My personal financial situation isn't something about which I've spoken publicly, I was always taught that money is a private concern. Whenever I asked my parents if we were rich, their answer was always a particularly cryptic "we're comfortable" (which, come to find out many years later, means we were scraping the bone to keep going). I always had a kind of laissez-faire attitude about money, spending my allowance as quickly as it would come, borrowing against future allowances to get that Really Big Toy that I wanted. This way of thinking about money has followed me into adulthood, and to no good result.
Over the last few years my life has had its share of financial upheaval. In 2005 I got divorced and we sold the house. Not wanting to lose my portion of the equity, I bought a condo in Portland, in a decent neighborhood so our daughter could go to a good school. At the time I was self-employed as a contractor, doing design work and Flash programming for a friend of mine. While I was only billing about 20 hours a week, I knew I could increase that to about 40, potentially doubling my income. The purchase of the condo was only possible because (as I was self-employed) I was able to tell the bank what my income was without verification, and they believed it. The payments were pushing me to the limits of my income, but all I had to do was work more and that problem would be solved.
A few months after I closed on the condo, my friend hired me full-time, locking my salary in at its current monthly rate, which was again only billing for about 20 hours of work a week. This effectively cut my potential salary (which my mortgage loan was based on) in half. Thus began my slow, steady slide toward bankruptcy. I began having to dip into my savings periodically, and then even more, until it was gone entirely. I held out hope that the new company I was working for would take off and make all of us rich with creative freedom and ample financial compensation, but that never materialized. In fact, we were all laid off after about three years. I'd already been living month-to-month by that point, and my savings were completely gone.
The only thing that held me afloat financially for those couple years, actually, was a combination of being able to claim the Child Credit and Head-of-household credits on my federal income taxes, as well as going back into business for myself. Business deductions can add up quickly, especially if a business isn't doing so well, and I was treated to tax returns in the thousands of dollars for a couple years there. Since getting laid off, I have managed to build my income back to about where it had been before getting hired in 2006. But still, the writing was on the wall. The 'slow slide' had sped up significantly, and I was no longer even able to tread water in the sea of consumer debt I'd accumulated after my savings disappeared. With an average monthly income of $2000 and monthly expenses nearing $3000 or more, I knew I couldn't continue like that much longer, and bankruptcy began looking like a real option.
Finally, one morning in March 2009, I woke up with a pain in my gut. I honestly thought it was just gas - I'd had stomachaches like this periodically going back to junior high school. But this lasted through the morning, increasing in intensity. I hadn't had medical insurance since being laid off the year before, so I was keenly aware, as I made the decision to call the hospital, that declaring bankruptcy wasn't just an option anymore, it was an inevitability. Turned out I made the right decision, within hours of driving myself to the emergency room I was prepped for surgery, and I woke up a couple hours later minus one inflamed appendix.
Bankruptcy talks began in earnest last December, and we discussed a lot of things, most specifically my realistic expectations of my income, and the hard facts of my consumer debts. I had to accept the fact that, even with twice the income I had I still wouldn't really be able to afford the monthly payments on the condo I was living in. Two mortgages and HOA dues can really destroy a paycheck. At the end of this month, June 2010, my condo is going into foreclosure, and I'm preparing to move to a new apartment next week.
Now to the reason I'm even talking about this today:
Being a sole-proprietor, most of my worth is tied up in my business, and in my case, my inventory of merchandise I've been producing to try to grow that business. I have a huge stock of 8-Bit Tarot Decks, a good number of t-shirts and comics. If I sold them all for full retail value, it would total over $15,000. But, when I file for bankruptcy, it's likely that the bank will claim it all and liquidate it for a fraction of that to try to pay some of my creditors. So, I've decided to liquidate the inventory myself, and try to put the money to good use. Paying off my bankruptcy bills, for example (which is not a cheap process, ironically), or paying my girlfriend back the money she lent me to help me get set up in the apartment. That sort of thing. Everything in the store is currently at or below the cost of producing them, so I'm still losing some of my initial investment. But I figure, at least I'll get something, as opposed to just giving it all to the bank. And hey, I'm open to commissions and contract work as well, beginning in July. Just drop me a line and we'll talk.
So I'm asking you to help a guy out. Take advantage of the sale, tell your friends, spread the word, throw me a line. Help me get back on dry land, and on my way back to being 'comfortable'.
UPDATE: Holy cow, people, I can't believe the tremendous response this post has already garnered! Thanks to everyone who rewteeted this post, in just the last 24 hours over 40 new orders have come in! That's more than I think I've ever tried to tackle in a single day (and I can only imagine the look I'm going to get at the Post Office!) I'm going to do my best to stay on top of the orders that come in, but shipping might take a little longer than I expected. So, I apologize if your order doesn't ship right away. It will ship, though, don't worry! Thanks again, and please keep spreading the word, there's a lot more inventory to clear out!
Update #2: Over 100 orders have been taken now, and I'll be shipping a whole bunch of them out this weekend, thanks to the generous use of Meredith Gran's Endicia setup! I've still got a whole mess of inventory, though - over 200 decks of Tarot Cards, dozens of shirts (mostly in Large and X-Large sizes now), and even a few comics. Some people have asked if I'll be restocking anything that gets sold out. At this point, I'd like to be selling t-shirts, but if they continue to sell at the previous rate, I don't think it would be very feasible for me. I am hoping to start introducing more items in the store in the future, including art prints and more comics, but I'm not going to add anything else to the inventory until after the bankruptcy is all squared away and done with. Keep an eye on the blog, and I'll keep you posted. Until then, please help spread the word about my sale, and help me clear out the rest of the existing inventory! Thanks!