Last weekend I was mindlessly flipping channels on the television when I ran across a program called “Fit to Fat to Fit.”
The title alone intrigued me, especially as someone who has fought his own battle of the bulge for most of my adult life.
The premise of the show is that a top-notch, in-perfect-shape fitness trainer agrees to pack on pounds and then try to lose them along with a long-time-fat participant.
I’ve read stories like this about actors who have had to pack on weight for a particular role and then try to lose it during filming or immediately following.
Naturally, it was much easier for the trainer to lose the weight than the long-time overweight competitor.
The trainer’s habits make him a fat-burning furnace – proper dietary habits, frequent exercise, plenty of latent muscle to burn more calories.
Broke to Wealthy to Broke: The Initial Broke Phase
The pattern featured on the television show reminded me of my own financial journey the last several years.
I suspect it patterns many others who have enjoyed some success, or received a windfall, or profited from selling a company, only to return to the old bad habits that got them into the same mess they were in before the good fortune.
In my case, I owed many thousands in debt after years of undisciplined personal finances. I owed student loans, car loans, a mortgage, home equity loans, credit cards – pretty much ever type of debt imaginable.
In 2007 I began to write about it.
I started a blog much like this one and documented my trials and tribulations with money. People began to follow.
By 2009 I had built a significant following; so much so that people became interested in purchasing my website.
After a lot of prayer and consideration I decided to sell.
In hindsight, I wish I had not sold out, but the opportunity to wipe out by debts and most of my mortgage were simply too tempting.
The Wealthy Phase
First, a disclaimer. I use the word “wealthy” very, very loosely. Wealthy to me was being 100% debt free but my home, having a fat emergency fund and enough left over to do some nice things with my family.
We went to Disney World for the first time, made some improvements to our house, bough nicer vehicles, etc.
By no means was this windfall enough “f-you” money to walk away from my job or live a life of financial independence.
My new problem was two-fold. I had grown accustomed to living a larger monthly lifestyle before selling my blog because the income from the site supplemented that lifestyle. Now that monthly income was gone.
The second problem was that I was no longer hungry. I had no side hustles, no part time jobs, no entrepreneurial spirit. Sure, I was debt free, but I was as much part of the rat race as ever.
The Second Broke Phase
My savings rate was essentially flat. My credit card use began to increase again. Slowly, like a metastasizing tumor, my debts began to grow.
Each month I transferred a little from savings to cover the difference and I diligently paid off my credit cards each month.
Eventually, over the course of a few years, that comfortable emergency fund became a bare-bones emergency fund.
I dumped about $5,000 into a new business idea in effort to “catch lightning in a bottle again” and get my side hustle income growing. It flopped.
Now I could feel the walls closing in again. It’s a feeling of angst deep down in the pit of my stomach, one I had not felt for a few years, but one I remembered well.
It’s that sinking feeling you have when you finally have a day of reckoning and admit out loud that you are living beyond your means.
My lifestyle over the last few years had brought me full circle back to where I started in 2007. Fortunately, I’m not starting in as big a hole because this time I recognized the error of my ways and put a stop to it.
Our credit cards are safely out of my wallet and stored. We’ve stopped some of the “nice-to-haves” we accumulated along the way and are returning to a frugal lifestyle.
While I enjoy the challenge to save money each month and focus on eliminating our debt I admit it is harder this time around.
Losing Debt is Not as Easy the Second Time
I guess I’m not like that trainer after all. I’ve been out of financial shape for so long that my saving muscles have atrophied.
Like someone struggling to keep a New Year’s resolution in February my willpower to get up every morning and work out, or in this case work a side hustle, has waned.
I don’t expect to have the same kind of writing success I had last time, but I do want to chronicle this journey here even if only a few ever read it. Maybe I will inspire someone else to reflect on their own journey.
If you are spinning your wheels like I was for the last several years I challenge you to rededicate yourself to your financial goals.
Have you own day of debt reckoning. Continue to follow along here and I will document each part of my journey – the good, the bad and the ugly.