You wish you could be like me.

At the end of each calendar year I review our financials, update my Excel spreadsheet, and calculate just how much Girl Ninja and I were able to increase our net worth (NW) by.

We started 2014 with a NW of $234,000, and ended with a NW of $288,000.

In other words, we improved our financial position by $54,000 last year, an average of $4,500 per month.

You wish you could be like me.

DON’T YOU!!! 

I mean, we managed to increase our NW by more than the 2014 national median household income ($53,000). That means half of the households in the United States couldn’t save as much as we did, even if they paid no taxes and saved 100% of their GROSS income.

Like the title of this post says; You Wish You Could Be Like Me

…or do you? 

I hope for your sake, you were nothing like me in 2014.

While increasing our net worth by $50,000 in a single year might be impressive, it becomes significantly less so when you consider we made about $110,000 in 2014.

Girl Ninja and I were fortunate to have a healthy income, so it only makes sense that were are able to save and invest more than many other American families could.

An increasing net worth on a $110,000 per year household income shouldn’t be something to brag about.

It should be expected. 

You see, our big financial gains in 2014 are only really half of the story.

…The better half.

…The prettier half.

…The half that I like blogging about.

But there is another side to this personal finance tale and it is ugly.

How ugly you ask?

Try $45,000 ugly. 

That amount represents exactly how much money Girl Ninja and I spent on our credit card last year.

We use our credit card for virtually everything we can and pay the balance in full at the end of each month.

I’m used to seeing a couple thousand dollar balance each month, but I had never taken the time to figure out just how much we were charging over the course of a full calendar year.

$45,000 makes me sick to my stomach. Especially when you consider that doesn’t count any of the money that came out of our checking account, which would be another $30,000 or so for mortgage payments, utilities, and the occasional check or ATM withdrawal.

Sure, Girl Ninja and I improved our financial situation by $50,000 last year, but we spent nearly $75,000 along the way.

I’m disgusted. 

I write about the “Joneses” as though they are some family that Girl Ninja and I are nothing like, but numbers don’t lie.

When you spend $75,000 per year, you are a Jones.

At the time I was justifying purchases with thoughts like…

…”We’ve worked hard, it’s time to upgrade to a more sophisticated couch” ($1,700 in July)

…”Our kitchen isn’t how we want it, we have the money, let’s improve it” ($4,000 in August)

…”Baby Ninja’s upstairs is the worst part of our house, let’s demo it” ($5,000 March)

…”We deserve a vacation. Let’s go somewhere.” ($4,500 in April)

While I believe an occasional splurge is appropriate every now and again, Girl Ninja and I could hardly argue that our splurges were limited or appropriate.

To put it bluntly I’m embarrassed by my failed leadership. 

I have a responsibility to ensure Girl Ninja and I are being good stewards of the finances we have been granted. Somehow, I lost sight of that.

And that really makes me sad. 

When did that happen?

Sometimes I think to myself “I can’t believe I’m a grown up!”. I don’t feel old. I don’t look old, and I sure as h-e-double-hockey-sticks don’t act old. I use to think “old” was an age, but I’m quickly learning it’s a lifestyle.

I remember being bored to death when my parents would watch political news. It didn’t make any sense to me. Why was watching some old guy talk about two other old guys interesting? If it wasn’t on MTV, I didn’t watch it. (Still love me some 16 and pregnant…I know…embarrassing).

Same goes for finances. Although I have always enjoyed numbers (self proclaimed math nerd), I hated dealing with money. Did you know I didn’t learn how to write my own checks until I was 21 years old. Twenty-freakin-one. Pathetic right? I also didn’t know how to log in to my checking and savings accounts until after I graduated college. I had to have Mom Ninja sit me down and show me how online banking worked.

As much as I don’t want to accept it, I guess I’ve kind of become a legitimate grown up. I’m married, I manage my own money, and heck, I even cook my own dinner sometimes! I find myself becoming more and more interested in “old guy” stuff like politics and finances. I can’t help but laugh when I reflect on how much I hated the shows my parents watched when I was a kid, to now find myself watching the same darn things.

I sit here wondering “What other things will become interesting to me as I age?” Maybe I will take up quilting, lawn bowling, or listening to AM radio.

Wait, what am I saying… in an attempt to enjoy my young spirit, I think I’m going to go buy a pair of Jnco jeans (please tell me someone remembers these), a hacky sack, a set of pogs, and I’m gonna go watch Boy Meets World and Full House (TGIF for the win!!!!).

Have you found yourself enjoying things you once hated (art, coffee, reading for pleasure, history channel, etc)? What “childish” things do you still enjoy (cartoons, video games, Macaroni and Cheese)? At what age does one go from young to old?

 

First time on a red carpet.

