The "Get Out Of Your Car!" Fund

Sunday, July 27, 2014

An interview with myself and Blue McCrew

Reddit user BlueMcCrew began living in his tiny Honda Fit on the streets of New York City — where the practice is legal — in November 2013 (two months after I started doing the same). He does it "to avoid outrageous rent costs and save enough money to pay back his student loans.

Now, he saves $600 every month out of his $3,500 paycheck (after taxes), and is honest with his coworkers and parents about his living situation." I learned about his story on Business Insider ( 
I really enjoyed reading from another car camper who is doing this to pay off debt and save money. I decided to "interview myself" by answering some of the same questions here.

How do you stay clean?
The first two weeks, I washed up daily in the bathroom of my storage unit building. I felt yucky everyday be evening. Now, I shower at the gym which is $16 a month (which includes yearly renewal fees). 

What is your typical day-to-day routine like?
Wake up, go to the gym, then go to storage and put on an outfit for the day, and then work. After work, I hang out at the school because it's comfortable, or I find a fast food restaurant/library/park/mall to hang out at. At 9:30 I begin preparing for bed, then I make it to my sleeping spot by 10:00. I survey my surroundings, then climb into the back seat and sleep. 
What’s your car’s set up?
Because I'm an undercover car camper, I keep my car looking like it's NOT lived in - clean, bare interior. The trunk carries blankets or sleeping bag, snacks, gym bag, laptop case, and box for wet towels from the gym (on their way to storage where I keep a clothes hamper). 

Like BlueMcCrew, I may get window tinting, window shades, or a Memory Foam mattress. 

What are the top five things you rely on?
Cell phone (alarm and Internet and communication to combat emergencies and isolation), 
working car, 
zero-degree sleeping bag, 
storage unit, 
gym membership

Do you ever feel unsafe?
I'll just BlueMcCrew's response: 
"I never feel 100% safe, so [I’m always alert], but I sleep pretty soundly and I’m pretty sure I could handle any situation that could arise.
"I don’t really miss not having a room.”
What do you do for internet?
I have data on my phone and I use the library, fast food restaurants, and work."
Have you had any trouble with cops or parking?
No, but I have trouble with the DMV when a cop pulls me over and tells me my tags are suspended because I never got notice of a speeding ticket, emissions testing overdue, tags expired, etc. I don't get DMV mail at a post office box. 
How long do you plan to live in your car?
"I’m kind of addicted to having two paychecks a month, and seeing my loans go down."
I'm with him on that one. I'm thinking I'll do this until debts are paid and I have no other financial goals that I can only afford by making this sacrifice. Winters are doable, so at least 1/2 of each year I can live in my car. 

Have you ever analyzed how much you are saving per month?

When my uncle raised the rent to $600, I saved 600 a month rent minus laundromat, gym, dog care =
600-82 = 518 saved a month
If I were still living in my condo or a one-bedroom apartment at $1000 a month or more:
1000-82 = 918

With the money that you are saving, are you planning to upgrade your car to something more conducive for your lifestyle?
I'm planning to upgrade just because my car is so old and has been through so much. However, I'll definitely keep this lifestyle in mind when I choose the next car to PAY CASH for.

Do you have a contingency plan in case your car doesn't provide you the shelter you need such as in the event that you are sick?
I have an emergency fund now to cover staying in a hotel. I also sleep in hospital parking lots sometimes so I hope I could walk into the emergency room if I needed care. 
The first few weeks I stayed in my car, I woke up with stiff legs. After a while it went away. I don't know if it's because I got used to sleeping in the car or because I started stretching at the gym each morning. 

Have you had the misfortune of having a bout of diarrhea at 3 in the morning yet?
No, and I normally don't need to use the bathroom during the night. However, I have had to change my maxi pad in the middle of the night, and I did. 

Friends Don't Let Friends Stay Broke

Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: that wisdom preserves the life of its possessor.

Money is a shelter – it offers some protection in the world. Those who have money can afford the things they need to be secure (insurance, home repairs, medical treatment).

However, being wise is more important because it allows you to stretch your finances and maintain them so that they are there when you need them. Your wisdom indirectly preserves your life.

Take a step:
1. Who do you know that could use some financial wisdom?

2. How can you help them be more financially wise? You could direct them towards resources that will help them. Or casually, during conversations, share some of the ways your finances have improved.

Prayer focus:

Lord, if you open opportunities for me to share what I’ve learned about better stewardship with ________, please help me to share.

Don't hate the hustlers who get financial blessings

Sometimes I read other people's stories of how they got out of phenomenal amounts of debt, sometimes in record time. They sold a car or two, sold some rental property, got a settlement from a lawsuit, or managed to cut expenses to save a $1000 a month (suggesting they earn a lot of money to begin with).

This frustrates hard-working, low wage-earning people who want to know where the stories of real struggling people are.

