Debt is Like Kissing Your Sister… and Liking It

In honor of my brother’s birthday, I’m re-sharing a post he wrote here over 7 years ago.

It needs to see the light of day again because it’s so freakin’ hilarious! You’re totally going to like him more at the end of this too – and that’s okay. He gets a break once a year ;)


I used to be a squirrel – a bearded, six-foot-two varmint who routinely stored his hard-earned acorns in the mouth of a tree trunk. I wanted to be prepared for those proverbial “rainy days.” I told myself I was saving up for the inevitable. You know, in case I needed to have my car fixed, my condo upgraded, or if Jessica Alba ever put herself up for auction.

Point is, I was preparing… but for what, exactly?

Growing up, my parents instilled in me a sense of responsibility that still resonates to this day. Always floss, don’t do drugs, yadda yadda yadda. All of that after-school-special stuff guided me along my path from geek to chic, but what really hit me was the importance of staying financially healthy. I had to always balance my checkbook, save my receipts and look for sales. I had to save for a home, put up those tacky lawn ornaments and live in the black.

My parents vehemently stressed the importance of saving money, of putting portions of each paycheck into a bank account and leaving it there. I remember when I was making a few greenbacks at a seafood restaurant, and I would come home smelling like I had spooned with a lobster for eight hours. They wanted to know if I would be putting some of my money away for the future. Yes, I told them. Right after I spend some of it on outrageously priced Nikes.

My folks were always on my back about money, but it worked … to a point.

After I graduated from college in 2003, I applied for my very own credit card. One thing led to another, and I found myself owing $1,000 to Best Buy, $800 on two other credit cards and several hundred against my bank’s line of credit. At the time, I was only making $30,000.

While I could have been paying down my debt (slowly), I instead felt obligated to beef up my savings from a paltry $1,800 to somewhere in the $2,500 realm. I needed to save money, a la my parents’ advice. Besides, I could always pay off that debt, right?

Wrong. That line of thinking was ridiculous. I was so dumb that when I had a brainstorm, it just drizzled! I had a lot of unnecessary debt at the time, but I still felt the urge to store my acorns for that rainy day.

Truth is: That was the rainy day. Debt is bad. It’s like kissing your sister and liking it.

You don’t want to have it, and you certainly want to pay it off before you fatten up your savings account. Nothing’s worse than having to relegate whole checks to debt payment.

Long story short, I wound up paying it all off by stripping for money at my family reunions (I keed, I keed!). That was about five years ago, and today I have a 401(k) I’m trying to maximize; I bought a condo as an investment; I’ve built an emergency fund of $6,000; and I’m planning on investing in CDs and stocks. I no longer rely on a savings account that gives me a few dollars in interest every year – I’m beginning to diversify. Oh, and I’m debt free.

My parents taught me a lot about money, but what I learned on my own is just as important: Spread it around, baby. Act like your money is margarine and the bagel is your future. You’re the knife, and if you’re sharp enough, you’ll cover all the financial bases.

In the end, you’ll find it’s better to have a lot of nuts in various trees than soggy ones when it rains.


Oh man, that guy kills me, haha.. You’ll be proud to know he’s still going strong 7 years later too! The guy who once spent money like he hated it now talks about it like a true nerd ;)

Congrats on turning things around, brother! And let’s not show this to sis, ok?

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  1. The Green Swan August 31, 2016 at 5:43 AM

    Haha that’s pretty funny, soggy nuts does nobody any good, ever! Good lesson in there, I appreciate it! And happy birthday to your bro.

  2. Jon @ Be Net Worthy August 31, 2016 at 5:48 AM

    Ha, ha, that’s good stuff! I can honestly say, I’ve never heard a “money is margarine, bagel is your future” analogy before! But if that’s true, then what is cream cheese – stocks or home equity?

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. J. Money August 31, 2016 at 9:59 AM

      Haha… sounds about right :)

  3. Pengepugeren August 31, 2016 at 6:25 AM

    I love that’re you’re a family of Scrooges! Funny Scrooges even :D

    1. J. Money August 31, 2016 at 10:04 AM

      Only in our wiser years :) We were the typical people all of us now warn against! Haha…

  4. Kate @ Cashville Skyline August 31, 2016 at 6:31 AM

    So many AMAZING analogies here! I’ll be thinking about spreading margerine on the bagel of my future next time I’ve got some extra cash to spare! Haha.

  5. Vicki@Make Smarter Decisions August 31, 2016 at 7:07 AM

    A classic post – maybe my kid will even listen to that line, “Debt is bad. It’s like kissing your sister and liking it” Yep – that one will STICK I think….

