iPods and criminality are usually associated with theft.
Well, no one steals iPods anymore. They steal the iPod’s sexier, younger cousin, the iPhone.
My first iPod wasn’t stolen though. Instead, it was associated with my own law breaking. Yes, a stupid iPod caused me to violate our great nation’s rulebook.
This is a story I haven’t told anyone. Not my wife (I don’t have a wife) or my therapist (I don’t have one of those either, but probably should) or even my closest friend (he’s a stuffed giraffe and a great listener.)
My law breaking was caused by what can only be described as a chain of financial stupidity. Let’s break that chain down, shall we?
Stupid Thing 1: Filling My Apartment With Things Really Fast
I had my first job out of school. An actual salary! And I had another year before I had to start paying back student loans. You’re damn right I was gonna find a better place to live and not keep living the cheap student life. I was an adult now!
I wasn’t spending that much more on rent, but I had a lot more space now that I wasn’t living near school. And that space needed furniture! A $1600 couch! A big TV! Lamps that cost an amount that I can’t remember but way too much! A bunch of random IKEA things that I actually paid a fortune for because there was no IKEA near me and the shipping cost was insane!
I spent every extra cent I had that first year buying stuff. I used what little credit I had to buy the next item on my list as early as possible.
I remember buying my TV and having to split it across 3 credit cards. I was embarrassed, but the store didn’t care and I really wanted that TV for some reason.
Stupid Thing 2: Getting A New Car
There’s no other way to explain this stupid behaviour than to say it outright: I bought a car with a purchase price more than my annual salary.
I’m sorry, what was that?
I was making around $35,000 per year. My car was about $36,000. But so what, I thought? I didn’t have any other expenses and I’d always wanted a really cool car. It’d help me find a wife! (Note: it did not.)
Stupid Thing 3: The iPod
Ok, so I had an apartment, a nice couch to watch my big TV, and a nice car outside. But I still wasn’t happy. I was spending almost every cent I had on monthly payments, with a little leftover for, you know, food.
Then the new 4th generation iPod came out.
It was clear from the advertisements: this would make me happy! Look at all those dancing shadows! They’re happy! I need one of these! I’d use it all the time at work! (Where I could have used my computer.) Or at home! (Where I could have used my nice new stereo.) Or in my car! (Which had a nice stereo of its own.) Or on my walks? (I didn’t walk, I had a shiny new car.)
What the hell was I going to use it for? It didn’t matter, I had to have one. So one day, when I got a paycheque, I used it to buy an iPod.
Stupid Thing 4: Not Counting
Okay, so apparently that money should have been used for bills. With my credit not-quite-maxed out, I thought I could still scrape by that month with the little bit that would be leftover in cash and with credit.
But I didn’t count properly I guess because a payment bounced.
It was my car insurance payment. They called and gave me 7 days to pay it. I couldn’t, but because the payment timing was such that I was paying for insurance a little in advance, I cancelled my insurance and actually got a small refund! Phew, pressure is off. I could get insurance somewhere else soon enough.
Or so I thought.
Stupid Thing 5: More Dumm, & Breaking The Law
Without any money, I couldn’t get an insurance policy anywhere else. They all wanted some amount of money up-front. And worse, the only decent rate for someone at my age was from the place I had just cancelled.
So I drove around in my still-pretty-damn-new car for close to a year without any insurance.
If anything had gone wrong, I really don’t know what would have happened. Arrest? Driver’s license suspended, leaving me not able to get to work, thereby losing my job, seriously setting back my career and making me homeless and such? All possible.
And for a damn iPod.
Bonus Stupid Thing: Not Asking For Help
Had I asked someone who knew how money worked — and actually listened — I could have avoided at least some of these mistakes. Or help me fix the situation before a year had gone by.
Someone may have even loaned me money. But I didn’t ask anyone for help. I was waaaaaaaaaaay too embarrassed that I didn’t have my money under control. With a lot more
a’s in there.
Amazing Thing 1: Getting Lucky
I got lucky and didn’t get pulled over or get into a single incident the entire year that I drove without insurance. It probably helped that I never drove over the speed limit or drove any more than I absolutely had to because I was completely paranoid.
It also taught me a damn valuable lesson: money is useful! Keep some of that around just in case and never, ever, live so close to the financial edge for non-essentials. If something really bad happens, sure, you may get pushed to the edge. But if you live there, one damn shove and you’re falling to your death.
I sold the car as soon as I could get as much as I owed on the loan. I dealt with the long (long) commute by bus for a while and later got a car that was much cheaper to buy and insure and run.
I sold my huge TV and found a small TV for free on the street that still had knobs to change the channel.
I sold the damn iPod.
Those things are all gone. But the PTSD of coming so close to financial ruin lives with me deep inside.
So I guess what I’m saying is maybe you should come close to financial ruin and use the horrible experience as a learning tool and the spark to set off your FIRE journey?
Man, I’m really not great at this whole blog thing.
Post photo by Frank Okay on Unsplash