What I’d Like to Teach My (Dumb-Ass) Tenants about Money

[Got a feisty article for y’all today while I recuperate from the festivities that is FinCon (our financial blogging conference – where, contrary to belief, we consume more than just #’s :)). I think you’ll enjoy this one ‘cuz Mark says all the things we wish we could say to our neighbors but don’t, haha… And they may or may not apply to ourselves as well :) Take it away, Mark!]


I own a single rental property. My tenants are a middle-aged couple with an adopted son.

Before I agreed to let them live in my house, I ran a background check, which included a deep dive into their finances. This has proven to be a fascinating opportunity for me as I was given free rein to snoop into what most of us keep as private information.

Upon completion of the snooping investigating, I learned that my tenants make a $hit-ton of money and were more than qualified to live in my house. On paper.

Fast forward twelve months to where we are today. My tenants have not paid rent on time once since they’ve moved in. While this is annoying as hell, they currently don’t owe me any money and have been maintenance-free tenants.

This is why I keep them around. I run an operation that consists of one rental and I do all the management myself. I believe I’m better off sticking with these clowns rather than going through the eviction process and rolling the dice with another tenant.

What makes this decision possible for me is that I don’t rely on the rental income to cover any of my expenses – I’ve got other sources of income for that. So, as long as the payments keep coming in at some point each month, I’ve accepted the tenants for who they are: one of the many Americans who makes bank but somehow still lives paycheck-to-paycheck.

Where does their money go?

It’s amusing how much you can learn about a family’s expenses without really trying. I don’t spend much time at the rental these days – I occasionally stop by to pick up rent or do a project. But, in these short and infrequent visits I’ve been able to pick up on a good chunk of my tenant’s regularly occurring expenses. The most glaring is the two gas-guzzling, temperature controlled behemoths sitting in the driveway. You probably refer to them as an SUV and a pick-up truck. Not me though. I’m smart.

So they’ve got these two giant vehicles that have fifteen seats between them and can generate enough torque to haul a space shuttle. I’ve already mentioned that this is a family of three so the fifteen seats are totally justified. But what about the towing capacity?! Surely they have jobs that require it. I’m not a nurse or a hospital tech, but both of these professions require the regular hauling of machines that can travel out of the Earth’s gravitational pull, right?

In addition to the duo $35,000 vehicles that are stationary 75% of the time, I’ve also observed a decorative piece that was added to the exterior of the house upon their occupancy – a DIRECTV dish. I’ve since learned that the husband/father/driver of the pick-up is quite the football fan so it’s imperative that he has DIRECTV’s premium package that includes NFL Sunday Ticket.

The final significant expense that I’ve been able to pick up on is the family’s frequent trips out of town. I know of these trips because they tell me about them:

Mark: Hey Roger. Tomorrow is the 1st of the month, just a reminder that rent needs to be paid by the end of the day.

Roger: Oh, shoot – is it the 1st already? Obama is always changing the calendar on me. In any case, we’re going to be out of town for a few days so we’ll just pay rent when we get back.

Mark: Yeah, Obama is the worst.

Over the next couple weeks they pay the rent balance, usually in two or three installments because “payroll screwed up our paycheck”. So they’ve made it known that money is tight and they rely on their next pay day to cover rent, yet they have no shame in telling me about all these trips that they go on the 1st of each month.

What’s wrong with this picture?

I’m not one to blindly judge someone else based on where they spend their money. Oh, who am I kidding – yes I am! But in all seriousness, I, nor anyone else, has the ability to determine what brings someone else value. Maybe the eight-seat, 17 MPG SUV and premium cable package is an expense that was deliberately evaluated by my tenants and thereby determined to bring the necessary value to justify the cost. Maybe.

Being the cynic that I am, my intuition tells me that this isn’t the case. No reasonable person would value inefficient, earth-killing transportation over the security of his/her family.

This seems like an appropriate segue to my first lesson…

LESSON #1: For the love of all holy, build and maintain an M-F’ing emergency fund!