    1. J. Money August 31, 2016 at 10:05 AM

      Interestingly enough, it’s also the line that’s apparently upsetting a lot of people too! I’ve already gotten a handful of emails – and unsubscribes – saying it’s way too inappropriate :( I didn’t even consider that, just cuz it’s so damn funny! :)

      1. DEC1 August 31, 2016 at 8:28 PM

        Anyone who unsubscribes because of that doesn’t really belong here…yes it’s a little creepy but funny…

      2. Happy Frugaler August 31, 2016 at 10:57 PM

        Crazy that could offend anyone. Such a mild statement.

        If they’ve left for that, I agree it isn’t someone that should be here long-term.

      3. Ty @ Get Rich Quickish September 2, 2016 at 3:30 PM

        Ridiculous that someone would unsubscribe because of that. They’re probably also offended when Marty McFly starts making out with his mom in the front seat of their car :)

        1. J. Money September 2, 2016 at 3:35 PM

          People get upset about all types of things these days… I’ve learned to just “be myself” as best I can, and if I decide I’m causing more hurt then good on anything I adjust from there :)

  6. Josh @MoneyBuffalo August 31, 2016 at 7:15 AM

    Glad to hear a made a comeback and not fall off the wagon. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Dividends Down Under August 31, 2016 at 7:27 AM

    Haha, nice one bro! Just don’t spread your soggy nuts on the bagel – that isn’t what we want.


  8. Apathy Ends August 31, 2016 at 7:35 AM

    Haha, glad he is still rocking financial responsibility!

  9. Matt @ Optimize Your Life August 31, 2016 at 7:49 AM

    This is important to remember! I find that among normal folks (who don’t spend their free time frequenting personal finance blogs) holding onto debt while also having a sizable emergency fund is a common occurrence. It feels comfortable to have that emergency fund, so people don’t do the math and realize they need to pay down their credit card debt ASAP.

    1. J. Money August 31, 2016 at 10:07 AM

      Yup – I was the same way too back in the day. I’m actually fine with people hoarding more cash than necessary – since it still helps your finances in general – but only if you’re aware of the consequences of it AND you very much plan on paying down the debt as your next course of action. The worst is those racking up debt and at the same time not saving anything :( At least the others are halfway there!

  10. Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies August 31, 2016 at 8:11 AM

    I’m so happy there was no cream cheese in that bagel metaphor. Ick! This is hilarious. I was/am still guilty of putting too much money in savings. Learning to spread it around has been helpful for me.

  11. Roy Largo @ Band of Savers August 31, 2016 at 8:13 AM

    Loved the use of the analogy to hammer the lesson home. Great re-post.

  12. Linda @ Brooklyn Bread August 31, 2016 at 8:18 AM

    The squirrel!!!

    I don’t know – before I got out of debt, I did feel like I needed to have some cash saved. It would feel weird to have nothing at all in the bank. I never liquidated all my savings to pay off debt. Maybe because I’m older and have a family. If I was like 25, I’d probably use all my savings to pay down the debt, knowing my parents could help in an emergency. But I agree that you need to put saving on hold to really forge full steam ahead with debt relief. Otherwise it will never go away.

    1. J. Money August 31, 2016 at 10:10 AM

      For sure – that’s a part I don’t agree with entirely (I’m okay if you stash cash at the same time as you’re working on debt), but only as long as there’s a plan there and you know what you’re doing. I think most people just put it in the “we’ll figure it out later” category which is the last thing you want to do – with or without savings aside.

    2. Karlene August 31, 2016 at 10:36 PM

      J. Money, another great article. Your brother sounds just as funny as you. Happy birthday to him.

      Hello Linda,
      I agree that being older and having a family might cause us to view things differently. As one such person I am quite eager to liberate myself as quickly as possible from this financial slavery that I have allowed. I am utilizing a lot of the knowledge that Dave Ramsey has freely shared on YouTube on this topic, as well as other information from books, etc.

      However, while I want to go full speed ahead and pay off everything yesterday, my husband wants to save some while meeting our obligations. I compromised and met him part of the way. So far we have paid off two credit cards. Although we have a ways to go, it’s exciting knowing that we have a plan/budget, which I revise monthly.

  13. Free to Pursue August 31, 2016 at 8:37 AM

    I see the family resemblance. I appreciate the ability to self-depricate and teach at the same time. It’s an art I tells ya.

  14. Paul August 31, 2016 at 8:50 AM

    Margarine on a bagel?
    My style is like butter baby, spread it around.

