Don’t Feed the Alligators

A Personal Finance Blog from a Small-Scale Landlord’s Perspective

Archive for February, 2008


Rick writes:

“Have you ever used a professional “financial adviser” and what are your thoughts on doing so?”

I have never used a professional financial adviser. But I also personally rarely use professional services for anything else I need, either:

  • I perform all the maintenance and repairs on my cars: timing belts, brakes, struts and shocks, oil changes, etc.
  • I fix and install heating appliances and accessories
  • I planned, purchased, and redid the kitchen in my rental unit
  • I fixed my sprinkler system
  • I rebuilt my railing
  • I have helped family and friends fix well pumps, install ceilings, satellite dishes, move, etc.
  • I do my own taxes

I tend to be a very do-it-yourself kind of guy and managing my money is no different. I do things myself for 3 primary reasons, listed here in no particular order:

  1. I get satisfaction from a job that I have done well.
  2. I don’t trust most of the people whom I would have hired to do all these things.
  3. It has saved me an enormous amount of money.

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A young reader asks:

“Can you write more about how you got out of credit card debt?”

The most important principle that I recommend is to take to heart the point embodied in the following quote:

“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery.”
Charles Dickens (1812 - 1870), David Copperfield, 1849

Countless studies have been conducted over the years that indicate money does not buy happiness. What does buy happiness is learning to live on the money that you make — or better yet, a little bit less than the money you make. Far too many people spend more than they earn, and when they get more money, they spend more than that too. These people continually raise their standard of living as they get more money.

I have come to believe that the only way to be truly happy with my financial situation is to live on less than I earn, and when my income rises I do not allow my spending to increase proportionally. It pains me to see friends, family, coworkers, etc. forever believing that if only they had a little more money they would be happy. These people get raises, win the lottery, and come into more money in any number of ways and are happy for a short period of time, but inevitably become unhappy again and fall back into money problems, not necessarily in that order.

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WildflowersWelcome to Don’t Feed the Alligators, a Personal Finance Blog that seeks analysis and discussion surrounding all aspects of personal finance as seen from the perspective of a small-scale multi-family property investor.

My personal background is similar to many other personal finance bloggers:

My story starts in college. The first week I was exposed to all kinds of offers for free T-shirts, Frisbees, etc. simply in exchange for filling out a credit card application. I had some part time jobs in college that allowed me to keep paying the minimums, but I continually flirted with my limits. Eventually I graduated and got a “real” job. I bought a big screen TV and an expensive stereo.

I had a good mentor who helped me to start making a dent in my debt. Together my then fiancé and I saved for a debt free wedding and worked down most of the credit debt. We bought a new car, with all the options. No problem, we could afford the payments. But we still had some credit card debt.

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