The advice of this post can be summed up in one statement;
Make bad choices and you will fail in life.
It doesn’t matter who you are or what color your skin is. If you make bad choices in life, it is YOUR fault for the consequences of your actions. Ever heard the phrase “You’ve made your bed, now lie in it”? I do not feel sorry for people who whine about how “bad” their life is when they’ve made stupid, harmful, or irresponsible decisions in their lives. Don’t like where you are in life? Then get off your ass and do something to change it. We all have difficult things to overcome and crosses to bear, but dwelling on the negative will not help you improve your situation. Only YOU can help yourself. No one else, not even the government, is going to fix or enhance your life for you.
This is going to focus on a lot of the financial aspects of not being a loser with some social observations sprinkled in and actual advice to better yourself that worked for me. This is based on my personal experiences and observations. Take the advice or don’t, it’s your life to mess up or make better.
A Little Backstory About Me
Throughout my life, I’ve always had work. I started working at 13, doing computer repairs, and building custom gaming computers. Word got around, and I built up a small client base. I networked with people much older than me and even took over some business networks when I was 15 years old. When I was 15, I got a part-time job working at a mall kiosk selling Veggie Tales CDs. This kiosk was next to a Dell cart that sold computers to people. One of the things I noticed was that Dell didn’t set up, at home, the computers for people. I scored so many jobs just from talking to people between sales at the cart by going to their houses and setting up their computers for them.
One of those people lead to a contact at a small business in Alsip. They had a small computer network with 12 desktops and 1 file server. They had an “it person” that was a friend of the owner who didn’t know what they were doing. The only issue is that I was 15, I couldn’t drive on my own. Did I let that stop me from getting that job? No. I worked out a deal with the company and they arranged rides to get me from my parents’ house. I could have stopped there and whined about how it’s not fair that I was too young to get there on my own, but I found a way to make it work.
I started taking college-level classes when I was 14 years old. I took web development, programming, network admin, and other technical courses. It is something I was interested in (and still am). I didn’t go full time until I was 18, but I took a part-time load while I was still taking my high school classes. When I was 18, my parents told me that I would be on my own for paying for my courses. They would keep me on their health insurance and not charge me rent as long as I was a full-time student. Did I bitch and moan because it wasn’t “fair” that they put these restrictions in place? No.
During the college portion of my life was in the middle of the 2008 financial crisis. Up until I was 19, I was working for myself doing computer repairs, custom computer builds, and maintaining networks for a few small businesses. When 2008 hit, the custom computer builds dried up, and the computer repairs slowed down. I tried some things to drum up more business, but it wasn’t what I was happy with in terms of revenue. I ended up getting a job as a bench technician at Tiger Direct. I worked there 40-50 hours a week while still doing some computer side work AND going to school full time. When I was at Tiger Direct, I was consistently one of the top repair techs and salespeople they had in that department.
Currently I run a successful 3D printing company with my lovely wife Samantha in Hobart, IN where we employ 12 people in total (as of writing this post).
Working with “Normal” People
Working at Tiger Direct was a culture shock because I was working with “normal” people. I used to be your stereotypical, awkward nerd who didn’t know how to hold a conversation if I had a bucket to put it in. There were a lot of nerds that worked there that weren’t super social, but the sales guys were in their mid-20s-early 30s and were “normal.” What do I mean by “normal”? I mean people who did social events like going to bars, parties, and other social gatherings. One thing that I noticed is that most of them all were driving new cars and would get new ones every 1-2 years. They also went out to bars frequently with their friends on nights and weekends. Others would also go to concerts and other events that were not that “cheap” to attend. But the thing is that many of these people who drove new cars and did all these social events/gatherings always complained about not having enough money. I didn’t get it. They worked in higher-paid positions than I did, and they make a good commission on their sales. Even factoring in rent or a mortgage (for the ones that had these expenses), they were making good money. I later found out that the top sales guys were bringing in close to $70-80k/year, not bad at all.
Why were these people always “broke”? They didn’t know how to manage their money. They wasted money on things they didn’t need to be buying with cash they didn’t have. They fell into the trap of car loans and credit card debt. Instead of cutting out frivolous spending to get their debt paid down, they just kept feeding the debt. When they would get a bonus, it would get spent on more crap they didn’t need instead of paying down the debt they already had. The sad part is many of the people still lived with their parents, so trying to make a mortgage or rent payment wasn’t something they had to stress over.
