The Expatriated Consumer

Imagining life without debt. Working to make it reality.

About

The Expatriated Consumer – a look at the Consumer Culture from the outside, with an insider’s perspective. A bold approach to living the good life by living within your means.

These are the trials and tribulations of The Expatriated Consumer. It’s a journal of personal finance, documenting my quest to free myself and my family from the quagmire of indebtedness that we’ve found ourselves in.

I’ve always considered myself pretty savvy with money. I’ve always been able to make ends meet. I’ve always made enough to get by. One problem, though: I’ve never gotten ahead. I considered myself pretty frugal, as I’ve always shared living space in the form of family or roommates, I’d drive cars until they fell out from under me, I’d cut my own hair. I understood the rudimentary aspects of money, but not the intricacies. I understood that I never had enough to get all the stuff that I wanted, but never truly understood why that was. I had a few things, but nothing of great value. I had a moderate amount of debt in the form of a car payment, a couple student loans, and a modest balance on my credit card. So why wasn’t I getting ahead?

Then I met my wife. We fell in love. We moved in together, and suddenly I had even less cash in my pocket than before. She came with a daughter, and she became pregnant while I was finishing school. When I finished school, and started making more money than I’ve ever made in my life, I found we still weren’t getting ahead. I’d get furious that I couldn’t pay a particular bill this month because we were short on cash. I’d sit down with my soon-to-bride and would tell her that she needs to cut back her spending. “But I do!” she would declare. And she would get angry at me because I didn’t understand how hard she worked to control her spending.

I watched in horror as our debt has spiraled out of control, from approximately $12,000 of my own debt, to a combined $50,000 over the course of three years. Let me restate that: $50,000 in debt… Excuse me while I go vomit.

As I said, I’ve always considered myself pretty good with money, so it must be her that’s dragging down my finances, right? Not so fast. Yes, I’m much wiser with my money now, but my own past debts are costing us about $400 a month in payments. Given our modest income, that’s a significant chunk of change.

I’ve watched my wife work very hard to change her spending habits, going from “I don’t feel like doing laundry today, so I’m running to Old Navy for a pair of jeans” to “I’m watching the spring sales to get a good deal on first communion dresses for the girls to wear in the wedding in September.” Thanks to her efforts, for example, we saved in the neighborhood of $3000 on our wedding.

Out of frustration, and a bit of desperation, I Googled personal finance one day in hopes of finding some help in managing my money. It was then that I stumbled on the glories of personal finance blogs. They became the portal that introduced me to a wealth of information, a ton of new perspectives, and more ideas than I can implement in my lifetime. Not only that, but there was a measure of comfort in knowing that there are definitely others out there that are going through what I am, too. It is even more comforting to know that many of those others folks are successfully digging themselves out of the hole.

I decided to blog myself for a couple of reasons. One, because I realized I needed a place to record my trials and tribulations with money and life, and two, because I have a horrible tendency to neglect telling my wife how proud I am of her and the life we’re trying to build together, and much of that comes through in my writings. I’m not much of a talker, but I can write ok, and I know she’ll enjoy reading what I’m really thinking since I don’t often vocalize it. I hope you enjoy it as well.

Thank you,

J.B.

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