Subscriber Swap Saturday: Man Vs Debt

by Kevin on April 25, 2009

This is the twenty-first edition of Subscriber Swap Saturday.

For the uninitiated, every Saturday I do an interview with another blogger. That blogger also interviews me and posts that interview on their website.We then tell our readers — hey, I think this guy is interesting, you should subscribe to his blog for a week.

This week I’m interviewing Baker from Man Vs. Debt. I highly encourage all of my readers to subscribe to his blog and see if you like what you find! Read more about Subscriber Swap Saturday at the link above. His questions for me are up at his blog as well.

Baker is the man behind, where he chronicles his families’ own personal War on Debt.  Recently, Baker and his wife have sold all but two backpack’s worth of their possessions in order to move to Australia.  They plan on frugally traveling with their 1 year old daughter, while still passionately eliminating debt.  Follow them on their journey by subcribing to RSS, e-mail updates, or following @ManVsDebt on Twitter!

Question (No Debt Plan): I think this is a pretty obvious question, but nonetheless: your blog title. Inspired from Man Vs. Wild or…?

Answer (Man Vs. Debt): Yeah, it’s definitely inspired by Man Vs. Wild and Man Vs. Food.  It’s not like they are my absolute favorite shows or anything.  Just more along the lines that they sound really cool.  Also, for me, it helps to treat the process of debt elimination as a “battle.”  Man Vs. Debt just really seems to catch the raw emotional I feel towards debt.

Q: You told me recently that you are selling most of your possessions and moving with your wife and child to Australia. What’s up with that?

A: My wife and I really wanted to backpack a couple places before we had kids.  Well, it just didn’t end up happening that way.  We simply aren’t ready to plant our roots in any one location.  So upon the birth of our daughter, we decided if we didn’t do it within the first few years, we probably wouldn’t at all.  So I sold my real estate business and we’ve been passionately selling our possessions and eliminating debt for the past 12 months to get ready.  We leave June 7th and we couldn’t be more excited!

Q: How do you plan to keep attacking your debt while you are in Australia? Is this a permanent move?

A: In order to balance both traveling and debt-elimination, we decided early we wouldn’t go unless we were free of all non-student loan debt.  In addition, we forced ourselves to stockpile 12 months of minimum student loan payments, over $5000, and another $1000 emergency fund that we would keep back home.  We weren’t willing to completely halt our elimination, but decided we were willing to make 1 year of minimum payments if necessary.

Luckily, we’ve sacrificed and have been able to achieve our goals (a little ahead of time actually).  We plan on setting a strict budget, traveling very frugally, and are 100% ready to return home if we are unable to secure decent employment.  Personally, it’s extremely hard for me to have over $12,000 dollars saved, while we still have student loan debt (I can hear the student loans taunting me)!  Our best case scenario would be to obtain basic employment within the first 30 days.  This would allow us to drastically lower our minimum emergency fund threshold and put the extra towards debt.  Keep your fingers crossed for us!

Lastly, we are planning on giving it a minimum of 2 months.  If we can’t find employment or simply don’t like it, we will move our flight up and return home.  On the other hand, we are completely prepared to make it a permanent move if everything lines up well!

Q: I know you’ve got some real estate investment experience. What’s the best thing about being a landlord?

A: Gosh, this is a hard question.  I managed a lot of properties for others and also owned a low-income 8 unit apartment building, myself.  Due to the fact that my property was in a low-income area, the cash-flow was decent, but the management was intensive and there was a high turnover rate.  Because of this, the best feeling was usually when I found and secured a really good tenant.  One I knew that would prioritize paying rent and who was really never going to move out!  Other than that, telling people I owned an apartment complex made me sound much cooler than I really was.

Q: …and what’s the best landlord story that you’re legally allowed to share with us?

A: I guess the funniest story involved a tenant that I inherited when I bought the 8 unit apartment building.  We will call her Robin.  Robin was literally schizophrenic.  She had two completely different personalities.  Part of the time she was the sweetest, nicest, most christian lady you’d ever meet.  She’d answer the door with a big smile, “Come in Mr. Adam…  I hope you are having a Jesus Day!” I didn’t know what a Jesus Day was, but she always made it sound like such a good thing.  She was a little behind with her rent and I was working with her to keep her in the unit.

Little did I know her other side was slightly different.  The first time I bumped into her other personality, I drove up to find her running circles around the building screaming every cuss world you’ve ever heard.  When I asked her what in the world was wrong, she’d barked, “Who the **** do you think you are?  You just can’t pull up whenever you want.  Get the **** off my property!”  I had no idea what to do.  The next week she called the Fire Department and told them the owners were pumping gas into her apartment.  When they came to knock on the door, she told them that the HVAC repair guy had raped her cat earlier that day.  Our HVAC guy hadn’t been there in weeks and there was no gas leak whatsoever.  When I came later in the day to confront her, I was met with a sweet ‘ole christian lady who wanted me to sit down, while she baked some cookies.  It was literally the weirdest experience in my life.

Q: You just started blogging back in March. In one month you’ve garnered 120+ RSS subscribers. How have you done it? (And if you keep up this pace you will bypass me in about 7 or 8 months. I hate you. :))

A: I really don’t have any idea.  I’ve been absolutely blown away on how accepting and helpful the rest of the blogging community has been.  In particular, Jim from Bargaineering has really gone above and beyond to give me encouragement, while still pointing out some of my mistakes.  There are countless others, including yourself, who’ve given their time to help me out.  It’s an awesome feeling.  The only thing I have going for me is that I’m truly passionate about personal finance and I spend a ton of time working on what I write.  I look forward to developing even deeper relationships with my readers and other bloggers in the coming months!

Q: Why did you decide to start blogging and do people that know you (family, friends, etc.) know about the blog?

A: I had been following personal finance blogs for a couple years.  Actually, Zen Habits was my first… back when Leo concentrated his blogging on getting out of debt!  To be honest, I just really felt like I had something I could contribute.  I at least wanted to test the waters and see what would happen.  So far, it’s going extremely well and I’m glad I decided to take the chance!

None of my local friends or family are really big personal finance fans, but I do have a couple really close friends that support me and read the blog daily. I’ve had a couple family members check it out, but I don’t think a lot of them read it consistently.

* * * *

Fantastic interview. This is why I love doing this. I feel like I really learned a lot about Man vs. Debt — and I hope you readers did, too.

I also want to give Man vs. Debt and Suburban Dollar some props. The blogger scheduled for today had to politely back out — no big deal — but it left me with short notice to find another interview. They both replied very quickly to my request on Twitter, MvD just responded first. Thanks guys.

Bloggers — interested in being featured? Check out the schedule. I’ve got openings starting in June.


Wojciech @ Fiscal Fizzle April 25, 2009 at 6:59 am

I’ve enjoyed following both your blogs, thanks for doing the interview. I’ve also been blown away by Baker’s success at Man vs. Debt, and watch his subscriber count shoot up every day. Way to go!

My wife and I have the same dream – to backpack throughout the world, and are working on making it a reality. Who knows…

MB April 25, 2009 at 8:10 am

Great interview. That landlord story is crazy and totally scary. I’m envious of the selling up and moving though I’ve done it twice before already. I still get envious when others do it and it makes me want to do it all over again! Itchy feet I guess.

I too am amazed at his number of subscribers, but it’s a great blog that I also follow, so I guess it’s not that surprising!

This interview swap is a great idea.

Kevin April 27, 2009 at 9:12 am

@Fiscal Fizzle and @MB: Thanks! I’ve been impressed, too 🙂

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