I saw this same pattern of behavior at other jobs with other people that I worked at:
- Going out to eat every day.
- Going to the bars all the time and racking up $50-100+ tabs.
- Upgrading to a new car every few years.
- Not paying own debt, only taking more and more on.
I do want to add that I made some good friends and connections working at these jobs. The one guy I met at Tiger Direct was a nerd who was “cool” in that he was social. He and I didn’t get along at first, but we ended up being good friends in the end. He helped me be less awkward and more social with people; for that, I thank you.
Smart Parents = Successful Children
My parents were your average middle-class family. My parents didn’t buy us things that were not essential because they didn’t have the extra money. When I wanted my own computer, their reply was to get a job. I am glad they did this because it taught me what the value of a dollar was. If they just gave me whatever I wanted, I would have no idea what level of work was required to get whatever it was that I asked them to get me. My parents helped me out by letting me live at home rent-free for a while when I was working and in school. After I left school (we’ll get to that later), my choices were to pay rent to them or move out. I paid them rent for a short while, but then I saved up to get my own place. Let’s go over where I cut out things to save money in my life and make sure I was the right decision.
One thing to note is that being brought up in a household with two parents give anyone a better start in life no matter who you are, where you come from, or what color your skin is. People who bring kids into a single-parent household are setting their kids up for a harder time in life and themselves. Making sure you don’t end up a single parent comes back to making smart decisions. Stop dating losers and being dumb about sexual activities. If you are not ready to have a kid then don’t have sex or use some kind of contraception. This is not my opinion but the actual facts that are backed up by real data. See here: The Changing Profile of Unmarried Parents & 40 Facts About Two Parent Families. If you want an article that has some interesting numbers click here for the PMC link.
If you are someone who is a child of a single parent, then know that you will have to work harder to improve things for yourself. Do not use this as an excuse to victimize yourself or as a reason to not better yourself. If you do decide you want a family later, make sure to break the cycle of single parenthood by finding a stable partner to build a life with so that you and your child both have a better shot at a happy and successful life. Overcoming this will only make you stronger and more resilient in the future.
The “Fun” Can Wait
Being someone who prefers to be at home and working on projects, I did not go out to bars often or other social events. I did occasionally go out with friends, but I frequently would decline invites to go out with friends, sometimes multiple times on the same weekend. I am not saying you should never do these things, but it should not be a regular thing. Most nights would be between $50-100 a night, depending on where we were going out that night. Assuming there are four weekends in most months, that could be $200-400 a month in spending that is not needed.
If you are someone who is in debt and want to pay it down, stop going out. Take that money that you would have spent going out and use it to pay down any debt you have, whether that is a credit card, student loan, or a car payment. You can’t be going out and spending on “fun” stuff when you have tons of debt. The fun can come later when you have your financial house in order.
When I got my own place, I still practiced this and ended up just getting drinks from the store to have at my home. I’d much rather be at my house (or a friend’s house) drinking a $1-2 beer instead of paying $5+ for a beer in a place that is loud and filled with people I don’t even want to be around.
I am not someone who took many vacations or trips. Aside from my Honeymoon or the occasional event trip I cannot recall an actual “vacation” where I went somewhere far away. Trips are nice but they are expensive. If you don’t have the money to take trips then don’t take them. Find something local to do or just have some relaxing time off at home. I like to knock out projects around the house or work on one of my hobbies when I have time off.
Do you go out to eat a lot? Log all the receipts and see just how much you are spending. Most lunches when I would work would be $8-12 on average. Let’s say three times a week people would go out and I would go with them. That is an extra $120 a month on average for going out to eat versus buying food and making your lunch. I would buy bread, meat, cheese, and mayo to keep at work (if your work doesn’t have this option, then keep it and home to make it there to bring with you). Doing it myself with store-bought food, my lunch was about $1-2 a meal for a sandwich.
I have always shopped at Aldi. My parents shopped at Aldi, and I still do to this day. I know so many people who shop at name-brand stores where to fill a cart, you are looking at $300 in some cases. If you go to Aldi with $100, you can load a cart and then some. Stop wasting money on “name brand” grocery stores. Yes, they look nice and have a deli or other extras, but you pay for that. All that excess increases the price of all the products in the store. If you have ever been in an Aldi, you will notice they don’t have flashy displays, and most of the stuff is on the shelf in the shipping boxes from the manufacturer, this cuts costs for you and them. Does it look as “nice”? No. But I don’t care. I am going there to get my groceries, not to have an “experience” that ends up costing me more money in the end for nothing of value in the end product result. If you do shop at a “name brand” store or Aldi (or similar) isn’t near you then opt for the store brands instead of the “name brands.”
