable, but I didn’t really understand what he meant by the second part. Well, at long, long last, it looks like I might be heeding his advice. (Ironic, though, that I no longer have six months of living expenses in savings as I try to pay off my debt!)

Let’s take a person with a net worth of $10 million, $1M of which is in cash, who owns an S2000, a Murano, and a motorcycle. Living above their means? Hardly. Now let’s take a person with $8k of net worth, $3.5k which is in cash, who owns an S2000, a Murano, and a motorcycle. Living above his means? Probably. I once dated a girl whose father was super loaded. He had ten cars, and for some reason, I was convinced he was living too extravagantly, and that he should scale back, but his daughter tried to convince me that he wasn’t doing anything financially irresponsible. We both agreed to disagree on that point. Looking back, I can see that she was right. If he’s got a ton of money, then his having ten cars is like me having just an S2000. It’s just that we’re both in such dramatically different financial worlds that it’s tough for me to imagine someone whose balance sheet actually looks healthy with that many cars on it.

Maybe I was just arguing on principle–nobody really needs ten cars. And, well, I guess no one person really needs a sports car, a cross-over, and a motorcycle, either.

Anyway, I know for a fact I’ll be sad when I sell the bike. I’ll miss the raw acceleration, the three-second sprints up to 60 mph, and banking through turns. I’ll miss the open road. And I don’t know how I’ll deal with the absence of the Murano. At least I’ll still have a fun vehicle to drive every day, and I think that’s what makes this barely palatable. Getting rid of the bike and the S2000 would be a non-starter, but getting rid of one fun vehicle and one boring, albeit super-practical vehicle is a bit easier for me to handle.

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19 Comments

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19 responses to “I’m Doing It: Right-Sizing My Balance Sheet

  1. Good for you on the sale of the vehicles. I would sell the road bike too. If you’re not using it, it’s just cash sitting in your garage.

  2. Jim B

    Downsize and cut opportunity cost(s). I had a Ducati 900ss bike in b-school and felt like a stud but it was a huge financial headache when I got out of school and needed to control my nut.

    My take would be cut the vehicle(s), cut the liabilities (gas, storage, insurance, maintenance, carbon footrpint etc.). Once you have positive net worth in a few years redline the investment in wheels. In the interim cut the nut.

    You won’t miss it and once you are flush you can go after some real wheels that work for you.

    I am probably the only Chicago MBA that spent 5 years driving a 10 year old bird shit covered pickup truck post b-school.. But it’s liberating to be debt free and now after 10 years I am in the market for something a bit more sexy. But you know what, there is something refreshing about being able to say wtf, the truck gets stuff done.

    You could be out there in less than 12 months. It took me nearly 10 years of grinding away. Sell crap, keep the nut low, pivot and libera. Be authentic.

  3. Good move! From when I started reading your blog, I assumed it would just be a matter of time until this happens. I walked a similar road – I realised that physical possessions I have that I felt I couldn’t live without a year back, I know have happily sold / given away 🙂 It’s a great feeling when you realise this, enjoy it.

    RE managing without the crossover – borrow from your friends! I have a convertible as my only car, but when I need to transport something big I borrow a truck or other more practical car from a friend or family member. Even if you end up having to rent a vehicle in the odd situation, it still works out cheaper 🙂

  4. Major respect. Sacrifice isn’t sacrifice unless it hurts a little (or a lot). Can’t wait to see the net worth update with the ~$10k gain!

    Oh and I also think you should sell your road bike. I mean, if you’re rarely using it, you might as well turn it into $$$.

  5. Sarah

    After you are done with this, your debt will be paid off. All that income you’re doing won’t be going to the debt anymore. And yeah, you can stop completely scrimping, but you might find that some frugal habits stick with (all for the better). And then your cash flow will enable to do pretty much anything you want to do – whether that be buying vehicles you love or something else. That’s the benefit of instilling habits like these.

    Good luck!

  6. Barbara

    I like Paul’s comments…….borrow a car, and it would only be very seldom anyway, for hauling, transporting, whatever. Also, glad you’re getting rid of the bike…..why not the helmet too!?