I understand the frustration and my response is, "Stop comparing and walk away with this: Getting out of debt takes a lot of commitment and hard work. That's the theme that applies to all of us, even if occasional windfalls come our way or we have a higher-than-average income."

Before I made the serious decision to get out of debt 10 months ago, I was earning $40K a year(not a fortune) plus a 2nd job earning $2K, renting a tiny room, and often eating one meal a day because that's all I could afford. I decided to go live in my car, apply all extra money towards debt or an emergency fund, and learn survival skills.

Due to those sacrifices, God's guidance, and some financial blessings along the way, I have paid off all credit cards and managed emergencies. I first got a raise, then a higher-paying job. I received a small insurance pay-out.  

Some people could say, "Well, you don't have any kids, you earned $40K, and you saved a lot by living in your car. That made it easier for you."

The point is I hustled and took advantage of the opportunities that I have. Not every childless person is able to get out of debt, but I used that to my advantage. Not everyone is able to temporarily live in their car, but I used my situation to my advantage. 

After 5 months, I got a new job paying > 50% more than my old job. I didn't expect that to happen. Lots of people who've gotten out of debt have that story (windfalls coming their way or getting better-paying jobs). It's not everyone's story, but it's not rare either. But even, without the increase in income, I was a hustler and on my way to becoming debt-free.

Lots of people get "lucky" when they match effort with an honorable goal. Maybe it's God's blessing following around smart choices, or maybe the truth is that we were getting blessed ("lucky") all along but squandering the financial blessings and didn't realize it (I think that was my case).

I know I posted this earlier this month, but here it is again:
"If you pray for God to move a mountain, don't be surprised if He hands you a shovel."

Research that supports paying debts smallest to largest

Dave Ramsey's advice on how to pay down debt is supported by research. Most people don't pay off credit cards each month and most people will give up on paying down debts if it takes too long, no matter how much it makes financial sense.

In 2013 more than 70% of Americans did not pay off the credit card bills every month - most credit card holders carry a balance and try to pay it off over time.


One study was done to disprove Dave Ramsey's snowball method. However, it actually did the opposite. It showed that even though paying off the higher interest rates first saves money over time and the people in the study knew it, people in the study were actually more driven by their emotions and they stuck with the plan that allowed them to feel success.  If people don't follow the advice (like pay down debts based on interest rates), it does them no good.


Here is another study done of 6,000 debt holders which found that those who paid off smallest balance first were more likely to pay off all their debts. 


And don't forget, Dave doesn't say to ignore the higher interest rates forever. He basically says, small things first - you'll get to the higher interest rates soon.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

This post is meant for April 23, 2014 - Taxes

We finally got the taxes done. I’m planning ahead for next year. Last year I had no mortgage interest, property taxes, charitable deductions, or student loan interest to claim. I owed taxes. This year that will all change (or should).

I will start repaying student loans. I will also take more CEUs this year.  I am contributing to a 401K. While I have been helping individual people this year, I expect to give to some charities as well.

So, with taxes done, I can focus on the short sale. I needed to provide my taxes for the application.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Combined Freecycle and Amazon and earned $30

Two weeks ago, I got free books through Freecycle - many of them textbooks. Four days ago, I posted 6 on Amazon because they are still current titles.  Then I set the books in a pile on the floor next to my bed.

On Monday the book on top sold with a profit of $3.

On Tuesday, the 2nd book sold with a profit of $3.

I thought, Maybe I should put a more expensive book as the 3rd book in the pile so I can get more money. It was just a joke, so I didn't move the books around. Wouldn't you know it - today the 3rd book in the pile sold!

I mailed all 3 books today and will earn $30 after fees. I chose not to pay for insurance ( a savings of $3.75) and I hope I don't regret it. 2 of the remaining books are more expensive than these first 3.

I should look for free books more often on Amazon - especially textbooks.

Mission 19% complete! - 100th post

Today, God and I have reached 19% of our debt payoff goal in less than a year!

That's like paying $1225 a month to pay down debt. That's also the cost for rent for a one bedroom apartment, so I feel like it really helped to give up housing for 1/2 a year (stayed in car for 4 months, and Jasmine let me live rent-free for 2). Besides, I made serious sacrifices with windfalls (refunds, insurance payout, tax refund) and began using cash, which helped me be more frugal.

If we get a teaching job that pays just as well as this last one, then we could continue the momentum. I hope to get a tax refund next year as well.

I deposited part of my tax refund (the part I have received) into the account used to fund the house renovations. Using cash to prevent debt is as good as paying off debt towards the renovations.

This is my 100th post, BTW.

