Tired of failing to pay off my debt by working at things I hated, I decided on writing my way out of debt because at least that would be enjoyable. Writing is something I’ll continue to do even once the debt is gone (see The Conquest Of Happiness)
Back in 2011, I was sitting in my gym you see above, staring at the excel spreadsheet in front of me.
I saw no way to dig myself out of the $55239.00 business debt I’d created, and had scrambled around like a squirrel looking for a nut for months.
Facing facts, I mustered my courage and went upstairs to talk with the landlord.
Sitting in front of him I swallowed my pride, “I’m not going to make next months rent. I’ve already used all my line of credit to make last months rent.”
He just stared at me, so I continued. “I wanted to come talk to you and see if there was anything we could do about the 5-year lease agreement I signed.”
His face didn’t change at all but he put down his pen, sat back and looked at me. “The lease is a legally binding document. The fact is that you owe me four more years of rent at $4500 a month,” he paused, “Having said that, I appreciate you not doing a mid night move.”
I felt a sliver of hope as he continued, “I’ll let you out of your lease if you move out and lock the doors immediately… and agree to pay $1500 a month, for the next ten months to buy out of your agreement.”
“Done,” I said.
So that’s where we started. From here I’m going to share with you both the mistakes and the wins as I write my way out of debt.
On with the journey.
Totally Confused About How To Fix This Debt Mistake
A cold wash of failure melted over me as I headed down the stairs out of his office. I now had a large debt and no income or place to do business out of.
“What now…” I sent an email to all my clients telling them that boot camp was now outdoors. I refunded personal training and membership fees for those people that only wanted to work with me at the gym.
Then I got on Kijiji and got a job as a Framer swinging a hammer. I framed houses during the day and taught boot camps at night.
The math was brutal. $1500 a month I owed on the lease buy out. Line of Credit at $30,000 and credit card at $14,000. The dessert was $11,000 owed to Canada Revenue, a combo of taxes from personal as well as when the dividends I was taking as an owner were reassessed as employee income.
The numbers said I was going further into debt despite working full time as a framer and doing boot camps at night.
I picked up a job doing data entry, then a motorcycle apprentice, then an electrician apprenticeship. I was miserable the whole time and frantically tried to find a job I loved that paid well.
It was while doing data entry that I started writing Cullers War on my lunch hours and doing personal training at night. After finishing Cullers War I would have one fiction book and two non-fiction fitness books I could sell “How I Won My Second Bodybuilding Contest” and “Begin At The Gym: From Couch Potato To Beach Hero”
Then when I started the electrician apprenticeship I added the Rise From The Ashes podcast for some after hours fun reading my fiction like old radio broadcasts. No one really dug it though so I stopped doing the fiction and started recording some thoughts on philosophy and how we can use it to improve our daily lives.
The electrician apprenticeship started at $18/hour and after 6 months I still wasn’t quite making ends meet.
Canada Revenue called demanding payment. If I agreed to a mandatory $200/month, they wouldn’t dock my pay.
“Enough is enough,” I thought.
A man should be self-sufficient and financially prepped to take care of his family. I was against the ropes and went for a meeting with a bankruptcy guy. He laid it all out for me but I couldn’t pull the trigger.
I wanted to fix the problem by becoming better at whatever it was that I sucked so hard at that got me into this position. I felt like doing bankruptcy would fix everything now, but I still didn’t know how to “make it” on my own. It would be a patch on an already shitty blanket.
The electrician apprenticeship would pay around $40 an hour by the end of my four-year apprenticeship. If I could just make a bit more now, this was a workable plan for no more debt.
I kept teaching boot camps at night in the park. It helped but I had to shut it down each year when I went to school for electrician training and also the Canadian winter.
From closing the gym doors to getting a workable plan that would allow me to just barely pay the bills stopping further debt increase, took two years.
I wrote in fits and starts. Sometimes I was motivated and often I just gave up.
I thought, “Now I just have to get through four years of electrician training or figure out something better…”
From this blog, you can expect an account of my adventures as I cut costs and look for supplemental income from writing to pay down this enormous debt weighing down my balance sheet.
How will be different from other blogs? I’m 41. I read on other financial blogs about people who avoided debt, saved money and invested. The reason? Because they didn’t want to be wage slaves at 41. Well I missed that train.
There are a lot of people that have everything humming along perfectly until a bump in the road. A hospital bill, a failed business, car repairs at the same time as the furnace goes down, etc.
Things get sideways. Figuring out how to get everything back on the rails is the groovy part.
From the time my finances went sideways to the time I am sharing this with you is around 6 years. The first draft of this article went live January 4, 2017, and my debt was at $44,910. It took six years to pay off $10,329. $1721.5/year. I needed to do better.
That small dent in achieving my goal of no more debt also indicated my level of financial success as a writer. In other words, poor.
In those 6 years, I had my corporation dissolved and my taxes reassessed as well. This added a few more thousand to the debt. Up and down, back and forth.
Time to shove a stick in this revolving bicycle wheel.
I’m telling you this because I want you to know that if you feel like you are getting knocked around like a ping-pong ball, I understand. Sometimes it feels like you are playing against doubles and you forgot a paddle and you are breathing through a half plugged straw.
I know know that having money doesn’t relieve money stress. Spending less than what comes in the door does. This applies to those who make very little, and to those who make a lot.
Move onto the next article in this series: How To Make Money Writing
If you have a goal of writing your way out of debt as well, please share your experiences below. Every little bit of knowledge helps. You never know what little piece of knowledge may end up being helpful and someones master key to freedom.