Believe it or not, my tenants are riding a streak of good fortune since they’ve moved into my house. From what I can tell, there have been no medical emergencies in the immediate family, neither of the parents has lost their job, no natural disasters have cast ruin onto their physical possessions, and their landlord is a stand-up dude. Even amidst all this good fortune, they still manage to live on financially unstable terms.

Imagine what would happen if the good fortune ran out? If one of them had to spend time in the hospital? If their boss sobered up and realized their incompetence? $hit would absolutely hit the fan.

When times are good – that’s when one should start saving money for a rainy day. However, it’s during these good times when we feel invincible. When we feel in control.

Well, it doesn’t take much to turn those good vibes upside down. While I would never recommend going through life expecting misfortune to greet you at every turn, I strongly recommend preparing for that misfortune. Specifically, we should all take the time to calculate what six-months of living expenses is for us, and either set that aside in a secure but liquid location, or halt all extraneous spending until you have that amount saved.

Let me say that again. If you don’t have six months of living expenses saved right now, you need to stop all unnecessary spending. No going out for happy hour. No cable TV. No gym membership. No lattes from Starbucks. No Netflix subscription. By choosing to pay for any of these, you’re telling yourself and the world that you value luxuries more than your security. Grow up.

What else is wrong with this picture?

As I mentioned, I got to do a background check on my tenants prior to offering them a lease. A big piece of the background check included contacting their employers to determine how much money they each made. They must feel naked every time they’re around me. The things that I know… :)

Without getting into specifics, they each make good money. So as a household, they make great money. And it seems like their expenses should be relatively manageable. They rent a modest-sized home and have one kid. Kind of sounds like a personal finance junkie’s dream couple. So how do they manage to spend all the money they take home?

LESSON #2: Please, oh please, track your expenses.

I don’t believe in budgeting. Budgeting is for nerds and communists. Instead, I believe in spending money only on things that bring value into my life. But as the saying goes,”you can’t see the forest for the trees”. This is why tracking expenses is so critical – it allows us to gain a more comprehensive understanding of our expense categories and trends. Tracking expenses doesn’t replace being deliberate at the time of purchase, it simply enables us to evaluate how deliberate we’ve been over long periods of time.

Even though I don’t have a budget on how much I can spend on bars and restaurants each month, when I go back to review my expenses in that category, I’m able to reflect on whether the amount being allocated to that area is consistent with my values.

I make this evaluation not in terms of dollars, but in terms of hours.

Let’s consider an example with a bigger price-tag. If I was in the market for a car, I wouldn’t view the car as costing $22,000; I view it as costing me an additional four years of obligatory employment (or four less years of freedom). I know what my annual cost of living is so I thereby know what my retire-forever nest egg goal looks like. Thus, I’m able to determine the yearly setback a $22k purchase would have.

You can’t evaluate what you can’t measure. $22,000 is just an arbitrarily large number unless you know how it relates to the rest of your spending. Or maybe you don’t even consider it a large number. Maybe it’s just a number. Unless you have a baseline, you don’t ever truly feel the effect of spending. And that’s the world that my tenants exist in.

They don’t think twice about how much they’re spending on gas or TV or leisure travel because, quite frankly, they don’t know how much they’re spending.

They see all expenditures as independent:

“I can totally afford to put $100 of gas in my driving machine every week; I make $80k a year.”

“$200 a month for a cable package? Let’s get three! I can afford it.”

I can afford it. The most misunderstood phrase in the English language. Not to mention one of the most dangerous. This phrase, specifically the mindset behind the phrase, is the reason why my tenant’s finances are such a $hit-show.

The numbers speak for themselves. Their take home pay is roughly three times what I charge for rent, yet when the first of the month comes around, they don’t have the money to cover it. Still, the SUV stays filled with gas and TV spews premium channels. Do they genuinely value the cars and the cable more than the roof over their heads? I doubt it. I believe they simply don’t have a firm grasp on where their money goes.

One of the most frustrating parts about the late rent is the stories that come along with it.

The common theme behind these stories is that someone or something else is to blame for their current lack of funds.

