I was never great at sports. I was good. I played on a lot of competitive hockey, baseball, and volleyball teams throughout my youth. I never won anything huge, though. No provincial championships, no MVP awards, no All-Star teams.

I have never had major success with music. I’ve played in numerous bands, and have had the opportunity to travel parts of Canada and the US, as well as record a few albums. I’ve played with a number of fantastic bands, but haven’t really “made it” in any real sense.

One thing I’ve been very good at, however, is failing. I’ve made more mistakes than I could ever begin to expound in this short space. Some mistakes I’ve learned from, others I seem to repeat endlessly until I simply give up trying to correct myself.

One of those mistakes I kept making until about a year ago was with regard to my money.

When I was in high school I got a job in the tenth grade at a grocery store. I worked about 30 hours a week, which combined with school and the reality of living in a small town left very little time to really spend any of the money I was making. By the time I moved on three years later, I had saved up enough to buy my grandmother’s car, which I bought off her estate when she passed away.

Saving when you live at home in a small town is easy. It takes little discipline, because unless you can get to the closest city, the most you’re going to spend money on is food, which I could avoid most of the time by eating recently expired sandwiches from the store deli. The biggest items I purchased in high school were my guitars and a few guitar accessories.

When I left for college, I had no idea how to manage my money. I didn’t get a job, even though looking back I realize that time spent playing xbox likely could have been better spent doing something a little more productive. The food at college was absolutely horrible and they did not provide us with a student card that could be transferred to neighbouring food services, so we were either stuck eating deep fried k-rap every day, or spending money on something at least mildly fresher from Subway across the street.

I gave a lot of my money to Subway.

When I dropped out of college, I got a job at the grocery store I worked at through high school. After about six months of that, I quit and joined a band that took me around Ontario and the US. Those four months were some of the most memorable months of my life.

At the end of those four months, I had $12 in my bank account.

Fast forward just under a year, I had been hired by a church in Central Ontario as the music pastor. I was hired through a contract, which meant I wasn’t paying taxes on anything I was earning. I lived in the home of a sweet lady and her son, renting a room for a few hundred a month. I was working quite a bit, most weeks 50-60 hours a week, which didn’t leave a lot of time to prepare my own meals (not that I would know what to do anyway).

I ate out.

A lot.

I also bought a new bike, a pedal case for my guitar pedals, a MacBook, paid for personal training, and likely purchased a few other things as well.

At the end of my year in Barrie, I had saved nothing.

And owed over $5000 in taxes.

I had about $2000 on my credit card.

And owed my father about $5000.

$12,000 in the hole.

Thankfully, my dad is brilliant with his money. When my parents were 30 (5 years before I was born), they retired.

At 30.

My dad was incredibly helpful with helping me come up with a plan. The plan was:

  • figure out what expenses I had, such as phone, car, gas, etc.
  • figure out how much spending money I’d need per week.
  • cut that figure in half.
  • live on next to nothing (I lived at home, and had food and board paid for at about $100 per month. Love my parents.)
  • put everything else towards paying down my debt.

This was a hard adjustment for me. I had lived as though my debit card had no end. Starbucks stops, Subway lunches, trips to the movies and paying for dates were part of daily life.

I signed up for a PC Financial credit card, which at the time was offering to transfer your credit balance from another card at a rate of 0.99% for 6 months. During those six months, I put my money towards my tax debt, as it had a higher interest rate. When the six months were up, I split my payments.

My credit card was paid in a matter of a couple months.

My tax debt was paid off not long after.

The only debt remaining was with my father, who agreed to a payment plan of $200 every two weeks until things were paid off. The difference between that amount and my expenses/spending money were put into savings.

In July of this year, I was able to purchase a MacBook Pro, fully loaded.

With cash.

This past month, having ensured that I had enough saved up in my emergency fund, I made the decision to accelerate my payments towards my debt with my dad.

Two payments later, and as of last Wednesday I am completely debt free.

At the end of it all, there was no award ceremony. There were no cheering fans. There were no autographs to sign (not even on a cheque; I paid cash).

Just the feeling of pride of having accomplished the greatest task I had ever set out to achieve.

I got my life back in order.