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….

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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)

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

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

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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.

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 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 😉

My thoughts on Jesus. Yes, a post about my faith.

I’m coming up on my fifth year of blogging here at Punch Debt In The Face. Over the years I’ve casually referenced my Christian faith. Today, I’m taking a break from personal finance to go a little more in-depth about my beliefs. Even if you don’t share a similar value system, I hope this is still of some interest to you. 

It’s probably important to note that I do not come from a long lineage of Bible Thumping Christians. In fact, no one in my immediate family goes to church. What’s more, my brother is on an Atheist Debate team. Literally. I had no idea such a thing existed, but apparently it does. All this to say, I wasn’t brainwashed in to religion like many non-believers might think. I came to Jesus, on my own accord, sitting on a rock, in the middle-of-nowhere Canada.

My life hasn’t been the same since. He literally has changed me from the inside out.

I was awkwardly shy pre-Jesus.

When I was in first grade I had a super small role in a school play. So small, I only had one line that came about half way through the performance. When my moment to shine came, I was paralyzed by fear. I struggled to get seven simple words out of my mouth. They still haunt me to this day “Sure Honey, don’t mind if I do.”  It was a disaster.

Fast forward eight years later. I’m a freshmen in high school  and I get asked by my TV Broadcasting teacher to be a “co-anchor” for my school’s news show. I felt sick at the very idea of being on camera. I politely declined and asked to work the soundboard instead. I got my wish and avoided the camera. But went home that night and cried on the couch alone. Frustrated that I couldn’t bring myself to do something as simple as read a script in front of a camera.

Almost as soon as I committed my life to Christ, my social anxieties and fears were washed away. My senior year of high school I dressed like a woman and performed a J-Lo song for my entire school (yes, I even taped toilet paper rolls to my booty to have the full J-Lo effect). In college, I spoke in front of thousands of people as I was in charge of the Student Activities Department. Heck just last year, Girl Ninja and I were flown out to Chicago to be on national TV to talk about personal finance.

Needless to say, Christ gave me a confidence I couldn’t find on my own.

How can you believe in something you’ve never seen. 

I’ve never seen or heard God. I’ve also never seen, felt, smelled, heard, or tasted jealousy, but I definitely experienced it when Girl Ninja told me she wasn’t ready to date me because she had feelings for a different guy. Likewise, God doesn’t need to be seen to be experienced. It’s my favorite thing about Him!

I would not spend my time reading a two-thousand year old book, praying to the sky, or investing in high school kids lives, if I hadn’t experienced Christ’s love in a very real way.

But what about science!?

This is where I’m probably different from many fellow believers. It makes no difference to me if God created the earth ten thousand years ago or ten billion years ago. Nor does the Big Bang theory make my blood boil.

You see, I don’t believe science and God are mutually exclusive entities. I love science (I took Physics, Organic Chemistry, and Molecular Biology as electives in college)! I also believe God created everything. Wether that means he made the heavens and earth in six literal days, or used the Big Bang over the course of billions of years to bring us life as we know it, doesn’t change the fact that he was the start of it all.

When you think about it, Atheists and Christians really aren’t all that different. We both believe there was nothingness, and that somehow we came from that nothingness. Pretty cool if you ask me!

But Christians make me want to vomit.

For real though! They can be pretty terrible. Ghandi said “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians.” The good news is I don’t worship Christians. They are not my standard for God’s character and they shouldn’t be yours either.

I’m embarrassed that the church has poured millions of dollars in to combating same-sex marriage, when Christian divorce is at a staggering 50%. Hey church, let’s try to fix our own marriages before we go and tell a bunch of other people who they can and can’t marry. Ya know, that whole removing planks from our own eye thing. 

On behalf of all the sucky, abusive, authoritative Christians you have come in to contact with please let me apologize.

I’m sorry.

Don’t let a broken body of people cloud your judgement in regards to the character of Jesus… you know… the guy who often put the religious leaders of his time on blast.

Why make all this in to a blog post? 

A few reasons…

    1. This is a personal blog. If I can write an article about 401ks, why I hate cats, or my wedding, I would hope that one post every five years about my faith is acceptable.
    2. To hopefully show, that while my personal convictions and beliefs may be different from yours, we’re probably not that different.
    3. To have a thoughtful discussion in the comments section. MNSBC has the liberal market, Fox News the conservative. I’m hoping that, since Personal Finance is a relatively neutral topic, you can be open about your feelings here, without feeling like you’ll be attacked

I could seriously keep typing forever. Sharing ways that my faith has impacted my financial decisions. Or how He freed me from a temper that I could not control. Or rant about how frustrated I am by luke-warm Christians. But I have to end somewhere, and I think that somewhere is here.

Simple question today. What do you believe in?

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…


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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….

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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…

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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….

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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….

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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…

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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…

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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?

That time I did a video interview

Just came across this gem. It’s an interview I did at FinCon, the financial bloggers conference, in Denver last September. If you want to know what I sound like go ahead and give it a watch 😉

 

p.s. I didn’t realize how annoyingly I chew my gum. My apologies.