  7. We start out on projects with an ideal of how we’re going to achieve what we’re going to achieve, but when you get down and dirty in it, some of those ideals (like your initial idea that selling your cars would be “cheating”) just don’t make sense when you need to get shit done effectively and efficiently. This is about freeing yourself from debt, fast. However you can do that now frees you up to broader horizons (in several senses) later. Props.

  8. Thanks Barbara.

    Helmets are a funny beast – I think it’s because people are worried about potential crash damage, but for whatever reason second hand helmet values can be pretty low. So if you plan to buy another bike in the medium term, keep the helmet.

  9. Elliot

    Commenting on another post of yours…I always like to follow philosophy of if you’re not going to use it and throw it away or sell it. I did this a few years ago with my desktop computer and laptop. I asked myself “do really need both of these devices”? My truth was I’d much rather go completely mobile than to be tethered to a desktop computer…and so I did. I wasn’t in the best shape financially at the time either, so the extra $1000+ I got from the sale came in handy. Since 2000 I’ve sold $16k+ of items in eBay.

    From an outside perspective I would say more cars equals more baggage, even for those who can afford it. The insurance, the cost of shipping it should there be a move involved, not leaving the car sitting for excessively long period, etc. Finding somewhere to put them if you have little property.

    Live below your means is a great mindset. A mid-twentysomething on one of the forums I visit saved $500,000 as a result. Granted some of it was money from their parents and investment returns, it’s still an impressive achievement at such a young age. For me it means keeping credit card debt within reasonable limits and no extravagant spending sprees.

    If all goes according to plan, my income for 2012 will be 4 times what it was for 2011. Assuming I get the job I recently interviewed for recently, I can start my own ‘No more MBA / Undergrad debt’ plan and have my 42k of student loans paid off in 3 years or less. 2 years would be possible if I were super aggressive. Right now I qualify for 0.00 payments (part of Income Based Repayment [http://ibrinfo.org/]) for a year as per my 2010 income and will likely qualify again based on 2011 earnings where I only worked for a little over half the year. 24 mos of no student loan payments is like an angel extending a hand out to me saying hold tight, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

    I completed a gig on Craigslist a few weeks ago and netted $200 from it for a few hours of work. Down to a $235 payoff on my car. Continue looking for quick wins until my I know my official start date. The big holdups right now are being able to fit me into a training class as a late applicant along with a bg and ref check. ::crossing my fingers::

  10. P

    Congrats! Use it or lose it is the way to go when someone is on the path to debt freedom or trying to minimize the clutter in their life.

    Just keep in mind some of Shunryu Suzuki’s teachings.

  11. Sometimes ideas just need some time to marinate before we are ready to accept them. Great job on allowing this idea to process and guide your thinking in a new direction — and hey, nothing’s forever! Selling your bike doesn’t mean you can never have one again; get your debt paid off and shop around for something new.

    I’m slowly coming around to the idea that maybe, just maybe, I don’t need 6 (!) computers in my apartment. And if I sold a couple of them, I could make some money back to help cover the costs of my newest purchases. Its kind of a crazy idea, especially because computers typically have such low resale value, but yeah — there are times my life would be a lot less complicated if I only had 1 or 2 computers to keep track of!

  12. I know it’s a non sequitur, but I moved to Austin last week. It’s amazing; I could see how your entertainment budget used to be so high:)

  13. Shailendra Harri

    Interesting blog and fantastic inisght into what on the outset is an impossible challenge. I however would question your interpretation of a car being an asset. Unless you using the vehicle to generate an income, it is merely an liability if u owe money on it or an expense if u have paid it up. A car depreciates in value so cannot be considered an asset. Just ask Robert Kiyosaki of Rich Dad, Poor Dad fame.

  14. Neil

    I’m assuming you live in RR so I have to ask why did you drive all the way to F-burg while on a strict budget to go HIKING?! There are thousands of places you could have gone in Austin for free or way cheaper. She must have been pretty damn hot!

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