Using Credit Wisely
Today having some credit is essential to build your credit score. When I was 18, I got a credit card with a $250 limit from a small bank in the area. I used that card for gas and other small purchases. After I had some credit with them, I got a Discover card (which I still have) and an Amazon Visa (Chase) (which I still have). I have a Bestbuy and Amazon Store card as well. The point is that having credit is essential, as you will need it to get a mortgage at some point (unless you can pay cash).
The difference is that I did not spend what I did not have in my bank account (except for one year). I used the credit cards to build up my credit history, but I paid them off EVERY MONTH. I took advantage of the points and rewards to buy some fun things or stuff that I needed for myself or the house.
The only time I carried balances on my credit cards was in 2012 when I moved out; I had to furnish an entire house. I carried a balance on those for about six months, but I took advantage of a 0% promotion through one of the cards I had at the time. Meaning I paid no interest on the balance. I knew that buying a house was going to require me to purchase furniture and other things for the place. I got what I could second hand and hand-me-downs from friends/family, but the stuff I bought new I put on a card that had a 0% promotion for 24 months. They also included balance transfers in this 0% promotion, so I transferred all the balances from the other cards that did not have this same deal on them to that card.
New Cars are for Suckers
Stop buying new cars. New cars are for suckers or people who have excess money to blow. Every single car and vehicle (I have two motorcycles) has been used. I never have and will never own a new car. People get caught up in having the “latest” car or trying to keep up appearances to people who don’t even matter. Buy used cars and learn how to fix them. If someone like me, who is a computer nerd, can learn how to fix a car, you can too. I’ve had some people ask me why I am still driving the same 10-year-old car around when I have a successful business. Why would I waste money replacing something that is 100% paid for and works perfectly fine? Don’t let others make you feel bad because you’re smart about what you drive; they’re probably up to their eyeballs in debt themselves.
I have had 3 “loans” on vehicles over the years. The first one was in 2008 when I bought a Pontiac Vibe from my dad’s friend. Their brother passed away, and they were selling it. I worked out a down payment with the guy and monthly payments to him. I had the car paid off in just under a year.
The second car was my HHR. My HHR was the first “nice” car I bought, and it was after I had an accident with my vibe. I had been working a decent IT job and had the funds to get something nicer. I bought a used (14K miles, six months old) 2010 HHR SS. I got 1.5% interest on the loan and put 50% down on it. The loan was a 3-year loan, and I paid it off in 6 months. That car was almost $10,000 lower than it was new (it was fully loaded) but only six months old. That car lost $10,000 in value in 6 MONTHS.
The last loan was on my BMW motorcycle. I was working for an IT company that did work for a dealer, and this was a trade-in. I picked it up for $5,000 under bluebook and got a 1% interest rate loan on a USED MOTORCYCLE. The motorcycle was a “fun” purchase, and I had the money to pay it off. Knowing that they gave me a great deal on the bike if I needed to sell it in the event of a financial emergency, I could (and even make a profit off it). The only reason I didn’t pay it off immediately is that the payment was really low, and I want to have the cash on hand in case something happened with my condo or other vehicles. I paid off this 3-year loan 1.5 years early.
Notice the interest rates on all the loans I had; they are all low. I also paid off all of them early. Paying the loan off early means less interest paid over the length of the loan that it is active. I haven’t had a car payment for over seven years now (bike was paid off in 2015).
All my other vehicles have been paid for in cash aside for those three mentioned. My wife and I currently have three cars and two motorcycles. My wife has the newest car, a 2016 Ford Escape Titanium, that we both paid for in cash a few years ago. I still have the 2010 HHR SS, and I also have a 2005 Mercedes E500 Wagon. Both of my cars have over 150,000 miles on them. I fix all of our vehicles when they have issues and do their oil changes. I’ve easily saved $10,000 in vehicle repairs over the last 13 years by doing things myself. I love working on my cars because it not only saves me money, but it allows me to learn about them. I also know that the job is done right because the few times I have had someone else do work on my vehicles, they usually screw something up.
