I started CleverDude.com over 5 years ago as a hobby, and for the most part it remained a hobby. Throughout that time I’ve written close to 1300 articles mostly on personal finance, and that’s a lot coming from someone who is not considered a writer. It has helped hone my professional writing skills (I’m known for creating proper documentation at work now) and helped me through all of my masters classes, which I obtained last year. And although this has been a hobby, I have also earned a nice profit from the site without compromising my writing once.
But how has my writing helped YOU? And furthermore, what really is my role in YOUR finances?
I’ve gotten many emails over the years from complete strangers (you!) telling me how I’ve been an inspiration to them to get out of debt, create a budget or save for a goal. I’ve also gotten comments and emails telling me I’m an idiot for some of my ideas, but honestly, I brush it off because I know that what works for one usually doesn’t work for another.
You see, each of us has our own unique circumstances. We have our own jobs, skills, debt, family, religious and political ideas, and general life experiences. I’m a white collar worker in Washington D.C., make a decent income, own a home with only 1 mortgage as our debt and have no kids. We have no family within 2.5 hours of us, so we’ve had to start “a new family” of friends around us, although no one can substitute for real kin. My parents have never owned their own home, and we all grew up in my Grandma’s house since I was about age 5. My family was mostly blue collar workers, and times had been tough quite often growing up, but my parents helped shelter us from the worst of it and we got through it intact.
But your life story is going to be different. Even if you grew up in the same town as I did, went to the same schools, got your masters, and work in the same field in the same city, you wouldn’t have my life experiences, and thus my views and perceptions on life, and the same goes for me to you. I have cousins who have dropped out of high school just 2 months shy of graduation, or got pregnant at age 16 (on purpose) with no future lined up for themselves. I have extended family who game the welfare system, others who won’t go farther than 10 miles out of town, and others who are, well, racist and close-minded. I grew up with all these influences around me, but somehow still grew up to be a fairly well-rounded (I mean my mind, not my belly), educated man who is very open to new experiences, new cultures, and especially new foods!
But again, your life is different. When I give a tip to save money by doing something “weird”, you may quickly agree or you may cry foul and say I’m completely insane (Example: if it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down). Your priorities are different than mine. Your goals are different. And your resources are different. When you make a good income, have little debt (although a $300k mortgage is quite considerable to some), and have no kids, you have much more “room to wiggle” in your finances than if you were maxed out on credit cards, have poor credit so you can’t buy (or even rent well), or you’re a single parent of one or more children.
Many of the frugal tips I gave over the years helped US get through some tough financial times, but “tough” to us is nowhere near what some, or many, of you are going through. We’ve never worried whether we’re getting our next paycheck, or if our bank account has enough to cover all our bills. And that’s not because we’re rich; it’s because we always felt accountable for our debts and bills and always made sure we took care of our responsibilities first. So now that we’re much less in debt (over $200k less!), have continued to increase our paychecks and have grown our savings accounts, we’re easing back on the frugal living a bit.
I have 3 big pleasures in life:
We get our food kicks from dining out much more often than before. We’ve more than doubled our dining out expenses, but we’ve done so because we spend that time hanging out with our friends rather than because we’re lazy and don’t want to cook at home. I love food, and, like Andrew Zimmern from Bizarre Foods, nothing is too strange for me to try at least once. We’ve also been spending a bit more on better groceries rather than Ramen Noodles and cereal for dinner. I love food, and that’s a priority that I won’t give up, but it’s probably a very low priority for some of you. You may just care about getting sustenance and that’s all, while I want flavor and variety.
As for cars, well as I said back in May, I have to “resist automotive fever” with great difficulty. I love cars. I love driving cars. I’ve even applied to work part-time at CarMax only so I can help others find the perfect car for them, while not being locked into selling a single brand. But for many of you, and many of our friends, a car is a way to get from A to B, and is more of an inconvenience and pain than a joy. I love cars, I love thinking about cars, I love looking and driving cars and that’s not going to change.
As for travel, we’ve done a road trip through 10 states in 10 days from MD to TX and back last year, and then again to Disney this year (all in my trusty Honda Ridgeline). My wife loves seeing the countryside, state capitols, and other sites, while I just love driving. We’ve also been to Ireland (twice for me) and Israel, and have plans in the works for another European and/or African trip to visit friends. When either of us travels for our job, we see if it’s possible to bring the other. We have jet-setting friends who recently told us they flew to Amsterdam just for a concert, but they’re multi-millionaires who we can only sit back and envy. However, they work hard and party hard, so if we were willing to put in the time, we could achieve their level of travel too, but we’re both happy with our weekend road trips, the rare longer trips across the country, and the even more rare overseas trips.
My theme is variety. I love something different for dinner, for driving and for seeing, but I also like the comforts of home and consistency sometimes. You’re going to be different, and your finances will reflect that. You have to set aside some means for enjoying yourself, whether it costs money or not.
So getting back to my role in YOUR finances, I guess I can say that I’m here really just to show you how someone else lives life. I’ve given you a lot of my life story throughout the years and opened up our home, family and wallets to you to provide transparency into our lives. You’ve been both accepting and critical, but your feedback has also helped shape us as much, if not more than, we’ve shaped you. I’m not here to tell you what to do with your money. Rather, I’m here just to tell my story; to tell about how I’ve done stupid things and hope you learn from them. And sometimes I just want to get something off my chest or share something interesting I’ve learned.
That’s my role in your finances. Just to be some type of example, whether good or bad, from which to learn and adjust your own lifestyle or reconfirm how you’re living. And I’ll continue in that role as long as I can. 🙂