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Debt and Freedom

Posted on March 21st, 2018

Dave!Ignore me if you will, but this is a subject that means something to me.

Credit card debt is a pariah that will consume you. And now that interest rates are going to increase past the already absurd rates that credit card companies charge (thank you Federal Reserve!), it's more important than ever to get yourself out of credit card debt if you have any. Large balances are designed to keep you paying high interest charges forever, without ever fully paying off your debt. It's a trap... and it's really tough to get out of once you're caught in it.

I know this, because I've been there.

During my two years in college, I accumulated huge debt. Huge.

I wasn't working very much because of school and travel (and partying), but was spending as if I were a CEO. First it was one credit card. Then it was another. Then it was another. It took *decades* for me to climb out of it. Years of barely being able to make payments. Years of getting nowhere in paying off my balances. Once I realized the thousands of dollars being blown every year on interest, I started focusing on paying off my cards. It was hard. Very hard. I'd buy nothing but the bare minimums I needed to survive. I wore clothes until they fell apart. I'd do any activity on a shoestring budget and limit expenditures any way I could. It took years of this, but eventually I clawed my way out.

And I have made it my mission to pay off my balance every month ever since. Sometimes there are emergencies. Sometimes I haven't saved enough for vacation and it takes a couple months. But I work very hard to not spend money I don't have so I can pay off my balance every time.

There are a lot of ways to get help if you need it. Apps that help you set payment goals. Books on financial planning. Websites with great advice on how to get out of credit card debt. And, if you are really in deep, financial advisors that can come up with a plan and negotiate with banks to get interest lowered... or help you find a loan. But however you mount your attack on credit card debt, it's hugely important that you start immediately. Our own government is working with banks to enslave you with debt, and it's only going to get worse. Much worse. The sacrifices needed to escape their clutches are hard ones to make, but ultimately worth it.

I honestly don't know what the future holds with our Federal Reserve manipulating things the way they have been. They don't even bother hiding it any more. This country is now designed exclusively for the wealthiest among us. That may not be you, but finding freedom amongst the ruins is a goal worth having.

Good luck to you.

Good luck to all of us.

We need it now more than ever.

   

I Got a Heatwave Burning in My Heart

Posted on July 7th, 2017

Dave!Temperatures finally breached 100° this week, so the air conditioner had to be turned on. Darnit. Odds are it's going to stay on because the forecast is up there for the next ten days. Probably longer.

So much for tiny electricity bills.

Even though I set the temperature between 74° and 76° and use ceiling fans, it's a goodly chunk of money to keep everything in the house from melting.

Including the cats.

And then...

Back in 2015 when Apple released the latest and greatest 4th generation Apple TV, I purchased one to replace my aging 2nd generation unit (which I moved to the guest room). Despite the remote being shit, I was happy with the upgrade. At first. Eventually I found out that the unit had horrible problems streaming video from Apple. Other sources... Netflix, HBO, Showtime, YouTube, Hulu, you-name-it, were all working fine on Apple TV, it was just my iTunes Store purchases that were stuttering and crapping out... or not loading at all.

So when I ended up winning a second Apple TV from an incentive give-away, I just tossed it in the closet. My bedroom TV has Netflix built-in, so I figured I'd just wait until somebody came up with a hack to turn the Apple TV into a web server or something. Since it had problems streaming my rather large collection of Apple media, it just wasn't worth messing with.

Until Game of Thrones Season 7 was announced to be arriving.

My bedroom TV doesn't have an HBO app, so I decided to dig out the extra Apple TV so I can watch Thrones in bed as God intended.

But first I had to find the thing, because I had no idea what happened to it during the move. I've been searching off and on for weeks to no avail. And then this morning I finally found it.

By accident.

My cats have been acting crazy, so I decided to start putting my iPhone charging cable in the tiny empty cupboard above my range hood and microwave where they couldn't get to it... and... voilà...

Tiny Cupboard Treasures!

