Funny. Informative. Debt free. That’s the Dollar Dude.
The Dollar Dude a.k.a. Troy Grant, is my next guest for the Debt Free Millennials blog. He is a web developer millennial who is living the debt free life. He has been featured on The Dave Ramsey Show and now teaches other millennials about personal finance on his YouTube channel, Dollar Dude. His life as a couch potato gamer turned valedictorian and personal finance YouTuber will have you motivated to change the trajectory of your life.
Feeling down on yourself? Feeling overwhelmed by how things are going in your life right now? Troy has been there, done that and is telling all in this candid interview.
Troy’s story will help you understand:
- How to change the trajectory of your life.
- How to be specific with your money goals and make a plan.
- How to use money as a tool (no matter how much you have).
- The top two things you need to be debt free.
His friends call him the finance giant. I call him inspirational. I hope you enjoy Dollar Dude’s interview as much as I did.
I am born and raised in the beautiful city of Jacksonville, Florida. I’ve been a Florida baby pretty much all my life.
Where did you go to school?
I went to school in two places, actually. I originally went to school at the University of North Florida but I ended up leaving there because I had some health problems. When I went back to school, I attended Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida. That’s where I finished my education, got my degree in Web Design & Development and graduated valedictorian.
Damn! Valedictorian? Go on witcha bad self.
I try, I try.
It’s a pretty small family. My entire family is made up of women. My grandmother had four daughters so it’s like aunts to the left of me, aunts to the right of me. I’m an only child though.
What was 15-year-old Troy like?
Oh, he was a train wreck. He would play video games all day, he would be obsessed with terrible TV shows and be so much of a couch potato that he would start growing sprouts. Fifteen-year-old Troy was not a good version of Troy.
What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?
Stay away from credit cards. Fifteen-year-old me turned into 18-year-old me which got me into trouble with credit cards early on. I would also tell myself to have confidence. You should be your biggest fan. There were times when I would beat myself down and fall into a funk when I saw that nothing was going on around me. You have to pick yourself up and get going if you want to make any changes in your life.
“You should be your biggest fan.”
I like to partake in a nice restaurant every now and then. I’m no longer on the ramen diet. I’m debt free now, I can splurge a little bit. I can actually go to an upscale restaurant and put on a nice collared shirt and tie.
Oh, fancy! Very fancy.
Haha. Oh, yes indeed. *says in British accent.*
I’m also a big fan of movies. I find myself going to the movies more often. I tend to go for the 3D ones. I figure if I’m gonna watch it, I might as well watch it in the craziest way that the director intended.
Ha, they’d say he’s the big black dude over there. They call me the “finance giant.” I’m 6’9″. I’m a pretty big dude. It’s pretty difficult to miss me when I walk into a room. Not bragging, it’s just facts.
What’s your favorite beverage?
If I’m going non-alcoholic, Sprite. I’m totally unoriginal, but I go with the classics. If it’s alcoholic, then I gotta go with the eggnog. Love me some eggnog during the holiday season. I’m sad that the holiday season is over…
To tell that story, I’d have to go back to before I went back to college. I was a bum back then. I had no prospects, I had no future. I would play video games all day and I was 100% cool with that. My family saw me wasting away and they would say, “Troy, you need to go back to college.” My mother gently encouraged me to go back to school. I finally ended up telling myself that this was my last shot to make something of myself and I needed to make this happen.
Something snapped in my brain the second I stepped onto campus. I saw the campus and all the students walking around. I thought, “Wow, you really need to make this happen or else you’re going to be working at McDonald’s for the rest of your life.” I carried that with me throughout my time at college. Every time I would feel tired or not feel like working or think about not giving it my all, I would think, “This is my last shot.” That is what pushed me to work hard enough to graduate valedictorian. I was beyond motivated. I wish I could bottle that motivation that I had right at that moment and sell it because I would make like a million dollars.
“Every time I would think about not giving it my all, I would think, ‘This is my last shot.'”
How old were you at that time?
I was actually 26-years-old when I first went back. I gave it everything I had. Once I got my first real job making what I like to call “adult money,” something snapped again. It was like a voice in my head said to me, “You need to do right with this money. This money is your tool. These dollars in your hands are your tools to build a life.” I had seen family and friends struggle with money. I’d seen parents struggling with retirement and now they’re working at Wal-Mart as a greeter. I didn’t want that for myself. I wanted to set myself up to succeed.