Life is exciting.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

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Economics: A Result of the Fall

by Jim Tonkowich

September 26, 2008
On Tuesday I was part of a conference call with Ed Lazear, Chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, to discuss “the nation’s economic challenges.”  The call was oriented to economists and over my head.  But you do not need to understand the fine points of securitizing assets, Alt-As, and the LIBOR rate to know that the heart of the problem is bad debts.
“Economics,” said the eminent British economist Lionel Robbins, “is the study of the use of scarce resources which have alternative uses.”
After quoting Robbins, Thomas Sowell in Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy, writes:
What does “scarce” mean?  It means that what everybody wants adds up to more than there is. …There has never been enough to satisfy everyone completely.  That is the real constraint.  That is what scarcity means.
We have unlimited wants.  They range from necessities—basic food, clothing, and shelter—to luxuries—caviar, custom tailored suits, and mansions.  Our limited resources prevent us from having all we want and economics looks at how we operate in that world of scarcity.  How do we use our limited resources to satisfy our unlimited wants?
Because economists study scarcity, it is fair to say that economics had its origin in the Fall.  In the Garden of Eden, there was no scarcity.  The man and the woman worked joyfully to bring order to God’s creation.
After the Fall, God said to Adam:
Cursed is the ground because of you;
       through painful toil you will eat of
      it all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and
      you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow you will eat your
      food until you return to the ground, since
      from it you were taken; for dust you are
      and to dust you will return.
      (Genesis 3:17-19)
“Painful toil,” “thorns and thistles,” and “the sweat of your brow” is the language of scarcity.  Economics was born.
And one day economics will die.  When Christ returns and we live in the New Earth under the New Heaven, there will be no more scarcity.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. (Revelation 22:1-3a)
This in no way means that economics is evil or unnecessary.  After all, medicine is also a consequence of the Fall that Christ’s return will render obsolete.  What it does mean is that between the Fall and the Second Coming, scarcity is a fact of life and so no one gets all he or she wants.
Much of history is the story of people trying to overcome scarcity.  We do it by good means—hard work, investment, entrepreneurship—and by evil means—cheating, stealing, conquest.  And we do it with debt.
“’Debt,’ simply put,” writes Theodore Roosevelt Malloch in the Trinity Forum’s journal Provocations, “is a means of using future purchasing power to obtain goods or services before they have been earned.”   He sees debt as a tool that can be used judiciously with good results or carelessly with dire consequences.
Unfortunately debt, for many Americans, has become the means of salvation.  Scarcity says we have limits. Debt can allow us to live beyond our limits (at least for a while), thus artificially narrowing the gap between unlimited wants and limited resources. That is, we begin to believe that debt will rescue us from the effects of the Fall at which point debt becomes a false savior, an idol.
Sooner or later all idols fail or, worse yet, they turn and devour the idolaters—be they on Wall Street or Main Street.
I do not believe all debt is evil and I am not going to advise anyone on financial strategies.  Nor do I know what should be done next to repair the U.S. economy with its $13.8 trillion GDP, $10 trillion in national debt, and $40 trillion or so in private debt.
But wise fiscal policy—personal policy as well as public policy—takes into consideration reality.  We live in a fallen world of scarcity.  An economic utopia where we all have all we want is not an option.  And no amount of debt—public or private—will change that fact.

I'm moving...

Jasmine's mother in law is moving in with her permanently starting in September, so I have to be out. 

Back to living in my Honda. 

I was planning to move out anyway in October to save rent money. September is a little early because there are some hot nights in September and sleep is impossible. The up side is no rent to pay. 

I guess another up side is that moving always makes me re-evaluate my "stuff." Today, I woke up and begin trashing things I decided I don't need, or don't need in material form. I finally organized the last of my tax documents (the last 4 years) so I can scan them at school tomorrow and get rid of the paper. I threw out students' work from this past school year and some notes from my computer programming studies four summers ago. 

I'll keep de-cluttering until everything fits in storage. Right now, nothing else can fit in storage. When I leave Jasmine's I'll have to put everything in my car. I can't live comfortably in the car when it's cluttered.

June snapshot

June Monthly Snapshot:

 "If you pray for God to move a mountain, don't be surprised if the answer to your prayer is a shovel."

1. As of June 15, we paid off $10,485 in debt.

That's $1,165 a month on average.

It's hard to keep track of how much exactly is paid off because when I make a monthly payment part of it is applied to interest so the bottom line is not clear without pulling all the bills out and doing the math every single month - which I don't do. However, I've done a review of the balances left and determined that $10,485 + interest is what we've paid off so far.

2. completed a financial stress test

3. cooked some meals at home.

4. started a new "everything journal" because the last one was lost.

5. posted items on TPT

6. really missed Jefferson, especially since he had to have surgery and I'm not there to be with him.

7. practiced guarding my financial situation, by having real talks with Asana about whether she'll be able to pay rent in the condo. Otherwise, I really need to move back in.

8. continued to build up savings