Slavery comes in all shapes and sizes

It only takes one time of signing your name to become an indentured servant. It only takes a few more times to find yourself years in the hole.

At 22 years old it took only one swipe of the pen to become yet another victim in the mortgage war. Making only $32k a year without benefits I had very quickly signed on to paying back $60k (I padded the cost of the house for some necessary upgrades) to the lender. $60k that by the maturity of the 30-year note would be more like $117k.

A year later with my lifestyle becoming even more demanding and my salary becoming even less sufficient I took on an American Express card that 1 vacation, 1 HVAC unit, a few nights out, and an anniversary ring had already grown to a staggering $9k commitment. By 24 years old I was just another statistic in the word of debt in America. And now at 32 years old I find myself digging out of a $31k nightmare with no one to blame buy myself.

Each month I make my payment to AMEX and Bank of America and pride myself on being another step closer to my dream of a debt-free existence. But tonight the reality of my position hit me squarely in the jaw. Because of my current monthly obligations and the state of personal and corporate debt in the nation I am at a loss as to how to fund our Tiny House.

We could commit to purchasing all products at a box store via store credit card (19.2% interest). We could take out a few signature loans (22.4% finance charge). We could….we could….we could. ENOUGH! None of those are viable options and at the end of the day they do nothing more than add a link in the chain of my financial handcuffs.

At this point my wife looked at me with compassionate eyes and reminded me of how far we’d come in eliminating debt and how little we had left. She pointed out to me that by waiting six months to start the Tiny House we could have our AMEX paid off and be able to invest nearly $1200/month into our project which would, in essence, allow us to pursue our dream without taking on another loan, credit card, or high-finance fallacy.

And like that, it all made sense. In this time of waiting we can move to North Carolina and spend our extra time preparing the land our Tiny House will sit on. We can clear the actual “parking” spot, run the pipes for water, scrape out our garden spot and rebuild our chicken coop. With a little planning we can even put up moveable fencing for our goats that will eventually finish clearing the land as needed. It is almost a better plan that launching the build on Jan. 1.

The sustainable movement and the desire to live more simply does not involve just having a smaller home and less clothes. It involves shapeshifting your life into something that requires less, uses less, and controls you less. It is about cash on the barrel and a real understanding of the differences between need and want.

And right now? Well, right now I want to finish running one race before I begin training for another.

Some current facts about debt in America:

• There are roughly 1.2 billion credit cards in use in the United States
• Today roughly 24 percent of personal expenditures in this country are made with credit cards
• A typical credit card purchase ends up costing 117 percent more than if cash were used
• A $1,000 charge on an average credit card will take almost 22 years to pay, and will cost more than $2,300 in interest ($3,300 totally) – if only 2 percent minimum payments are made

– 25 Fascinating Facts about Personal Debt. Paul Banister.


  1. says

    Your wife is a very smart lady. I am currently working off my student loans, which thankfully do not amount to more than $10k in debt. I also have a couple of small credit cards, my wife’s PC I’m paying off, and some furniture we recently bought. If luck holds, I’ll be able to pay off the furniture without interest, and one of my student loans will be gone in a year. It took me a long time to learn the patience to hold off on the things I want to buy. I’ll be sure to let you know when I finally cave to my buying desires and build that new PC I’ve been talking about for at least 3 years now. :)

  2. says

    You can do it!  Mr Chiots and I have always loathed debt, only signing up for it when purchasing our small home and managing to live meagerly enough to pay that off in 8 years.  So now we’re 100% debt free, we own our home and our cars, we have a nice stash of cash saved up for future needs (like new cars).  Sure it meant years of living without all the “luxuries” most people see as “needs”: cell phones, cable TV,  eating out, convenience food from the grocery, driving here there and everywhere all the time, etc.  I’ll gladly take my simple life and small house with food garden without debt any day over having a mcmansion with all the trimmings and a heavy burden of debt.  

    Being out of debt gives you the freedom to do what you want.  You’re lucky you learned this lesson this young, many people never do and blame “the system” for their “bad luck”.  The truth is everyone can throw off the shackles of debt slavery with hard work and determination.  The satisfaction and freedom attained will more than make up for any discomfort and lack of “things”.  

    Cheers to you my friend (how about an update of this situations since this was written in 2010?).  

    • anotherkindofdrew says

      Since you asked…..

      Since this post we have managed to make strides in this department. We paid off two small individual loans from individuals (family members) that were for when we didn’t which way was up and were making below poverty line. We then eliminated a VISA, paying off nearly $10K, cutting it up, and canceling the account. We then purchased a SleepNumber bed with cash. We only have 6 months left before our AMEX is paid off (which we will keep as our emergency credit card). We have stashed away a good amount of Odom Emergency Fund as well as began investing in precious metals (not metal notes but actual coins) should our currency go belly up. We are also only 2 years away from paying off our car although we anticipate double payments or even triple once the AMEX is paid down. As for acquiring any more debt? We will have to see how the hospital goes with the birth of Tilly Madison. But even as I write this I am encouraged by what we have accomplished on the salary of just one full-time “outside” worker. 

      • says

        Sounds like you’re doing well!  Looks like little Tilly will be born into a great situation thanks to smart parents.  

        Investing in precious metal coins, I have a few friends doing that as well.  As for us, we decided to invest our cash in land that we can use to grow food on, figured if things went belly up we wouldn’t be able to eat coins :)  This year we’ve been able to expand our land her at Chiot’s Run from .25 acres to .75 acres, not a lot, but we could survive on what we could grow here now I think once we get things established.  And now we’re on the saving for hopefully 100 acres some day.Kudos to you for paying off the debt, can’t wait to hear the news that you’re 100% debt free!  

        • anotherkindofdrew says

          I hear you on the land. We are working on trying to purchase either of the lots next to us. So far we are hitting brick walls but we continue to pray about it. We would purchase it in Tilly Madison’s name so that it would be our “legacy” to her as I firmly think land will be next to impossible to purchase in the next decade. And you are right. We won’t be able to eat coins and we are very thrifty when it comes to how much we have purchased, the amounts, etc. They are only as good as the people that will take them and the services they will barter for. Land is our ultimate goal though. 

          • says

            Patience is the key sometimes.  We patiently waited for the lots of both sides of us to come up for sale and then to reach a price we felt we could afford.  On one side the lot was purchased back at the height of the market for double what we ended up paying for it earlier this spring.  We considered trying to buy it back then, but couldn’t justify the price and we were still trying to pay off the house.  

            2 years ago the guy on the other side approached us about buying his lot, but he wanted over 4X the assessed value.  We offered what we could afford, he turned us down.  He just approached us again and we offered a lower price now that the economy is bad and he accepted.  We ended up getting it for less than half of his original asking price and for 20% less than we offered for it 2 years ago.  

            I’m a big believer that everything – good and bad – happens for a reason.  It’s often those times when you think things don’t work out that turn out to be the best things when looked back on.  I’m sure in a few years you’ll be able to see why things are happening the way they are now.  

            I certainly can’t wait to see how your future unfolds for you guys!     

  3. Ani Lacy says

    Paying off debt first is a great idea. I also want to build a tiny house of my own, but to make that happen I sold my house, and paid off my mortgage, paid off my consumer debt & moved into a tiny (cheap) apartment in the city. It will likely be several more years before I have enough saved, but once the debt was gone the saving got easier, and it will get easier for you too!

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