More About Me

A while back, my buddy Ninja put a post on his site about how he wanted to be more transparent with his readers and open about his non-blogging life.  I thought that it was a great post, because I had been feeling the same recently – much like ninja, I’m not quite ready to completely come out and reveal my full identity on my blog (and i’m not sure that I ever will).  Of course, I feel like you all will be able to better understand where I’m coming from the more you know about me, so here’s a bit more information.

I was born in Colorado, and lived in a house with my parents, sister and some dogs until college.  Growing up, we were always taught not to waste things (I think it’s the german in the family).  We always recycled what we could, occasionally getting some money for the aluminum (back when they did that – it’s not so common anymore).  We would also try and grow a garden, despite the fact that we had dogs that loved to try and run over our fledgling plants or dig them up.  We were also scolded when lights or water was overused.  Mostly though, I grew up in a house just like everyone else – just about everywhere that I needed/wanted to go involved a car trip of some kind, most things that were needed would be bought at the store.

When I went off to college (I went to the University of Colorado), quite a few things changed.  The first was that I was given new transportation options: a bike or walking – I was informed that I would not be taking my car with me (it would be sold for tuition money 2 years later) and naturally, (at age 18) I had a conniption.  How was I supposed to get around, how would I get home, how would I get dinner with friends, how would I do this and how would I do that.  My dad told me that all of my friends would be on campus, probably wouldnt have a car, and I’d be able to do all that I wanted to do with the resources I had available to me (mainly, a bus pass).  Because of where I grew up, I simply informed him that was not possible and he told me that he didnt care and I was going to have to deal with it, so deal with it I did.  At first it was pretty rough, but as I started to meet more people and get to know the city more, I became fine with it, and even met a lot of people who either didnt have cars or had them but drove about 2 times per week – all other commuting was done by bus, bike or foot.  After this initial heartache, I quickly learned to deal with  my carlessness and enjoy the freedom from gas, insurance and car payments.  When I moved, I took into account where I worked and how easy it would be for me to get to campus – anything that was a pain in the butt was tossed off the list. Other than those adjustments, I never found anything else to be that bad (aside from grocery store runs) so I went from hating it to liking it.  For those of you that arent familiar with CU, it’s a typical college town in a very liberal city, so there was a lot of environmental initiatives going on and I learned a lot about sustainability, both what I think are good ways to go about it and bad.  From what I learned at CU, I really got more into the ‘macro’ side of sustainability that is typically gotten through public policy, but I did get quite a lot of classes about energy and did a lot of personal/at home calculations.

As for my finances those years, they were fairly ok until the last 2 years, when I started spending more than I earn, for reasons that I cant even explain right now – as I’m still not sure of them.  My earnings went up every year, and so did my expenses, and eventually my expenses outpaced my earnings.  To me at the time though, this was all fine because it was 2007 and the economy was roaring (I even qualified for a 250k loan for a house on my 18 hour a week job hourly wages [this bank, obviously, went under]) so I figured me with a ‘big kid’ job would step in, pay off the debt I had accumulated with 2 or so paychecks, then pay off my student loan (of around 10k) and then start saving about a year after graduation.  During the middle of my senior year, I applied for jobs, but what I really wanted to do was go to grad school to get into a field that I was partially qualified for, but not exactly – I hoped that my masters would take care of this for me.

After graduation from CU, I moved to Wyoming and went to UW.  At first I thought it would be a huge culture shock, and it really wasn’t.  College towns are college towns, they were both different but I was still happy for the change of pace.  I didnt have an assistantship when I got to school, so I took out loans for the first semester, (which are what remains of my student loans).  Mid first semester, I got an assistantship, got a regular income and they were paying all of my tuition!  It was awesome, and sometime around here was when my financial turnaround started to take shape.  I found get rich slowly and the simple dollar, and started to really think about my finances and what a disaster they were.  I could still make my minimum payments and all of that, but the prognosis was not good, and I knew it.  Thankfully, having no friends (new city/state) and a constant cash inflow made saving money pretty easy, so I was able to get on top of my situation and stay on top of it.  After some fun times, and 2 years worth of financial blog reading under my belt (as well as most of a degree) I found a job, moved and waited to start.

Unfortunately, that start date never came, and I was left with student debt payments coming in and no job.  I went back to my old job (no benefits) full time, but that meant a long commute every day in a really old car.  I found another job in a different city from that (AND the one I lived in) and took that as well.  I was hardcore into paying off debt more at this point, so I figured that 2 jobs wouldnt hurt at all.  It didnt, and I made great progress, but I was driving a lot (got a new car eventually) and was tired of it and wanted to get back to the car free lifestyle that I had lived in undergrad.  After looking for about a year, I found a job in my city, and left both other jobs.  I was grateful for the opportunity, but thankful that I could now walk to work.  As you know, the turning of the financial ship continues, but it’s gotten much easier than it used to be.

That about brings us up to today.

Readers: Anything else you want to know?  I’d be happy to answer questions in the comments.

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About Jeff

Jeff is the founder of sustainable life blog and has been interested in sustainability for most of his life. After realizing in 2007 that his finances were a total wreck, he started reading financial blogs and quickly realized that what is best for your wallet is typically better for the earth, and is usually healthier. On sustainable life blog Jeff shares his journey to a more sustainable lifestyle. For updates, subscribe by email or like us on facebook.

Comments

  1. Great to hear your history Jeff. You have come a long with finances and personal growth. I too went through a few bad financial years but like you I have since cleaned up my act and life is much better for it. I am glad we both got our head on straight early enough in life to make a change.

  2. Maybe it’s just that I’m a woman, but I was hoping this would have a bit of a love story element!

  3. I thought it was great that you had a conniption when you couldn’t have a car in college, and by the end of your story you were hoping to get a job where you wouldn’t need a car again!

  4. You’re German! No wonder we have so much in common.

  5. “I simply informed him that was not possible and he told me that he didnt care and I was going to have to deal with it, so deal with it I did”

    That quote was my favorite part of this very good post. Good parenting results in a resourceful college student! Many of us have been in your shoes in one way or another, and will be in your father’s shoes too. Seems like yesterday I was the college kid, and I know that in the next decade I’ll be the Dad sending a kid of to college. These are life lessons that help us when younger and have a way of coming back in our lives later. Good stuff.

    Separately, thanks for sharing your story about how you got to this point!

  6. I agree with Squirrelers – that quote was awesome. And the fact that you made it work was even better. So much so you enjoyed it! Great story.

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