My "empty" cupboard contained an old phone book, a Hershey chocolate candle, and... my missing Apple TV. In all honesty, I do not remember putting it in there. I don't remember putting any of it there. I can't even think of why I'd have done it.

Probably so I wouldn't lose it?

Jenny helped me set it up...

Tiny Cupboard Treasures!

And... ready for new Game of Thrones on the 16th!

   

Getting Away From It All

Posted on April 20th, 2017

Dave!The reason I want to be obscenely wealthy is not to buy a bunch of expensive crap.

If a billion dollars were to suddenly drop in my lap, I don't know that I would get a new house. Or even a new car. Living in a palace and driving a Ferrari just don't interest me. Neither does accumulating a lot of expensive crap. So long as I can afford a laptop, a nice camera, and an iPhone... I'm pretty much done.

No, the reason I want to be obscenely wealthy is so I don't have to work and can spend the rest of my life traveling the world.

Not that I haven't found a way to travel the world now... but there are experiences that require time and money I will never have that haunt my travel dreams.

Take, for example, Tristan da Cunha

Located in the middle of nowhere in the South Atlantic, this small island is one of the most remote places on earth...

Tristan da Cunha Map

It's so remote that the only way to get there is by ship. Which takes six days.

Luckily, ships are making runs to Tristan da Cunha somewhat monthly out of Cape Town (though the dates of departure/return are not set in stone and can move depending on numerous factors). The return passenger fare is under $700 USD, which is a pretty decent price, all things considered. I would not count on luxury digs, however, as the two ships currently making the run are a fishing ship and a cargo ship.

And there's more!

Space on the two ships is limited. And non-resident tourist passengers have the lowest possible priority. If somebody is sick and needs to get off the island for medical reasons? You get bumped. If somebody on official island business needs to leave at the last minute? You get bumped. If somebody on the island decides they want to holiday in Cape Town? You get bumped. What this means is that you can schedule a trip to arrive at Tristan da Cunha on May 22nd then return to Cape Town on May 28th... and end up leaving on June 2nd and returning August 23rd (or longer!).

So to visit, not only do you need to have the time and money to sit around Cape Town waiting for a ship... you also have to have the time and money to sit around Tristan da Cunha waiting for a ship.

OR... you can try to book a cruise ship.

Apparently there are cruises that sail the South Atlantic from time to time. They run between Ushuaia (South America) and Cape Town (Africa). They last two weeks and cost over ten thousand dollars... so, again... time and money required.

OR... if you're a billionaire?

I'd imagine you could go wherever the hell you want. Charter an entire ship to get to/from Tristan da Cunha if you want to. The world is your oyster.

And that's the reason I want to be obscenely wealthy.

   

Tues

Posted on April 29th, 2014

Dave!Tuesday is the toughest day of the week for me. If anything is going to go wrong, today is the day.

In this case, it was having a pile of work left over from Monday while I'm having to reschedule three flights. Which wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the heinous change-fees that airlines like to charge now. I had to pay anywhere from $125 to $200... plus the change in airfare. Which always seems to increase, by the way. Kind of crazy how having your plans change can be so absurdly costly.

Just one more reason I frickin' loathe to fly any more. Even if you manage to get a decent fare, you still end up screwed if something comes up. And when you fly dozens of times a year, stuff is gonna come up.

Oh well.

It's not like I need to pay rent. Or eat. Or buy toilet paper.

Good thing I gave up taking a shit for Lent.

   

Wealth

Posted on June 26th, 2012

Dave!During the "Dot Com Explosion" of the late 90's I knew more than a few people who amassed considerable wealth in a very short amount of time. This did not include me, however, because I was becoming increasingly involved with the Buddhist studies I had stumbled upon a decade earlier. Material wealth was something that took a distant back seat to my spiritual wealth back then, so chasing the buckets of money was not a priority. Even so, it was an interesting period in my life precisely because of all the money that was to be had.

And the randomness of where the money went.

Some people I knew stumbled into shit-loads of money almost by accident, but were smart enough to turn it into a personal fortune while the gettin' was good.