Spent the weekend with Girl Ninja and my family at the Veronica Mars movie premier in Austin, Texas this weekend. It was a quick trip, 36 hours in total, and a ton of fun. Here’s a pic of Girl Ninja and I on the red carpet….

20140309-215351.jpg

Three years ago I wrote a post titled “The easiest money I’ve ever made” in which I shared about my 15 minutes of fame. Okay, who am I kidding, it wasn’t 15 minutes, more like 1.5 seconds of fame.

Literally.

As you may already know, Girl Ninja and I used to live in San Diego, which just so happened to be the same city the TV show Veronica Mars filmed in. My mom, and sister, were die-hard fans of Veronica Mars and begged me to try to get on as a background extra. Thus immortalizing me forever when the show went to DVD.

So I applied to the background casting company and after a few months of silence, I got my first gig as a background extra (FBI agent) for the Veronica Mars season four pilot.

This was my chance at becoming famous.

I mean, check out my big break (I’m the dude that walks out of the elevator at 7:08, haha).

I nailed that elevator walk out didn’t I!? (I’ll be signing autographs later).

It was awesome. I made $1,200 for about 12 hours of work. Which was especially cool considering “work” meant walking across a set, pretending to look at paperwork, and listening to a fake lecture in an auditorium.

Another interesting thing happened that night, however. Kristen Bell and I became friends. 

There is a ton of down time between each take, and since we had that scene above together, we were pretty much forced to talk to avoid that awkward elevator silence we all know so well. We ended up hanging out a few different times together in San Diego and L.A and, according to my photo archives, we apparently enjoyed taking really stupid pictures of ourselves.

Here we are between takes on filming day (this was the pic I texted to my mom when she didn’t believe that I had met KB)

VM

Here we are taking “shaky face” pictures (look at that extension on my lips!)

Screen shot 2014-03-09 at Mar 9, 2014, 10.20.28 PM

And here she is throwing up the deuces behind a dude we found fast asleep inside of a Ross.

Screen shot 2014-03-09 at Mar 9, 2014, 10.19.26 PM

 

All of that happened seven years ago, when I still lived in San Diego. I hadn’t seen KB since.

She, of course, was at the premier of her movie on Saturday night and when we crossed paths she remembered who I was. She then punched me (I still don’t know why), met Girl Ninja, met our future son too (if you count rubbing Girl Ninja’s tummy as a meeting), and gave us some solid parenting advice. We snapped a quick pic and then she went on her merry little way getting bombarded by hundreds of fans.

vm

 The premier was a ton of fun and, although Girl Ninja and I are totally exhausted from the quick travel turn around, feel like there wasn’t a more fun way we could have spent the weekend. Especially considering Baby Ninja is making HIS PREMIERE mid June, which will obviously hinder our future travel flexibility.

If there is a financial lesson to be learned in all of this, it is two-fold.

1. Go be an extra on TV shows. Minimal work for potentially epic pay.

2. Let Kristen be an example, that even if you are an uber-famous celebrity/multi-millionaire, you can still appreciate a solid Ross Dress For Less shopping trip, but more importantly not let all your perceived importance go to your head.

If you watched Veronica Mars when it was on TV all I can say is go watch the movie, you wont be disappointed.

Ninja in a nutshell.

It’s time to update my About Me page again. A lot has changed over the last three years and it only makes sense to make sure Punch Debt In The Face readers know a little about the author behind the blog. Without further ado, Me…

Why did you name your website Punch Debt In The Face? 

Two reasons..

  1. If debt had a face, I would like to punch it.
  2. I want to keep personal finance lighthearted and hopefully palatable for the average joe.

 

Who are you? 

I started blogging under the pseudonym Ninja in 2009. At the time keeping my identity private was important to me. I knew nothing about blogging and feared that a random reader would begin stalking me, cut my skin off, and wear it like a dress.

Over the years, however, I’ve come out of the blogging closet a little. Primarily because my wife and I were given an opportunity to appear on national TV to talk about our personal finances. Apparently Steve Harvey didn’t want to blur our faces out for broadcast.

Here’s a picture of my wife and I so you know who you’re dealing with (warning: she’s a babe)

Do you work in finance? 

No.

So what do you do?

I’m a Special Agent.

Really? 

Yes.

If you don’t work in the financial world, why should people read your blog? 

Let’s be honest. You probably shouldn’t read my blog. There are a million other bloggers out there that have blogs far superior to mine. The only thing I have going for me is a hot wife and crappy drawings…

In all seriousness, here’s a little about my story…

I graduated college in 2007, right before the economy took a dump on itself. I had $28,000 in student loan debt and no income. Four months after graduation, I landed my first big-boy job making $38,000/year.