I consider myself a reasonable dude. I’ve already explained that I don’t rely on the monthly rent check to cover my expenses (yet) so I’m okay with being lenient on when I get paid. I wish that just once my tenants wouldn’t cook up a story to justify why they don’t have the rent. Just once I want them to say:

“Sorry, Mark. We have the financial discipline of a Kardashian. We’re not totally sure where all our money has gone, but we’ve definitely spent it. Like all of it. We’ll take paying rent seriously for the next few weeks and we’ll get you the money before the end of the month. Thanks for being so understanding. And charming.”

A boy can dream.

LESSON #3: Take control of your F’ing finances. Do it!

Let’s get the exceptions out of the way upfront:

  • Medical emergency
  • Natural disaster
  • Tyrannical government comes to power

The above items are situations in which we lose control over where we spend our money. I’m not sure if the list is comprehensive, but it’s pretty damn close. So, unless you can claim one of the above situations, where you spend your money is 100% up to you.

We need to take ownership of this fact. We need to embrace it.

So many of us are stuck in a paradigm that suggests certain expenses are required because these expenses have become the norm. We need to get away from that ideal; it’s self-crippling. We need to stop operating under the belief that we only gain true control of our finances once the “default expenses” are accounted for:

  • Mortgage/rent
  • Car payments and maintenance
  • Food and drink expenses
  • Gym membership
  • TV package

These things are not required. There is no such thing as “default expenses”. Sure, we all need shelter and food and water (and Netflix), but we ultimately get to decide how much and how often we want to pay for these things.

Here are some excuses that I can imagine immediately coming the mind’s of readers:

“I live in Manhattan. I don’t have the option to spend less on a condo or apartment.”

Get roommates. Or move somewhere else.

“I need a car to get to work.”

Buy (or trade-in for) a used, fuel efficient car. And start carpooling with your co-workers. If you live in a urban area, evaluate public transportation options. Better yet, ride a bicycle.

“Eating and drinking is necessary for survival.”

Going out to bars and restaurants isn’t necessary for $hit. Neither is Whole Foods. Your local Jewel/HyVee/Target/Walmart is stocked with tons of nutritious, affordable food. And you don’t need to be drinking anything other than water.

“Exercising is good for me.”

Agreed. But you don’t need to pay a membership fee to exercise.

“I’ll miss a lot of Chicago Cubs games if I don’t pay for cable.”

Finally a reasonable excuse. :D

We’re all in different financial situations. We make different amounts of money. We value different things as consumers. It would be silly to think that we are obligated or required to spend money in a way that doesn’t promote our greatest quality of life.

I’d like to challenge my tenants to take ownership over their expenses. If they truly value the place where they live over their toys, they need to modify their spending to reflect that.

Make your finances simple again

Personal finance has a bad reputation. It’s caused sleepless nights, accelerated hair loss, contributed to weight gain, and ended marriages. Allegedly.

Just as I believe there is no such thing as a bad dog, only bad dog owners; I don’t believe that personal finances deserve the bad reputation, the person behind those finances does.

We all have the ability to take something that is portrayed as fundamentally complicated in advertisements and the media, and make it simple.

#1. Build an emergency fund

Having a six-month emergency fund will provide you with a sense of security and confidence. As a wise man once told me, “$hit happens”. Your emergency fund will allow you to treat this $hit as the road-bump that it is instead of the catastrophe that it could have been.

#2. Track your spending

Review your expenses at the end of each week. If you find that a certain category is taking more money than the value its providing in return, make an adjustment. If you do this honestly, you’ll find yourself living far below your means in no time!

#3. Take control

Remind yourself that you are in total control of your finances. If in reviewing your finances you find a trend that you’re not happy with, explore options to correct it. Sometimes significant changes like moving, selling your car, or canceling your wine-of-the-month subscription are required.

These lessons, while inspired by my tenants, are applicable to the vast majority of the middle class. If thoughtfully applied, you’ll find yourself enjoying a higher quality of life in which you’re able to focus on what truly matters to you.

Mark McQuiston writes at The Deliberate Lifestyle, a blog that focuses on crushing social and financial norms on the way to early retirement. He tweets up a storm @TheDeliber8Life.