One guy... a kid, really... was pulling down thousands of dollars a week just making simple banner ads in his spare time. He not only earned enough money to completely pay for his college tuition, but had enough left over to pay for a bug chunk of his sister's education as well.

Another guy got a full-time job with a massive salary working from home on a corporate website. This occupied so little of his time that he ended up getting two additional "full-time" work-at-home-jobs... all of which he held at the same time. After six months he had enough money saved up that he started his own business, which he ran successfully for nearly a year before selling it for a staggering amount of money. This would be a cool story in itself, but it's made all the more incredible when you know that he kept all three of his "full-time" jobs that whole time!

Still another guy made huge, huge money because he owned a "worthless" low-rent office building that his family had purchased decades earlier. He inherited it after his dad died and had tried to sell it several times without success... until the neighborhood became a hotspot for dot-com start-ups. Luckily for him, he quickly learned the value of what he had, and was able to milk it for incredible profits... before finally selling it to a big company that bought it only so they could tear it down and build their new headquarters on the land.

Money was raining down from the heavens at an incalculable rate, and a lot of people became incredibly wealthy chasing it.

But not everybody.

Some people, try as they might, could never manage to get their piece of the pie no matter how hard they tried. They would start up one failed business after another trying to figure out where the money was... but never managed to find it.

These were some of the most bitter, angry, resentful people I've ever met. And the most educational, as they clearly confirmed that my embracing anti-materialism was the right path to be on. This was never made more clear to me as when I joined a group of them at a housewarming party thrown by a guy who was making bajillions of dollars in dot-com cash. He proudly showed off his incredible new home, only to be cut-up from one end to the other the minute he left the room. At one point some guests were discussing the "horror story" that was the kitchen decor. I found this funny... and said so, which lead to this conversation...

"You actually like that ugly mess?"

"Well, it's not my taste, but he's clearly happy with it. Since he's the one that has to live with it, what should it matter to anybody else?"

"Because he has the money to hire a decent interior decorator and still chooses to have an ugly kitchen!"

This was good for a group-laugh, which was fascinating to me...

"Well, fortunately the only thing wrong with him is something that can be fixed by a coat of paint... we should all be so lucky."

The implication of that statement went right over their heads (thankfully), but stuck with me for a very long time. Even when I strayed off the path of anti-materialism because I realized that some "stuff" made my life much more fun. Like a PowerMac G4 computer and a PlayStation 2 video game.

Eventually the dot-com bubble burst. Some people who made a lot of money ended up losing a lot more.

This, I'm sure, was a time of glee and much rejoicing by all the bitter, angry, resentful people who were so tortured by the monetary success that eluded them during those heady days. Finally, at long last, those who succeeded where they had failed were "getting what they deserved!"

The irony being that all the bitter, angry, resentful people were getting exactly what they deserved, even if they didn't realize it.

...

Which is why I am trying hard — so very hard — not to be bitter, angry, and resentful that Justin Bieber's new album, Believe, has just become the year's top-selling debut... despite being filled with songs that I loathe so badly that I can barely listen to 10 seconds of the 90-second preview snippets on the iTunes Store without gagging.

Fortunately, Matt & Kim, a band I love more than buckets of money, just released a new single to keep me on my path...

Life. Is. Good.

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89¢

Posted on April 30th, 2012

Dave!This is one of those times where every cent of my paycheck was already spoken for.

Which would usually be upsetting, but it's a direct result of spending a week goofing off in Europe after having just gotten back from two weeks vacation, so I'm perfectly okay with it.

Even so, you can imagine my excitement as I was rearranging books on my shelves only to have a 1000 Korean Won note fell to the floor. It had apparently been used as a bookmark. Or maybe I just stuck it between some books because it was pretty and I wanted to flatten it out for a souvenir...

Won 1000

However it got there, the only thing running through my mind now was... MONEY!

But how much? Maybe $20... probably more like $10... but wouldn't it be cool if it was $100? I had no idea, so I rushed to fire up a currency conversion app on my iPhone.