Knowing that I was probably never going to make a huge salary (that’s government for ya), I had to figure out ways to make my money work harder for me. This meant I needed to:

By following a few simple principles, namely spending less than we were making, we’ve gone from a negative $28,000 net worth to $400,000+.

FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS! 

We aren’t part of the one percent nor were we gifted large sums of money any money by family. All it took was being proactive with our money and telling it where to go. Best news is, YOU CAN DO IT TOO!!!

Life has been a wild ride for my wife and I over the last few months.

– We bought a $350,000 house just outside of Seattle in July 2013 (yes, we put 20% down)

– We began renting our basement out to a friend for $400/month

– We are expecting our first human-fetus-baby-thingy to breach the birth canal June 2014

– We got a puppy December 2013, a Vizlsa named Nova Scotia.

Like I said earlier, it’s been a wild journey for us lately.

Would love to have you join us as we continue navigating life and our finances.

p.s to learn even more about me, click any of the links in this article as they should point to relevant posts 😉

And I was all like ‘Merica!!!!

It’s about time. I finally was able to get our Europe pictures uploaded to my computer, which means you will be taking a walk down memory lane with me today. I’m no Rick Steve’s (look him up if you don’t know who he is), but I’ll do my best to give you my honest thoughts on each city we visited. Kick back, relax, and enjoy the ride….

The  Black Forest (Germany)…

I have no idea why the Black Forest is called the Black Forest. I was secretly hoping all of the trees would be black and the people would be emo/goth or something. Turns out, it’s just a popular tourist destination for other European’s to visit for the weekend. We stayed in a tiny Lodge on one of the lakes in the forest. German food isn’t my favorite, but we seemed to have alright luck finding good dishes. Worth spending a day or two in the Black Forest, but not much more. Oh, and we did get to see a freakin’ huge Cuckoo Clock which was pretty rad…


IMG_0272

Innsbruck, Austria…

Definitely a contender for my favorite city. The city center sits in the middle of the Austrian Alps and has an awesome skyline just about any way you look. We took the funicular up to the top of a mountain peak and had a sweet bird’s-eye view of the city. We had incredible gelato, a great meal, and walked the main drag. The locals were helpful and it didn’t feel too touristy….

IMG_0273

IMG_0292

IMG_0284

Venice, Italy…

I was totally underwhelmed by Venice. You always see the city in the movies and in picture and it looks stinking cute. While the canals were definitely charming, I was distracted by the pungent smell of garbage, the narrow alleys, the extreme humidity, and the pushy restaurant staff that basically beg you to come eat at their restaurant. I felt like I was walking the streets of Vegas. In fact, I probably like walking the canals inside the Venetian hotel in Vegas, more than walking the actual canals of Venice. I know August probably is like the worst month to be a tourist there, but I was a tourist in August in all of the other cities we visited. Venice was definitely my least favorite pit stop…

IMG_0334

IMG_0340

Rome, Italy…

A big city for sure. Definitely my least favorite city to drive in (did I mention I learned how to drive stick during this vacation…haha). The lane lines aren’t so much guidelines as much as they are loose suggestions. It was insane being at a stop light of a three lane road, with five or six lanes of cars at it. Anywhere a car (or moped) can fit, someone will be driving there. Highlight of Rome was probably meandering the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain, eating incredible pastas and pizzas, and a ton of shopping and markets. Least favorite things; Vatican City group tour (was totally bored and it felt rushed), lack of solid air conditioning in most stores/restaurants, and some of the locals were kind of rude and/or standoffish….

IMG_0374

IMG_0390

IMG_0399

Barcelona, Spain…

Totally felt like I was in Miami the whole time. It’s definitely a city to visit for the younger party crowd. If I was a college kid who liked to drink until 5am, then this would be my city. Las Ramblas is the main drag and it’s a fun street to walk down. We experienced “Spain Time” which was really odd at first. The locals eat a big lunch at around 1 or 2pm, and then virtually everything closes until about 8pm. We spent most of our afternoons at the beach relaxing. We were bothered by the occasional beach vendor offering henna tattoos, hair braiding, cans of beer, etc, but it wasn’t too bad. We ate dinner at around 9:30pm each night, which was surprisingly a bit earlier than the locals. It wasn’t until about midnight that the city really came to life. The clubs stay open till 5am and when we caught an early morning shuttle at 4:30 one morning, you would have thought it was 6pm with how packed the streets were.

We visited La Sagrada Familia which is by far the coolest church I’ve ever been in. It was awesome. Loved the architectural detail and the open/airy feeling. I hated the Sistine Chapel because the art work was too busy for me with bright paintings and artwork taking up every square inch. La Sagrada Familia is the exact opposite. There is plenty of detail, but it isn’t so busy that it is hard to focus. It was arguably my favorite “tourist attraction” of our entire trip….

