Mission accomplished!

Day 371 | $3,970.97 paid | $8,175.76 until freedom

Mission Failed, actually

I’ve been aware of the impendingness of the one-year mark of this blog’s inception. I knew I wasn’t going to win. To be honest with you, I think I knew all along – didn’t everyone?

But as I said in my last post, my life is defined by a new set of conditions: my loan is going to accrue more than 1/3 less interest over time, because I paid so much into the interest-heavy half of the loan; I started a business (partnership with Joe pending his motivation to actually do some work (Just kidding, Joe. Love you, buddy. You’re a hard-working badass!)); I am more competent and organized than I’ve ever been; I can make really pretty metal stuff in multiple design languages.

I would love to say I learned a lot of valuable lessons by running this blog. In fact I didn’t learn much at all. I already knew that being poor was expensive. I knew my challenge was fundamentally different from Joe’s. I knew the difference between nominal and actual frugality. I knew it would be hard and I would be throwing a lot of my heart at a big brick wall.

But I did benefit a great deal, just by publicly making a promise to myself. I focussed my energy, and gave myself an amazing excuse for not spending money on my friendships. I took strange risks, and focused on their capital-generating value rather than their life-generating value.

I wore someone else’s hat for a year, and I think I looked alright in it.

Thank you to everyone who got involved. I’m grateful for the people who kept my page-views inexplicably high, and especially to those who wrote back in my comments.

I’ll be monitoring this blog for a while, and I have no intentions of pulling it down. I might write to it periodically, but I’m not making any more promises.

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Day 349 | $3,720.97 paid | $8,175.76 until freedom


Something my boss always talks about is “getting momentum going” on projects. I’m not sure it means anything most of the time, but the word has been bouncing around in my head lately.

That’s kind of what this entire experiment has been. I’m in a fight, and I’m getting jabbed in the face, and I’m coming up on the end of round 2. If it keeps going like this, I’m going to lose by unanimous decision. I’m sorry if that metaphor is trite. I hear about people who make sports analogies as a way of understanding the world, and I resent them, and here I am doing it myself.

Well, check this out, folks. I just sent an invoice to a company that hired me to solve an emergency for them over the weekend. I warned them: you’re buying my weekend from me at rush rates. It’s not going to be cheap.

It wasn’t cheap, but they didn’t argue. I know now something else about the value of my time, and it’s looking pretty good for me. Before this my business had become profitable, but after this it’s going to make back about double my initial investment.

And today after work I stopped by one of the coolest bars in town to take measurements for a project I hope to be doing there. I’ll do it as well as or better than anyone else, and I’m going to make sure I make money doing it.

You know all of that money is going toward the destruction of my loans.

Although there’s now no chance of me achieving my initial goal of winning this thing within a year (I have two weeks), I see the end of this round coming, and I have begun dodging jabs and catching my breath. Start of round 3 I’m going in swinging.

Again, I’m sorry about the sports metaphor.

A word from out sponsor

Joe of No More Harvard Debt just sent me a link about our generation’s condition. It’s awesome, and I don’t think I’ve read anything so encouraging. I consume articles on the internet at a rate of about 3 per day, and I love the viral ones that advice people to live their lives the way I’ve lived mine for the last four years.


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Day 300 | $3,720.97 paid | $8,175.76 until freedom

It’s been 300 days

I forgot about tax season. I also didn’t imagine it would take almost four months to get my W2. But now it’s over. I filed my taxes. I relearned some truly harrowing facts while filling out all that stuff online. For example, there are tax credits that kick in for single adults making less than around $13,000 per year.

I can’t imagine. I made a little less than twice that amount, and I consider myself to be living pretty tight.

It’s a weird place, this economy.

Barring catastrophe, I should be getting around $400 for my refund. You can guess what I’m going to do with it. I may not be over my magic $6,000 number, but it’s been too long since I put in a serious payment. It’ll also put me over the $4,000 paid mark. I’ll feel pretty good about that.


TMAP continues

I’ve won a second bid with Graypants. They like my work and are going to be having me make their floor lamps as well. On the first order I’ll be making almost no money – it’s a bid. On future orders, due to some cost-savings I’ve chased down, I should be making quite a bit more than that. Because this information is not only my own, I won’t be sharing it on here.

I’ve also been working on getting some nice people and business owners around town to consider hiring me for metal work. (I’ve even had dreams about it.) The plan is to meet with one of them tomorrow. If I score it, you can be sure I’ll post something.

Finally, TMAP has scored some new resale accounts, with Ravenscroft glassware, and Filson outdoor outfitters. Both of these are not only excellent products, but could result in much higher margins than the notebooks I’ve sold so far.

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TMAP the golden thing

Day 292 | $3,720.97 paid | $8,175.76 until freedom

Depending where you measure

The last few weeks I have been as busy as possible. I find myself leaving work early as often as I can. When I’m away from work I pursue connections for TMAP. Filson, Hosford, Cyclone, custom apartment building railing bids, Graypants, Benchmade, Whitelines, Fabriano, Ravenscroft.

