One of my favorite financial bloggers is a Canadian named, Brent Truitt. Brent’s website is called Debt Files, and he has, shall we say, a very eclectic take on life and personal finances. On his About page, he describes himself as a former professional musician who had to quit “because he wasn’t very good.” If I had to describe Brent in one sentence, I would describe him as cross between Hunter S. Thompson and Dave Ramsey. Gonzo journalism meets “The Scourge of Debt.”
Anyway, when I learned from Brent that he used geoarbitrage to launch his quest for debt-free living, I knew his story was a perfect fit for a guest post on Freedom Is Groovy. Mrs. Groovy and I are big fans of geoarbitrage. If you live in a high-cost area and you’re struggling, moving to a low-cost area is a great way to improve your financial fortunes. So one of the missions of Freedom Is Groovy is to spread the word about geoarbitrage. And, thankfully, Brent’s here to help us with that cause. Take it away, Brent.
So it went like this.
My wife and I loved where we lived in a semi-upscale neighborhood of Calgary, Alberta.
My wife’s daughter (my stepdaughter) lived not far down the road with our two grandbabies and life was swell.
We had been living there for over a decade, and all the time we were there, we swore we would never leave the house we loved so much. We had access to a lake just down the block, the neighbors were great, and the city is about as vibrant as you’re gonna get.
Only one problem.
We had a mortgage, two vehicle loans, and our online business had hit some serious bumps in the road (Yahoo had been bought out by Bing and we could no longer run search engine ads in the United States market to our commercial web sites—long story I can tell on another day, on another planet).
So yeah…we were suckin’ grit in a high-wind.
We still had some decent organic traffic on a couple of our blogs, and I did SEO work for some local businesses, so we could almost pay our bills each month.
The keyword here is almost.
Our total cash outflow was $5800 per month and our total cash inflow was $4200 per month.
My wife was much more relaxed about it and told me not to worry. She believed we could turn things around.
But that was unacceptable to me.
I had declared personal bankruptcy earlier in my life, and I wasn’t about to take another horrible trip down Debtors Lane (that’s a small dirt road off Main St. in Shitville).
So the discussions started.
What We Owed
- Mortgage: $150,000 (3.5% APR)
- C-Class Motorhome: $85,000 (7.2% APR)
- Toyota Prius: $22,000 (7ish% APR)
- Line of Credit: $10,000 (4ish% APR)
Total debt: approximately $267,000.
What People Were Saying
Our family and friends all said that our debt was nothing to worry about. Many of them told us they had even MORE debt than we did—and that was supposed to make me feel better.
I know it made my wife feel better.
But my argument was, “It’s fine for all those people to carry that much debt because they have a steady income from employment. They can at least count on their monthly nut getting covered. We on the other hand are in the wacky-fun-exciting-online-marketing-world—a world where your income can be stripped from you at anytime if you don’t have multiple streams of income or a massive web property that’s immune to the winds of algorithm changes.”
But my argument still wasn’t strong enough for my wife.
The Justification and the Plan
My wife’s son (my stepson) was living in the smaller city of Saskatoon which is a six hour drive east of Calgary AB in the Canadian Province of Saskatchewan.
So my new argument was about fairness and finances—and it started to prevail.
We finally agreed to make the big move, because:
- We just spent 10 years living near our daughter and now we could be near our son.
- It would be a good time to move for the sake of our finances.
Mixed Emotions and the Move
Ok. Great. We made a decision and we’re going through with it….but…but…but…
But we STILL love our house and this neighborhood!
Our emotions swung back and forth for months as we made all the typical moves. Put the house on the Calgary market, started watching the Saskatoon market, and packing boxes.
I was really stressed out but dear Betty nursed me through with regular doses of Percocet and sauerkraut. We had made our decision and we both knew it was the right decision, but it was difficult coming to terms with such a big change.
Long story shortened—our house in Calgary sold for $575,000 and we bought a house in Saskatoon for $375,000.
Nice spread there baby.
So What Was The Math Again?
Oh yeah—we had $267,000 total debt living in a bigger house in the bigger city and we closed in around $180,000 buying the smaller house in the smaller city (after moving expenses).
So our new total debt was $87,000. Does that sound right? I’m terrrrrible at math.
Burden Lifted – Now Charge!
It felt great to get that piano off our backs and we weren’t far from a 100% debt free existence.
But I wanted MORE burden lifted!
I figured we’ve come this far and we’re only in our late forties—why not push hard and wipe the last residue of debt out of our lives?
So we went on a serious spending freeze (brrrr….it was cold). We only spent money on the needs of life and almost nothing on the wants of life.
This is where partnership and communication is so important—we were both on the same page and willing to make sacrifices. You know…like giving up the delivery food, outings, winters in Palm Springs, cocaine, hookers, and pickle ball.
The Final Outcome and Forward
We settled in to our new 1955 home on the east side of Saskatoon and we’ve never been happier. We were always told by our elders how paying off your mortgage is a life changer, and they were right.
The last $85,000 in debt was put on our HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit) and we got to work.
I wrote content everyday for at least 10 hours and we spent next to nothing.
We sold the RV for $38,000 (which helped) and we were inching closer to 100% financial freedom.
Then WHAM! It happened.
Google changed their algorithm and our traffic almost tripled over night.
We cleared off the remaining balance on our line of credit (in a hurry) and over the next few years we socked away a serious rainy day fund.
And just like I thought would happen, in early 2017 Google changed their search results again and we’re now making 1/3 of what we’ve been making since the big uptick.
What Google giveth Google taketh away—and I have no complaints.
That’s the nature of our business, and I would risk Tom-foolery to go ahead and say that is the nature of almost any small business.
I know that “geoarbitrage” isn’t for everyone due to family, work, and your location—but for many families it’s still an option. The challenge is making sure both parties in the marriage/partnership agree on the end state.
I should correct something before I go. The title says we regained our sanity. My wife never did lose her sanity and she will tell you that I’ve never really walked amongst the sane.
Mr. Groovy here. Before I sign off, I want to tell you a little bit about our guest poster. Brent Truitt is a full timer Internet marketer and blogger who lives with his wife Betty in the Great White North. He quit his job as an Aircraft Engineer in his early forties to focus 100% on learning the art of online traffic procurement. He recently launched Debtfiles.com where he journals all things related to personal debt and financial freedom. He plans to publish the stories of his past website visitors to highlight the struggles so many American’s face financially. Good thing. As he is wont to say, “It still hasn’t gotten weird enough for [him].”
Finally, I have one more thing I need to put out there in honor Brent. I liked Brent before I learned about his geoarbitrage story. I like him even more knowing he now lives in Saskatoon. Why? In the greatest sports movie of all-time, Slap Shot, there was a song called “A Little Bit South of Saskatoon.” And anyone who can’t appreciate the artistic genius of the Hanson Brothers and Sonny James is a cultural neanderthal. He or she probably thinks Let ’em In by Wings is a great song. Anyway, other than Brent Truitt, I don’t know what’s in Saskatoon. But that city’s on my bucket list.