Just to give you some background, I’ve been working up to this decision for a few months now. It started back in October when I found myself watching bits and pieces of two shows: Clean House and Big Spender. Clean House is a program where a family invites a team of four housecleaning and remodeling professionals into their home to help them with their hopeless clutter. The team mocks the family roundly for their pigsty lifestyles, browbeats them incessantly to get them to part with their junk, then sells it all at a yard sale and uses the money to remodel their home. Big Spender is a show where host Larry Winget ambushes an unsuspecting individual or couple who spends money like they think they have it, tells them how stupid they are and forces them to make drastic changes to fix their mess.
I had a little laugh at Larry’s show. Huh huh. People are stupid. And these people were. Eating out every night. Owning 2 or 3 status symbol vehicles whose payments were more than they earned. Closets full of clothes with store tags still on them. A credit card for every major department store. Holy crap. I may be a month behind on my mortgage, but these people were just dumb. No, it was Clean House that made the biggest impression on me at first. And yes, god help me that I’m making life changes based on bad reality television.
After watching a few shows over a few days I started looking at all our stuff in a new way: as cash. Everywhere I looked I saw things that we weren’t using, we were just warehousing. (I’m not going to speak ill of Sara’s crafties. They were the progeny of a very frugal Christmas this year. I will still raise an eyebrow whenever I glance at it, though.) When I talked with one of my co-workers about it she told me about something she called her 3-year rule. When she went to clean house, if she hadn’t thought about or used something in 3 years, it went away. I took that idea, shaved off 2 years and started sorting. This was when I reacquainted myself with selling on eBay. My parents liked the idea so much they gave me stuff out of their attic that I could sell. For the next two months I always had something for sale on eBay. Some of it fetched pretty good prices: a Boy Scout Bugle, an old Pioneer Stereo. Most of it was just five to seven dollar stuff. Didn’t matter. Seven dollars in my hand (and by hand, I mean PayPal account) was better than junk cluttering up my life.
Then, just after Christmas, I saw a book with a familiar name come through my receiving room at work. You’re Broke Because You Want to Be, by… Larry Winget. So I took it home. It only took 2 days to read, but I knew after the first 15 minutes that I was being just as stupid as any of the people on his show. He takes a whole chapter just to shoot down every excuse you think you have for the financial situation you’re in. In the end, you have no excuses. You’re broke because of the choices you’ve made and continue to make, and if you really wanted to fix it, you’d make that choice.
For the past year and a half we’ve had the worst troubles with both cars: an engine exploded, wheel bearings cracked, brakes wore out, shift sticks stopped working. We’ve probably dumped 6K into both cars into both and have been quick to blame all our financial woes on these events. Fine. Bad things happen to good people. But did we have any savings to help cushion that impact? Nope. Did we make any changes to how we spend and save to adjust afterward? Nope. So who’s really to blame? Fate or fools?
That’s a rhetorical question.
Larry’s book tapped into something deep within me that I’ve held dear for a long time. We are masters of our own destiny. Things don’t just happen, we make them happen. But most of all, quit your goddamn whining and DO SOMETHING. I started wondering if people we knew were looking at us in the same way I was looking at those people on Big Spender and I hated the thought that they might when I have the ability to change it. So I decided I would, or rather, we would.