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Debt Finances & Money

Brute Force versus Calculated Agility

When confronted with a home improvement project, I’m the type who would rather take a sledgehammer to a wall than to measure a board 50 times before cutting. I simply despise the delicate nature of necessity of detailed work.

Ask my parents; when I was very little, my sister and I each had a police-themed Power Wheels tricycle that most likely cost my parents a fortune. When I lived in Texas, I remember riding it down the street to my uncle’s house while my parents walked next to us. Good memories. But then I got an evil streak…

When we moved from Texas to Pennsylvania in the early-to-mid eighties, I decided that I would start learning how to use my dad’s tools to take things apart. I can’t recall all the things I dismantled, but the biggest were those two Power Wheel trikes. The problem was, I never paid attention on how to put them back together.

I call this Brute Force vs. Calculated Agility

Let me explain further. A few years ago, I had to redo the PVC plumbing around our pool pump. I had never done any type of plumbing before, except maybe to take a trap off a drain, but I felt I was confident enough to tackle the job. But rather than measuring out all the lengths of pipe and planning on all the connectors and valves I would need, I just took some photos and drove off to Home Depot. I bought what I thought I needed, came home and started dismantling.

Yes, I did turn off the pool pump and breaker to prevent it from turning back on, and then I began sawing away.

In the end, after about 4 runs to Home Depot and 3 dismantles later, I finally had a working solution (at least I thought so because it was night time and I couldn’t see any leaks). The next day, I found yet another leak and fixed it.

But if I used my brain a bit more and decided to plan ahead and calculate what I would need, both in parts and labor, I would have had the entire job done in one attempt.

Relation to Finances

And since I’m a financial site, how does this all relate? Well, if you just go bull-headed into anything, much like a bull in a china shop, you’ll start smashing things. When I first committed to getting out of debt, I went head-first into paying off debt, with no plan on how to handle my other bills. A few months, I came very close to missing a payment or overdrawing my account because of my shortsightedness.

I decided the best course of action was to sit back, assess my situation including my expenses and income (both discretionary and disposable) and make a plan. I committed to calculating a plan, and furthermore, ensuring the plan was agile enough that I could change it if something unexpected happened. And I don’t mean “unexpected” like “Hey, I just got a promotion! Let’s go out drinking tonight!”. I mean if there was a real emergency in my life or my family’s lives that I needed to divert money away from my plan.

How did it work out? Well, as you know, I paid off $200,000 in consumer, mortgage and education debt in about 6-7 years (I’m losing count now), and we haven’t gone back into debt since the last payoff almost a year ago!

The moral? While brute force is great if you’re the Incredible Hulk, most of us need calculated agility in our financial lives to ensure we’re planning ahead for the unforeseen while still enjoying a bit of life. No one likes the kid who dismantles everything and doesn’t put it back together, so be careful with your finances or else you’ll find yourself in my shoes (the ones from 25 years ago!).

About the author

Clever Dude


  • I dissassembled my pedal tractor when I was 4 after I found a screwdriver. I was certain that my father who could (in my opinion) fix anything would bail me out.

    I never saw that tractor again. I wonder how long that took me and where my mother was who was supposed to be watching me.

  • I can relate so well to your article. I too spent much of my life just charging into a situation instead of stopping to plan. I am now finding I really need to sit back and plan a little better. I also loved to take things apart and see how they worked but very seldom could get them back together.

  • Great post Clever Dude! I never really thought about it that way, but it makes sense now. 🙂 So, did your parents get p*ssed when they saw the trikes?

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