Slavery comes in all shapes and sizes

by andrewodom on September 6, 2010 · 8 comments


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. Bankrate.com

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