IMG_0420

IMG_0423

IMG_0418

IMG_0458

Granada, Spain…

Loved Granada. We stayed in a super modern hotel really close to the city center. We spent a whole day at La Alhambra, which was probably my second favorite tourist attraction of the trip. It’s a huge moorish palace with all sorts of cool history. We had a Rick Steve’s travel book and gave ourselves a self guided tour. I think we were at the palace for a total of about 5 hours and easily could have stayed another 2 or 3. We also took part in an Arab Bath and Massage which was quite possibly the best decision I’ve ever made. For an hour and a half, Girl Ninja and I rotated between a really hot pool, a really cold pool, and a warm pool. It was incredible relaxing, and at about the half way point, we each got a 15 minute back and leg massage…

IMG_0536

IMG_0564

IMG_0593

IMG_0650

IMG_0676

IMG_0597

Seville, Spain…

Our last stop of our two week journey. We spent two days in Seville and walked pretty much the whole city center. We visited a few of the major churches, drank some Starbucks (I know we’re terrible), visited the second oldest bull fighting ring in the world, and took pictures of lots of cute doors (haha). Seville had a ton of charm and a great ambiance. I even stepped out of my comfort zone and tried Ox Tail, which tasted kind of like braised beef…

IMG_0700 (1)

IMG_0710

IMG_0718

IMG_0712

We were totally blessed to have spent two weeks seeing so many places. We were exhausted by the end of the trip, especially knowing we had a big move ahead of us, but we had the time of our life. I’m super pumped to be heading back to Germany and The Netherlands for six weeks this fall, for what will probably be my last Europe trip for the foreseeable future.

What countries have you visited? Anyone else that’s been to Venice agree it has a slight “Tijuana” feel to it?

There is nothing sexy about our story.

too sexy

As our savings account continues to grow, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting. How are Girl Ninja and I quickly approaching a $200,000 net worth at 25 and 27 years old? What’s the magic trick? How can I package our story up in to a $10 e-book called “Punch Being Poor In The Face” and sell it to you all?

I mean, we didn’t receive an inheritance. We didn’t get bailed out by Uncle Sam. We’ve never negotiated a huge bonus or pay bump. Our retirement accounts aren’t performing as well as I would have expected thanks to a stagnant economy. We aren’t incredibly frugal. And while this blog netted me about $3,500 last year, MANteresting cost me $7,500 so I’m not bringing in tons of passive income. Basically, my friends, there is nothing sexy about our story. 

Unless of course you find boring sexy.

Fortunately, boring works! Not only does it work, but it works really, really, really well. If I had to summarize how we’ve managed to do alright for ourselves in one sentence I think it would be this: We want a lot, but need nothing. 

For over two years now I’ve been hoping my crappy six-year-old Macbook would die. Well, actually it did die once, but I was able to revive it. I want it to die, because I REALLY want to buy a new laptop, but for as long as this little hunk of junk continues to power on, I will continue to blog from it. I recognize that I want a new laptop, and that I will buy one when this one no longer does it’s job, but I do not NEED a new laptop and there is no sense pretending like I do.

The same could be said about our housing situation. We want a house. We want more than 700sqft of space. We want a second bedroom for guests to stay in. Girl Ninja wants a second bathroom so she doesn’t have to go near it after I’ve “occupied” it 😉 We want to stop paying rent. We want to diversify our investments by including real estate in our portfolio. That said, we could still add a little more to savings to give us a bigger financial cushion after putting 20% down. We could definitely use more time house hunting and familiarizing ourselves with the local market. We want a house, and might buy one soon, but we definitely don’t pretend like we “need” one.

Heck, eight months ago we bought ourselves a new-to-us Honda Pilot (which we officially named Pontius). We dropped $20,000 cash on the car ($8,000 of which came from the sale of Girl Ninja’s Corolla). But even then, we knew the whole time the Pilot was a want, not a need. We never felt like we deserved a bigger car. We didn’t try to pretend our family of two needs a car that seats eight. Sure it was frivolous, but because we only wanted, and not needed it, we were able to make sure the purchase didn’t impact our financial situation significantly. A want has no sense of urgency; the same can’t be said for a need.

Most financial experts will tell you to separate your wants from your needs, and only focus on your needs. That’s terrible advice if you ask me. Let’s be real, we are greedy Americans who use the word “need” to justify anything and everything under the sun. If we can convince ourselves we need a new computer, phone, vacuum,  or car; we suddenly don’t feel bad about buying one.

That’s not how I roll. Aside from basic necessities like food, water, shelter, and a kiss from Girl Ninja each morning I can’t really think of anything else I need. There are a ton of things I want. Some of these things we will end up buying, others we will just continue wanting. As long as I recognize that our basic needs have already been met, I’m confident our net worth will continue to rise.

Want a lot, need nothing.