Becoming Debt Free - S2E15

June 29th, 2017 · 54 mins 29 secs

About this Episode

LIVE FROM MINNEAPOLIS! This is the Small Scale Life Podcast, and I am your host Tom Domres. Since we are Livestreaming on YouTube, I would like to welcome all of our listeners and viewers there. Thank you for tuning in, and welcome to the show!

Today, we are going to discuss one topic that hangs around like a bad skunk smell: debt. We haven’t done a show completely focused on debt before, but it folds right in with our Frugal Living focus here at Small Scale Life.

A lot of us have debt, and you might be wondering how to get rid of it. Well, Julie and I have been working on our debt for a long time, and we took one big step closer to becoming debt free yesterday. It is REALLY exciting, so we are going to discuss that on Season 2, Episode 15 or the Small Scale Life Podcast!

In case you are new to Small Scale Life, this is a blog and podcast dedicated to developing a sustainable life through

• Gardening
• Healthy Living
• Frugal Living and
• Having Adventures along the way!

At Small Scale Life, we are always dedicated to learning, doing and growing.

This podcast is brought to you by Small Scale Life Facebook Group and the Small Scale Gardening Facebook Group. We’ll hear about both of those groups later in the show.

New Tech and Podcast Hosting

As we start the show today, I wanted to let you all know that we are making some changes to the way the podcast is hosted and delivered to you.

We are leaving the host Blubrry and going to a new host called Fireside. Why does this matter? Well, just to provide a peak behind the curtain, Blubrry and other hosting sites like Libsyn have a limit on the amount of material uploaded on their site per month. I paid a $20 fee, and I was able to upload 250 MB of shows onto their server. That’s a lot of data in a month!

The trouble I was having was that hour-long shows are typically getting into the 100 MB range (using my current processing methods). That equates to two 1 hour shows and maybe a shorter show during the month on Blubrry.

As we grow and improve our systems, I would like to do more interviews and other shows that might take more time. I needed a better solution. Fortunately, my coach Kevin Michael Geary was also bumping into issues with his Rebooted Body Podcast and Bite Sized Wellness Podcast. He decided to transfer everything to Fireside. He liked the service and analytics, so I decided to move over there as well!

The good thing is that those first 6 episodes of the show that were orphaned on Soundcloud have been pulled over, as have the last 10 episodes. I will be pulling the rest over this week.

Hopefully there will be no interruptions and this will be a smooth transition! Please let me know if you experience any problems listening to and downloading the podcast.

On the Road Again

This has been an incredibly busy and chaotic summer (once again)! I am hoping it slows down at some point, and Julie assures me that it will. We have been traveling over the past week again, and we had some really fun trips. I shouldn’t complain!

Lake Mills, Wisconsin

Julie, Ryan and I went down to Lake Mills, Wisconsin, for a graduation party, and it was great seeing the extended family down there. We reconnected with everyone, and I was able to schedule a family guy’s only event in late August. That should be a lot of fun. So, if you are part of our guy’s group, we will be camping on my land on the weekend of August 26-27. That should be a lot of fun.

We stayed in a mom and pop-style resort in Lake Mills, and we had some time on Saturday to enjoy the beach and the lake. Staying at that resort really took me back to the Wa-Chee-Lah Resort my grandparent’s operated in Central Wisconsin near the Dells. There are no tvs; there is sketchy phone service. These places are great for relaxing and getting away from it all. The vintage cabins, the smells, the decoration…it brought me back to my childhood.

The one drawback to the weekend came from swimming in the Lake. I got “The Itch.” I had welts on my skin that itched like crazy, and talking with my sister-in-law about her weekend in northern Wisconsin, my nieces and nephews got a case of that as well. It causes discomfort, and I will have more information on that.

Winona, Minnesota

Last Wednesday, Julie, Ryan and I traveled to Winona, Minnesota. He is going to attend Winona State University in August, so we had to make the journey to get him registered for school. Even with the rain, I have to say that the Winona State is a beautiful campus a few blocks west of the Mississippi River. We had a great, but very short, trip there. We are all excited that Ryan will start a new adventure there, and I know he will like the college.

One of the presentations that really caught our attention was from the Financial Aid Office. They walked through all of the various pages on their website that dealt with costs and paying for school. It is stunning that a state school like Winona State University costs about $18,000 per year. That includes tuition, fees, laptop, and housing (plus a meal plan). Books, supplies and the beer money (ahem) are extra.

That is A LOT of money, and if you haven’t built a war chest of cash to pay for college, you will be taking out a lot of loans. That equates to $72,000 for four years for tuition, fees, the laptop and housing. Let that sink in for a minute……$72,000.

Yikes! So, my message for you other parents and students: get saving OR explore other options like the trades or like Aaron Clarey says, “Become a Reconnaissance Man” and explore the world for a year.

All in all, it was a good trip, and we are excited for Ryan to begin this next phase of his life.

Ok, we are going to take a little break and hear from the sponsors of today’s episode of Small Scale Life, and then we will be right back to get into becoming debt free!

All right, welcome back to the Small Scale Life Podcast. As I mentioned early in the show, having a pile of debt is like a bad skunk smell: it just lingers around and makes you very uncomfortable over time. Having debt is just one of those things that people expect to have in modern America: we wake up in mortgaged homes, drive leased cars or cars with loans, drive on financed roads, put that morning Starbucks or lunch on the credit card, and go back to that mortgaged home to start it all over again. We Americans are FAR too comfortable with having debt.