Renting isn’t Smart (most of the time)
I talked above about building your credit. Building your credit is something that you need to get right at a young age if you want to get a mortgage. If you fucked up early in life and have tons of debt or a bad credit score, you need to fix that before you can get a mortgage. If you are a young person reading this and can live with your parents, then use that time to build up your savings. Renting only makes the person who owns the property money, not you.
Because I was smart financially and was able to live at home (while paying some rent), I was able to buy my condo at the age of 23. I did not have any co-signers on my mortgage. I did it all on my own and bought something that was well below what I was approved for. I purchased a condo in 2012 for $124K that we ended up selling for $165K in 2019. The condo was a foreclosure, and I did as many repairs on the unit myself as I could when things would break. If I were renting, I would have NO equity when we moved to the house we are in now. If you are going to be in a place for at least five years and you can buy it for a reasonable price, then you should buy it. If you are not going to be in a place for at least five years, then renting is a better choice until you find a place to “settle down.”
If you are a first time home buyer, you should always look at what promotions are going on from the mortgage companies and the government. Take advantage of these programs as they can help get you into your property early on.
Warning about Home Owners Associations (HOA): If I had to do it all over again, I would not purchase a property with an HOA. The HOA that we had at the condo was filled with incompetent morons who ended up costing me almost $6000 in damaged windows in my unit. They failed to hire competent people to fix a building leak that damaged my windows, and they ended up having to be replaced. The HOA was also filled with petty assholes who were only on the board to have an ounce of “power” in their sad, pathetic lives. Get a small house (without an HOA) if you can, unless you want a condo. Condos are convenient, but HOAs are a hassle most of the time filled with petty, sad people who will make your life complicated when they can. They also add a monthly fee to maintain the building/property and these never go away. Our HOA fees went up 50% over 5 years at the condo. They also can charge you special assessments if they need more funds for large projects. Fuck HOAs.
College is Overrated
One major drain of financial resources most young people get sucked into is college. They are convinced by people to take out loans to go to expensive colleges. Even worse some people take out student loans to get completely useless degrees that have no actual value in the real world (history, philosophy, creative writing, communication, intercultural studies, international studies, ethnic/civilization studies, fine arts, mass media, drama/theater arts, anthropology/archaeology, etc). If you are going to go to college don’t get a degree that has little to no actual value in the career market.
Go to a community or a smaller local college. Most community colleges only offer up to Associates Degrees but you can get a lot of your general education classes out of the way there before going to a more expensive university to get your Bachelors.
I took (and completed) over 92 credit hours at my community college. I did not get a degree because the classes I needed for 2 different degrees (Management Information Systems and Computer & Local Area Network Technician) were not being run. I switched between the MIS and LAN degree classes in an attempt to finish ONE of them because there was overlap in the classes but every semester a class I needed ended up being canceled due to low enrollment. I got fed up with this game of classes and ended up looking for a job. I used my connections from the college that I made along with others from previous jobs to get a job working in the IT field doing helpdesk.
Without the connections I made through the college and previous jobs I would have had a much harder time finding a job in the IT field. If you do go to a college make sure to network with people there. Even if you don’t graduate you can leverage those connections to help you get work in the future. To this day I still make use of some of those connections I made over 10 years ago.
I believe that if you are good at something and you are driven, then you can get by without a degree. As someone who runs a company, I give zero weight to someone if they have a degree. Many small businesses don’t care either about what degrees you have. If you are going into a job where certifications are a thing, you should focus on those. When I worked for IT companies, I had watched people who, on paper, were more “qualified” than I was utterly failing at their jobs because they didn’t know real-world skills. They only knew how to take tests and memorize useless stuff that did not help them do their job.
One other thing that needs to be pushed more is trade schools. You can make a very good living going into a trade. Trade school is less costly than a degree and actually teaches you real-world skills. Jobs that trade schools train for (electrician, plumber, HVAC technicians, etc) will always be around and in demand no matter the state of the job market.
There is too much emphasis on racking up debt and going to college. Personally, I think college is a waste for most people. There are some fringe high-level career jobs where companies require degrees, but unless you’re trying to literally be a rocket scientist chances are you can learn the skills for a job on your own.