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  1. The Green Swan September 26, 2016 at 5:46 AM

    Hi Mark, nice guest post! Sadly I think this situation is far too common. No plan, no backup E Funds, no clue where it’s going, and no control. Just flying by the seat of their pants. Thanks for the post!

    1. Mark September 26, 2016 at 12:16 PM

      Thanks so much! Totally agree – this situation seems to be about par for the course.

  2. Hannah September 26, 2016 at 6:02 AM

    It is fascinating what you learn in a background check. I hope that your tenents work out better than our most recent tenents. But it is great to be able to handle those late payments when they happen.

    1. Mark September 26, 2016 at 12:19 PM

      Totally! Knowing that I’ve done a thorough background check on them, my tenants should feel naked in front of me!

      Thanks for the kind words! :)

  3. Slackerjo September 26, 2016 at 6:04 AM

    Oh the irony! I spend over 50% of my income in rent (I live in Canada where housing is expensive) yet I’ve never missed a rent payment. I also have a small emergency fun and automated savings.

    1. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 26, 2016 at 12:25 PM

      Priorities! Everyone’s situation is unique and I understand and respect that. But it blows my mind that someone can value an elaborate TV package over their home!

      Glad to hear that you’re taking care of business on your end!

  4. Brian @ Debt Discipline September 26, 2016 at 6:12 AM

    Sounds like rent is very low on their priority list and other wants are very high. A common situation for too many people who don’t have a plan for their money. Good luck Mark, a frustration spot to be in.

    1. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 26, 2016 at 12:28 PM

      Priorities – you hit the nail on the head. Common situation – another direct hit of the aforementioned hypothetical nail. :)

      Thanks for the well-wishes!

  5. Matt @ Distilled Dollar September 26, 2016 at 6:48 AM

    Nice reminder on the fundamentals Mark! Sadly, not enough people have an emergency fund. Despite all the fancy concepts personal finance bloggers mention, the emergency fund is easily the quickest and more important step toward building a secure future.

    1. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 26, 2016 at 12:37 PM

      Couldn’t agree more. I feel that so many people immediately disregard personal finance because they think finance is ” too complicated”. The alternative to learning about the fundamentals is doing what everyone else does. Well, when everyone else is making a friggen mess, so will you!

      Understanding and applying the fundamentals takes minimum effort and yields huge rewards. WTF, everyone else – get with it!

      Thanks for the comment, Matt!

  6. Roy Largo @ Band of Savers September 26, 2016 at 7:24 AM

    Love it Mark. Sometimes it can be so frustrating to see the dumb stuff that people are doing with their money, especially when it leaves us hung out to dry. Have you attempted to make it more painful for them to be late with payments? Such as letting them know that you’ve noticed that this has become a habit and that the new contract will begin adding a $10 per day late fee? It’s sad when you have to treat adults like children but when they choose to act like children there’s not much else that you can do.

    1. J. Money September 26, 2016 at 11:25 AM

      That reminds me of when daycare centers charge fees when parents are late, but then the parents are like – “Awesome! I can now leave them longer and just have to pay some more!” Haha.. Obviously not any of US, but people :)

      1. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 26, 2016 at 1:52 PM

        The whole “if I pay a few bucks than I don’t have to feel guilty” mentality.

    2. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 26, 2016 at 1:48 PM

      Thanks for the comment, Ray!

      I do “charge” late fees but they’re all but ignored by the tenants. And I can’t justify evicting them because they have unpaid late fees. From a strictly financial perspective, it seems that I’m better off dealing with late payments from tenants who are taking care of the property and require no maintenance, than I am evicting them and rolling the dice with another tenant.