  15. ZJ Thorne August 31, 2016 at 9:22 AM

    It’s amazing how listening doggedly to one bit of advice at the expense of sense can happen to even well-intentioned folks. I’m sure you parents did not intend for you to save while not paying your bills, but you heard what you heard.

    1. J. Money August 31, 2016 at 10:11 AM

      Haha yup :) One thing in our ear, the other out.

  16. Colin @ rebelwithaplan August 31, 2016 at 9:40 AM

    Great analogy and it works because I freaking love bagels. Speeeading them around!

  17. Financial Canadian August 31, 2016 at 9:57 AM

    There aren’t many things as bad as kissing your sister and liking it. Debt is certainly one of them.

    Great post!

    1. J. Money August 31, 2016 at 10:11 AM

      I’ll tell him you approve :)

  18. Ms. Montana August 31, 2016 at 10:32 AM

    It’s great to hear that he is still doing well. I think it can be easy to fall back into old habits. It’s exciting to hit a big goal, but maintaining loses it’s luster fast. But apparently good money management runs in the family.

  19. Fiscally Free August 31, 2016 at 11:43 AM

    Good advice.
    I’m intrigued your parents didn’t preach about avoiding debt the same way they advocated saving. I suspect they didn’t have access to so much credit when they were young and probably just took it for granted that one would avoid debt.
    That goes to show we can’t overlook the basics when we’re trying to educate others on finance, or anything else.

    1. J. Money September 2, 2016 at 3:10 PM

      Oh, they did – one of the other “big rules” was to never put anything on your credit card you can’t pay off at the end of the month… I think he just decided to “forget” that one ;)

  20. Steve @ Studentloansoldier August 31, 2016 at 12:55 PM

    YES! I do the same thing. I save and have a real hard time spreading it around and actually applying it to debt. Not sure what I’m scared of. I keep telling myself I’m saving it to make a HUGE payment and in the meantime, if disaster strikes, I’m ready. I should just put it toward the debt and trust the process. Great post!

    1. J. Money September 2, 2016 at 3:10 PM

      There could be worse things :) Like, not saving anything haha…

  21. Tawcan August 31, 2016 at 12:57 PM

    Ewww that title. :|

  22. BeachMama August 31, 2016 at 4:30 PM

    Love it – my coworkers are now wondering why I’m laughing…

    The timing on this is perfect – we just took 4K out of our savings account this week to wipe out our credit card debt once and for all. For us, it was more like ripping off a giant Band-Aid than kissing a sibling. But I do appreciate the humor in that analogy!

    1. J. Money September 2, 2016 at 3:11 PM

      Congrats! He’ll be proud to hear that :)

  23. Kim August 31, 2016 at 5:05 PM

    Love the post. It’s awesome. It must run in the family right ;)

  24. Millennial Moola August 31, 2016 at 8:53 PM

    This post really helped my girlfriend get disgusted by her debt and get motivated to pay it down faster. Thx JMoney’s brother for the mental picture

    1. J. Money September 2, 2016 at 3:12 PM

      Haha… he said your girlfriend owes him a beer :)

  25. Kevin September 1, 2016 at 12:39 AM

    I wonder if there’s any people who read the title and don’t see anything bad about it :P

    1. J. Money September 2, 2016 at 3:14 PM

      As long as they agree debt is bad, the mission’s complete ;)

  26. Latoya @ Femme Frugality September 2, 2016 at 11:18 AM

    Lol, this is friggin hilarious! Yes, I think a variety of nuts would be better than some soggy ones all because you decided to keep debt around. I think I’ll go pay something now, lol.

  27. Trice September 2, 2016 at 2:14 PM

    The title alone is worth the re-post! You and your brother make finance fun. Thanks for sharing!

  28. Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank September 3, 2016 at 5:54 AM

    Your brother really learned it so well. He knew that money is just a tool, and he explored every possibility to make his dreams come true.

  29. Steven Goodwin September 24, 2016 at 7:48 PM

    Awesome story. I was kind of similar when I was younger. My risk meter was broken and I thought I could just out earing my debt and get it paid off. And, at one point, I was actually trying to do retirement investments, save for college for my unborn child (at the time), pay off debt, build savings and create luxury sinking funds. And I wondered why I treaded water?!!

    Sometimes, you just have to learn from experience. Sounds like he got a grip and didn’t make any horrible deals that would have him still paying off his debt today! I hate debt now, but I wouldn’t know what it’d be like to kiss my sister, LOL!

    1. J. Money September 26, 2016 at 4:25 PM

      I’m not going to find out, so couldn’t tell you either :)

      Congrats on the turn around!


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