The Project

What follows may be the ideas of a man who is finally taking control of his life and his future, or the desperate flailing attempts of a person alone at sea. Odds are good it’s somewhere in between. Let’s find out together!

Hi. I’m Collin. I’m 35 and I currently find myself at one of the most obvious turning points my life will ever see. It seems rare that we can identify those moments as they’re happening; I feel like they tend to appear in sharp relief only in hindsight. But this one socked me in the face a week ago and I could have either let it absolutely crush me (done that in the past) or take it as a real opportunity. This project is one aspect of me working to do the latter.

Anyway I’m single now, and, erm… “between homes,” as it were. I’m doing OK but by the grace of good friends and a pile of mattresses and pillows. It’s been a reflective week, and I’ve been making lists of things I need to fix, and making concrete plans to fix them. One of them is my financial health.

Since I finished my Masters in 2008, I’ve been carrying with me this absolute boulder of debt. Over the last 6 or 7 years I’ve been a really responsible debtor, making payments on time every month. It only chipped away, though. In 2018, I made $22,000 in payments on $60,000 worth of student loans, which felt amazing! Unfortunately, $18,000 of that went to interest, and by the end of the year, the principal had only dropped to $56,000. It hasn’t gotten any better, and through a few necessary forebearances during a period of underemployment, the amount owed is back up again.

I’ll keep making my payments, but all told, with my student loans, a credit card, and some personal debts, I owe about $75,000. Here’s the thing, though:

I’m going to pay all of that off by the end of the year.

The idea behind the #traded project is simple. I will start with a few items I own, trade them for other items, and then trade those items for other items, and so on, regularly trading for things of increased monetary value. I’ll always be clear and transparent about the value estimates of the things I have to offer. The reason a project like this can succeed is because monetary value is not the same as actual value. For example, I may have a fancy pickup truck that is worth more money than your middling minivan, but you may need something to haul things and I may be building a family. So the trade benefits us both, even though one of us is receiving an item of greater monetary value.

So I’ll trade, and trade, and trade. By the end of the project, I will have either one or several things of such value that, once sold for a fair price, will allow me to clear my debts and finally move forward.

This is not an original idea of mine. You may have heard of the One Red Paperclip. There are other examples, too. I don’t expect to have a house after 14 trades (though I’m open to it!), but I do think it presents a model that could work for me. I tried this before, years ago, and even had a little success! I started very small and things began to grow, but I started trading goods for services or gift certificates and those became difficult to trade away, and the project fizzled. Lesson learned. Only trade goods for goods.

So that’s the plan. I’ve already posted a few things for trade, and even woke up this morning to someone very seriously offering me an AK-47 in exchange for my truck, so… this will no doubt be interesting. I may end up keeping some of the trades if they’re the right fit for me (anyone want a motorcycle in exchange for like a 2005 Honda Civic hybrid?), but the idea is to do this somewhat quickly, and always strategically.

Hang around for the journey. Say hello. And let me know if you have something you might want to trade.

February 2020