I’ve spent in the neighborhood of $1,200 getting this thing off the ground. Despite that my personal checking accounts sum up to around $5,000. I don’t know about you, but I find this very encouraging. The only downside is that if I weren’t chasing this dream, I’d have been able to throw all that money at my loan instead of leaving it some time to recover from its last devastating impact.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m working at Graypants, making their lamps. The latest news is that I’m working on a bid for their floor lamps. I feel pretty good about it because the results I’ve got on these are even better than on the table lamps. Saying this doesn’t make me feel like a prideful jerk because the reason they’re so much better is I’ve made good on my new year’s resolution: I’m paying someone to make me money. The patina work is being done by someone who isn’t me, and who is a master of the craft; it seems that knowing one’s weaknesses is a strength.

Moving forward

Posts here on NMMD are going to be relatively sparing, as they have been since I launched TMAP, because much of my blogwriting energy is going into product development and copywriting there. On the business website I can’t address things like money (its principles now exist outside of me). I will continue to post significant updates to my financial situation here, of course. In the mean time, if you’re pining for my writing style (that’s a nice way to put it, Alex), check out the TMAP blog. If you feel that I’m cheating, I want you to call me out for it.

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Time Magazine on me and people like me: an NMMD interlude.

It seems that this thing that’s motivating me is also motivating an entire generation. I can’t imagine why! That’s a lie. I know why:

To not go to college was presented as grievous.

To not pursue our passions was presented as grievous.

The other side of the obstacle was promised to have money enough for everyone.

Complaining about being in a trap is not the point of this blog. The point of this blog is to chronicle my efforts to pay off $12,000 in debt on a $25,000 within one year. But I hope you’ll allow me the occasional political kerfufflery!

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I met Mr. Money Mustache

Day 269 | $3,720.97 paid | $8,175.76 until freedom

I am not a mustachian

Inevitably when I let slip to friends that I have a blog about paying off my student loans I am forwarded to Mr. Money Mustache’s fine site. Before this week I had only casually browsed on it. Each time I felt the same way that I did when I read the later episodes on NMHD: this blog is not geared toward me; I cannot understand this struggle.

Another crewer from back in college is helping me with TMAP and is a fan of MMM, so when he posted that he would be visiting a bar in Seattle, she sent me the link. Fortunately(?) I was sick today and couldn’t go to work, and I told her I’d go for her.

Once I penetrated the crowd I met a few really nice people. I don’t remember their names, but I got to chatting with three fellows. As I remember it my first question was “how many people here do you suppose are running financial blogs of their own?” I was met with three blank faces. Turns out not that many people like to write. Actually, I don’t like writing either.

I asked if they’d heard of No More Harvard Debt. Of course they had. I told the story of my own blog. All three of the guys I was talking to were in tech. One worked for Microsoft, and another for Amazon. I think it’s fair to assume that if I had their salaries while living my lifestyle I would have paid off my loans by late July. These were some really great dudes – personable, thoughtful and not the least bit condescending – but I felt like an alien.

I’ve been getting a sense that the financial blogging that’s out there now is about how to break yourself out of the mindless earning and consumption cycle we’re born into in the USA. How to focus on what actually matters in life, which is time. I’m reminded of a lecture I watched, delivered by the late Randy Pausch. I’m reminded of Thoreau, which I’ve never read. Thoreau is even later.

I may have been the only person in that bar to be facing external financial challenges instead of the internal battle of learning to leave the marshmallow. I feel more sure now that this uphill battle isn’t worthless. I’m still fighting. I’m still living all Spartan-like. I know the difference between need and want, and that makes me special. Today I realized, formally, that my battle is not for financial freedom, but for better access to my own precious time. Financial freedom is just the interim goal.

Yeah. No duh, Alex. That’s obvious.

I know it’s obvious, beloved reader, but it turned into words in my head today. And I wish you wouldn’t belittle me when I’m all shiny-eyed.


I’m still trying to find a source for business cards. So far nothing has sold, but one might argue that I haven’t really launched yet, even though it’s on facebook and I’ve paid for web hosting for the year. Does it still take money to make money? Of course it does.


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Financial advice

Day 265 | $3,720.97 paid | $8,175.76 until freedom

I’ve moved a lot of money around in the last few days, so my bank account is showing below $4000 for the first time in years. It’s utterly terrifying, and should explain why I haven’t made a payment into my loan in a while.

Where’d it go?

The Secretary of State took $200

The City of Seattle took $45

Washington State took $20

My new credit union took $1000

I still have some tied up in the lamps that I’ve made for Graypants (invoice to go out tonight!)

I think it can all be considered initial investment, and I really do think that this shifting of money is going to work out for me in the long-run (and hopefully the medium-run, for the sake of NMMD). But knowing this stuff only helps a little bit. I’m a man of habit, so seeing a number that usually hovers around $6000 reduced to $3800 makes my skin crawl.

I have smart friends, but

I have two friends who live in San Francisco who are pursuing PhDs in computer science. All their student loans are deferred while they’re in “school” and they have very consistent amounts of income. As such they’re putting all their extra into money market accounts and index funds and the like. I’ve been having a conversation with them.

Facts come up like that I could put my money into an index fund and earn about 10% per year, thus earning more in interest than I lose to my student loans, and so it would be a better investment to do so. Or that pretty much anyone who doesn’t put away $1000 per month every month starting at age 12 is totally screwed.

I’m electing to ignore this information, because I made a promise to the so-called internet. Everything I’m doing is for the sake of nuking a couple of loans. I can never be sure that what I’m doing is a good idea until it’s too late, but I have to do something, and I can’t do things that I know won’t help me achieve my goal by May.


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