Only to discover that 1000 Won is 89¢ in US money. Which, coincidentally enough, is almost exactly the same as when I was last in Seoul back in September 2004. That's not as good as the $1.10 I would have gotten in November of 2007... but certainly not as bad as the 64¢ I would have got back in March of 2009.

In any event, whether it's $1.10 or 89¢ or 64¢, that doesn't do much for my cash on hand. Especially once exchange fees are paid.

Thank heavens for credit cards, because it's time to shop.

With the exception of grocery stores, it's getting to the point where I rarely shop at brick-n-mortar stores any more. Everything I need to buy is purchased off the internets. But I got a $10 coupon back when I paid for my eye exam at Shopko (where everything is always on sale!) and it's expiring today, so I decided to stop in and see if I could spend the $50 required to use my coupon. Sure I'm poor just now, but you gotta spend money to save money!

I ended up buying new bed sheets (on sale!) and a PUR water filtration pitcher (on sale!). This was just enough to get my $10 savings, so I was pretty happy.

Until...

Just for kicks, I checked pricing when I got home... only to find that even with the $10 coupon, I ended up paying $1.30 more than if I had bought online (and that includes shipping!). Add in money for gas and my time and I definitely lost-out on the deal.

Oh well. Live and learn.

But I'm pretty sure I learned that already.

   

Downfall

Posted on August 15th, 2011

Dave!Nothing quite like losing 15% of your retirement fund in less than two months. So happy I pay a bunch of experts to manage my money! Something tells me I would have been better off investing my money in hookers. Sure it uses my long-term asset for a short-term investment with no long-term payoff... and comes with some really heavy risk factors... but at least I would be stimulating the local economy.

And my penis.

What's odd is that my retirement plan is fairly low-risk. I can't imagine how much I would have lost were I still in the high-risk/high-yield program I was in just five years ago.

And don't think I'm not grateful that I at least have something left in my retirement account. There are many, many people out there who are not so lucky. Stupid economy.

So, yeah, I'm a little worried about my retirement.

But that's quite a ways away. And, as of today, is even further away than it was last month.

The more immediate concern is my upcoming vacation. I haven't worked out all the details yet, but if the US dollar gets much worse, my travels are going to take a turn for the worse...

DAVETOON: Will Give Handjobs for Bus Fare

On the other hand, I would be meeting new and interesting people.

   

Change

Posted on April 9th, 2011

Dave!Today I finally found a minute to file my taxes. I pretty much had to file them because I need my refund check to cover the three vacations I just took. This was made abundantly clear to me when I went to the cash machine and it refused to give me any money.

I hate it when that happens.

Life would be so much better if cash machines gave me money without checking my account balance first.

Anyway... with no money to be had, it was time to rummage through pants pockets, couch cushions, travel bags, car ashtrays, and the like. After a half-hour of digging, I managed to scrape together $20.28, which seems like all the money in the world when you've got nothing. Oddly enough, while searching for US dollars, I found out I'm actually richer elsewhere on earth. I have 45 Euros ($65.18), 27.50 British Pounds ($45.05), and 60 Canadian dollars ($62.81). If I were to leave the country I could have a real party. As it is, all I can afford is to put some gas in my car and buy a loaf of bread.

But that's okay.

I wouldn't trade my wonderful time in Venice... or seeing Matt & Kim in London... or seeing OMD and Mackintosh Braun in Los Angeles... or celebrating my sister's birthday in Las Vegas... for all the tea in China. There are some experiences you simply can't put a price on. So I'm content to be poor for a little while and live on fond memories.

And who knows? Everything could change tomorrow.

Heck, in one day I've gone from being flat-broke to having all the money in the world. Anything is possible!

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Millions

Posted on November 13th, 2010

Dave!I often try to imagine my life without consequences or responsibilities.

And millions of dollars.

I'm sure this is no different from everybody else in the world with an active imagination, but it makes me feel special to think that I'm the only one who would know how to do it right...

DaveToon: Lil' Dave's Pimp Money

   
If anybody would like for me to test this theory for reals, please forward a couple million dollars to my PayPal account.

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