When I got that first paycheck, I did some research. I wanted to find out how money actually works. I read everything. I read every book, every blog, every article. I listened to every audiobook. If you can name a book about finance, I’ve probably taken a look at it. I absorbed it all and through that process I happened to find Dave Ramsey. His plan resonated with me. All I had to do was not spend like an idiot, have a plan for once in my life, and I can be debt free in a couple years. And I did it. Now I’m trying to teach other people how to do it, too.
“These dollars in your hands are your tools to build a life.”
Everything. One personal loan, that I still to this day have no idea what it was for, student loans and credit card debt.
How much debt was it altogether?
How long did it take you to pay it off?
It was paid off in two years.
What was your income during that time?
My income starting off was $50,000. I got some raises and ended up at $68,000.
Wow. It sounds like you were putting nearly half of your paycheck towards the debt.
Oh yeah. Dave Ramsey calls that gazelle intensity.
Missing out on gatherings. My friends wanted to go out and I’d be like, “Nope, I can’t do that. It’s not in the budget.” Then my car started having issues. People around me told me to get a new car. I’m like, “And have a payment to go along with it? I’m trying to get out of debt, dude.” I’m not about that life. I don’t think that many of them understood that I was serious until I was debt free. Now that I’m done people ask me, “Hey man, how’d you do that?” Live on less than you make, have a budget, don’t borrow money. That’s how you do it.
The same people who were telling you to spend money are now coming to you for advice?
- Motivation. If you don’t have a good reason to be debt free, you won’t get there. Someone might say one of their goals is to be debt free. Why? Their reason should be “Because I want to leave a lasting legacy for my family,” or “I want to change my family tree,” or “I want to have financial freedom.” Something like that. Those are good reasons. If someone says, “I want to be debt free because I think it’s cool,” then they’re never going to make it.
- A plan. Make sure you have a zero-based budget, every month, without fail. Every dollar should have a purpose and a destination that is predetermined and written down, every single month.The best way to reach a goal is with a plan.
Absolutely! You have to. I forget who said this but “A goal without a plan is a wish.” I’ve always thought that was a really good quote. You have to tell that money where to go. If you don’t, then you’re going to wonder where it went.
“A goal without a plan is a wish.”
I’ve used both Mint and Personal Capital, but my monthly budget is in straight up regular ol’ Excel. I’m actually quite proud of it.
Do you have a credit card?
I do not. Having a credit card would be borrowing money and I don’t do that. I understand a lot of people out there do and they want to make their debt free journey work with a credit card. I’m not going to yell at those people, but that’s just not my advice.
I am not a fan of car loans. I paid for a 2002 Buick Century straight up in cash for $3,000. It’s pretty sweet when you pay for a car outright like that. The payments don’t follow you home. I’ll drive it until the wheels fall off.
People say I need to save for a reliable car which means I have to spend $30,000 on a brand new car. No it doesn’t. My $3,000 car gets me from A to B, it’s perfectly safe, the seatbelts still work. C’mon.
The fact that when I have income, it stays IN. I recently had a video on my YouTube channel showcasing my thoughts about the debt free life. I believe living debt-free grants you two things: power and options. One, the power to keep my money and decide where it goes. Two, the option to change my mind. When I make a decision to save, invest, or spend it, it’s a decision that is 100% within my power and it doesn’t feel like something I’m forced to do. If I want to allocate money towards one particular sinking fund instead of some other fund, I can. I have the option to do that because no one is waiting on that money.
“The debt free life is about two things: power and options.”
Two things. One, I want to continue to max out my Roth IRA and 401(k). Two, I want to save $25,000 this year. Those are my main goals.
Welp, you’re a badass. What have you been up to since your debt free scream on the Dave Ramsey Show?
The YouTube channel, mostly. I wanted to teach people what I learned along the way about how to really handle their finances, but do it in a comedic way where it’s interesting, and makes people pay attention. Normally, finance is boring and I’m trying to keep it educational and exciting, because this is knowledge that people desperately need. I’ve seen people make so many money mistakes all over the place. I was talking with a friend not too long ago about how they wanted to take out a six year term on a new car. I told them to save up and pay for a used car in cash – showing them how much money they’d save in the long run. They told me, “I don’t want a used car, I want a brand new car.” There’s a lot of work to do to change mindsets out there!
Find out what you want out of life and make a plan to go get it. Where do you want to be in five years? How are you going to get there in five years? What are you going to do this year to make that happen? What are you going to do in the next 30 minutes to make that happen? You should have answers to those questions. Those answers should just be boom, boom, boom, right off the cuff. Get started today. Just do it. If you want to save, save. If you want to get out of debt, get out of debt. Everyone knows exactly how to get out of debt. Everyone. Some people do it, the rest don’t. I just decided to be one of the people who did it. If you want to be one of those people you can. Just get started.