I figured we would have learned our lesson with the Crash of 2008. According to the New York Times, we have not. According to the linked May 17th article, “Americans have now borrowed more money than they had at the height of the credit bubble in 2008 just as the global financial system began to collapse.” In May, household debt had climbed to 12.7 TRILLION dollars, and while politicians, bankers and other might celebrate because our spending on consumer goods, education and housing have increased, this is a horrible signal that we have learned nothing from the last economic downturn.

Let me correct that: we learned our lesson FOR A BIT. Household debt actually decreased for 19 quarters starting in 2008. However, by 2013, we started to pile on that debt once again. I guess everyone thought we were in the clear!

Our debt consists of the following:
• Mortgage – 8.6 Trillion dollars which 68% of our debt
• Student Loans – 1.3 Trillion dollars
• Cars – 1.1 Trillion dollars
• Credit Card Debt – 797 billion dollars (529 billion – carrying a balance)

We already talked a little about student loan debt, and we will be coming back to that topic in a separate podcast. It really is a big issue that needs to be addressed because so many people are overwhelmed with student loan debt.

Today, we are focusing on credit card debt. Looking at another source of information about credit cards called Magnify Money, author Hannah Mounds has posted a number of interesting statistics about Credit Card Debt including:

• As of December 2016, households with credit card debt owed an average of $8,448 (actually down 20 percent from the Crash of 2008)
• 195 million Americans have credit cards
• Average number of credit cards per consumer is 2.3
• 122 million Americans carry a credit card balance
• Average credit card debt per person is $4,354
• Average credit card debt per household is $8,448
• 31% of households carry a balance all year

Businesses and Credit Card Companies have invested A LOT of time and money to understand consumers and our buying patterns and habits. Dave Ramsey from Ramsey Solutions talks about this all the time. He tells us that:

• A study of credit card use at McDonald’s found that people spent 47% more when using credit instead of cash.
• You will spend more if you use credit cards; you don’t feel the pain of handing over those green bills you worked hard to earn.

• Even by paying the bills on time, you are not beating the system due to fees and interest charged by the lenders! But most families don't pay on time.

Why do we borrow money? Beekeeper extraordinaire Michael Jordan and I recently talked about the why in our recent interview. I am going to play that brief conversation for you.

Wages are and have been stagnant. We are taking on too much debt to keep up appearances and buy more worthless stuff. Is it worth it?

Julie and I have been there and done that! Since getting married in college, we have worked hard at surviving and keeping the lights on and food on the table. We borrowed money:

• To buy our first car and our first computer
• So I could complete college.

• Buy our houses

I also got my first credit card in college. We racked up debt throughout our marriage, and we have been working to eliminate it since the Crash of 2008 (sometimes being more successful at eliminating debt than others).

I have learned that debt limits your freedom. Borrowing money eliminates your options about where you live, what you can buy, and even where you work and what your career options are.

For example, we had a high mortgage for our house in Illinois. We also carried some credit card debt. When the Crash of 2008 happened, I had clients stopping projects and walking away from our company in order to keep their own employees working. Our company management was looking to reduce staff, and I had to lay off employees. There were times when I thought I was going to be laid off.

At the same time, the small company that Julie was working for was struggling. No one was doing construction projects, so there were mass layoffs across the construction industry and trades. The odds for survival were not in this company’s favor.

There was no way that we could pay our bills if we were laid off. The debt we had assumed was WAY too high. We had to make some tough decisions about where we were working, where we were living and how we were spending our money. We had to make changes.

Let me say that again: WE HAD TO MAKE CHANGES. That is the real reason for creating this podcast today. I have some EXCELLENT and exciting news.

As of yesterday, Julie made one final payment to the bank. This morning, we checked the balance to confirm it, but we have paid off our only credit card! We are one step closer to being debt free. In a couple weeks, we will be back on the air to talk about truly being debt free, and that will be a REALLY fun podcast. I will even have Julie on the air for that one. We’ll do our own Debt Free Scream for all of you!

Becoming debt free is a process. Like losing weight, it can be hard and take a long time. You need to keep the end in sight. If you want to start changing your life and your family’s financial path, you need to start today. To help you, there are some good resources out there to get you on the right track.

• Julie and I have been HUGE fans of Dave Ramsey. Check out his site at daveramsey.com. He has a radio show, podcast, YouTube channel and all kinds of resources for you to help you. It is REALLY worth it, but like anything, it is on you to do the work and help yourself.
• If you don’t like Dave or other aspects of his program, there are other resources like Crown Financial Ministries.
• If you don’t care for a Christian perspective and want something a little more…irreverent, you can always check out Aaron Clarey’s books like Bachelor Pad Economics, Worthless, Reconnaisance Man and Poor Richard’s Retirement. He discusses some of the same principles from a bachelor’s perspective.

There is a ton to discuss about becoming debt free. There is no better feeling than the freedom of not having any payments. It is possible; you can do it. We will discuss this in more detail in the future, and Julie and I can help you. Stay tuned for more about becoming debt free.

I will be back tomorrow with a GREAT interview with Michael Jordan, so come back for that. We talk small businesses and bees. He was AWESOME!

Thank you for tuning in to this episode! We appreciate you. Get out there and try something new this week. Remember to always learn, do and grow; this is Tom from the Small Scale Life Podcast. See you soon!