Get a Side Hustle
Up until my wife and I started a company full time, I always had some side work that I did. The only reason I do not have a side job is that the company took over all my work time. Our company was a side job at one point! Try to find something you can do “on the side” to earn extra cash. My side gigs were computer repairs, IT services, and (at one point) making ejuice for vape devices. Maybe one day, your side work will become your only work if you time it right and make smart decisions.
Find something that you are good at (and maybe even like doing) to pitch to friends and extended family. Do not get sucked into doing this kind of stuff for free. Your time is valuable. If people are not willing to pay you (or even barter for other things you want/need) for your time, then do not give it to them. If you let people abuse your time and services, then they will keep trying to do it. Set expectations early on, so this does not become a problem.
Once you find that “thing” you want to do for your side job, buy a domain name, set up an email for that domain, and then get business cards made. Try to make it look professional in some capacity. If I see someone with a Gmail or other free email account on their business card, they immediately lose some credibility with me. Having a domain name with a simple website and an email account through that domain name makes you look much more professional. With how affordable hosting, email, and domains are, there is no excuse not to have one if you are taking things seriously. Also, having a separate email account for your side stuff helps you keep personal and side work things separate.
If you want my personal recommendation for starting out I would go with DreamHost. They are great for smaller sites and do have higher-tier plans for if your site grows. If you do get a lot of traffic or end up setting up an eCommerce site I would go with Kinsta. WordPress is a free platform to make a website easily. DreamHost and Kinsta both support one-click setups of your website. If you are new go with DreamHost. This website is hosting on DreamHost’s shared plan.
The Dreamhost and Kinsta links are affiliate links. If you use these links, I will get a small commission if you sign up, and it does not cost you more. So if you want fantastic hosting and want to help me with my works here, I’d appreciate it if you use the links above to sign up. <3
Keep Good Company
One thing people often overlook when trying to get their life in order is the company they keep. If all your friends are losers then chances are that you are going to influenced by them and their poor decisions as well. You need to keep good company. What this means is that if you want to be successful then you need to cut ties with people who are dragging you down or people who encourage bad decisions. This may mean that your social circle gets whittled down to only a few people. Once you get your life in order and start moving in a more positive direction you will end up making new friends who are not losers.
Do you know that friend that always wants to party and blow money on expensive trips or outings? They aren’t who you want to be spending tons of time with. They aren’t going to be the kind of person who is going to be supportive of not wasting money or making smart decisions.
Own Your Shit
I feel like in today’s society there is no emphasis on personal accountability. People do whatever they want, and when something wrong happens, they blame everyone else. I am here to tell you that most of what happens to you is your fault. Yes, there are situations where someone else’s poor decisions affect you and they should be held accountable for their actions. If you make bad decisions, it’s your fault, no one else. People need to own up when they make mistakes and bad decisions instead of blaming everyone else. Yes, this also includes things you did on accident.
Be the source of change and hold yourself accountable for your actions. Having to apologize or own a mistake may feel awkward, but you will grow as a person and earn others’ respect for doing so. Stop blaming others for your failures and bad decisions in life.
Shout Out to the “Haters”
I did many things that I believe helped me get to where I am today financially. I am not “loaded” or someone who came from “wealth.” My wife and I make enough where we don’t have to worry about bills and can enjoy some “fun” stuff now and then without putting it on credit. Despite what some ignorant individuals online have said about myself and where I am today, I did not have any financial assistance from my family. Everything I have in my life, I worked my ass off to get. To those of you that spread rumors that my company was backed by my “rich white parents”; I am here to tell you that it was all funded by myself with no loans or any outside assistance. Just because you are incapable of making something of yourself doesn’t give you the right to try and discredit what I have built over the years. Get to know someone before you make false assumptions about someone.
This post ended up being so much longer than I anticipated but I just let the words flow. The sad part is that the points in this post may be called “lame” by some people, but the reality is that those people are losers themselves. I want to see more people to be financially responsible, personally responsible, be successful, and happy in their lives.
All of this needs to start as soon as possible. If you are a parent and don’t raise your kids to be responsible in life and financially you are setting them up for failure. I was blessed with two intelligent, loving, and awesome parents in my life. With regard to the family, I wholeheartedly believe that children need to have two parents to have the best outcome in life. I see trends in society where they are normalizing poor decisions and broken families. This needs to stop or our society is going to continue to have more and more issues.
I hope you learned something and found at least one thing to help you out in your life. Thank you for reading.