  7. jestjack September 26, 2016 at 7:27 AM

    Thank you for an interesting blog. I am a looooong time Landlord and I have observed many inconsistencies with tenants over the years. Lately what I find disturbing is the debt In the form of car loans and CC debt that is considered OK. In addition, I have observed applicants showing up with “cell phones” the size of cafeteria trays and $200 a month bills to go with them.
    As for your tenants….they’re PERFECT…IMHO. On all my leases there is a “late fee” clause. If the rent is more than 5 days late there is a 5% late fee. If not paid within 10 days this fee becomes rent due and action can be taken for unpaid rent. Good example would be folks I rent to that sound like “cousins” of your tenants. I have heard all the excuses for late rent….but I really don’t care the reason. Their rent of $1825 carries a late fee of $91.25.Times 12 is an additional $1095 a year. I have the PERFECT tenants!
    Thanks once more for an interesting read!

    1. J. Money September 26, 2016 at 11:26 AM

      “cell phones” the size of cafeteria trays – HAH!

      I really do wish they’d start making tinier smart phones for those of us who like carrying them in our pockets.. it’s def. getting quite ridiculous.

      1. superbien September 27, 2016 at 1:33 PM

        Yes! I miss my Samsung Juke. A flip phone the size of my thumb, bright red, and it played music. Loved that phone.

    2. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 26, 2016 at 1:57 PM

      Great to hear from a landlord who’s been in the game for a while! I’m still very new to this and definitely learning tricks of the trade as I go.

      In a reply to an earlier comment, I mentioned my dilemma with charging a late fee and truly enforcing it.

      I’m actually going to be swinging by the rental tonight – I’ll tell my tenants that their “cousins” say wuddup! :)

  8. Apathy Ends September 26, 2016 at 7:39 AM

    It’s sad how often paying for abasic need is prioritized below money sucking wants. Like you mentioned, at least they pay every month but I would get tired of the inconsistency after a few months

    1. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 26, 2016 at 3:09 PM

      “Getting tired of the inconsistency” is the nicest way you could have said that! :)

  9. Michelle September 26, 2016 at 8:00 AM

    While the late rent paying is u acceptable, how do you know they don’t have an emergency fund or emergencies? Just because you don’t see me biting away at their nails doesn’t mean they aren’t spending money on emergencies. Perhaps they do have an emergency fund and dont want you to know about it since you know Everything else about their finances? And maybe just maybe they have tons of money in the bank but are just horrible at paying bills on time

    Oh and unless you live in NY you have no idea. I can’t spend under a certain amount to live somewhere within the 30% bracket without putting my children in a dangerous area so we cut out other things to manage. the “just move” attitude is easier said than done when it costs a crap load to move and come up with 3 mons up front…and I’m talking about rentals. Not even sure how one would do with a condo.

    & I hope that the names are fake for privacy sake (I didn’t read the entire post) – calling ppl names like dumb ass doesn’t make you any smarter

    I While I do agree with the tips I think it’s very easy to judge others when you don’t really know what’s going on in people’s financial lives…perhaps doing a lot of assuming

    1. J. Money September 26, 2016 at 11:29 AM

      Some true points indeed… Though it does make for a more interesting post when you assume and call people out :) (the names are fake btw)

    2. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 26, 2016 at 3:24 PM

      Thanks for the comment, Michelle!

      I definitely had to make some educated assumptions in writing this. You’re right, I don’t know what kind of emergency fund or emergencies my tenants have. What I do know is how much their monthly cable bill is and the list price/fuel efficiency of their personal vehicles. I’m not bold enough to tell people where they should or shouldn’t spend their money – but when my tenants justify their late rents by saying they had an emergency, my immediate thought is “I see that you’re still watching NFL Red Zone and getting 12 MPG on your commute to work. WTF?!”

      I’m not intimately familiar with the NY rental market but I wrote a piece on housing that explains my views on it:


      I felt I was uniquely qualified to write about my tenants financial situation simply because I got to view every last detail of them before they moved in. That was definitely the motivation behind this piece – experiencing first-hand the problems associated with the high earner, even higher spender lifestyle.

  10. Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies September 26, 2016 at 8:01 AM

    File this under the category Why Penny Won’t Be a Landlord. I’ve watched my dad deal with similar things for almost my entire life. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be to watch someone’s poor money decisions impact whether or not you get paid. Oof. Great reminders for all in this post!

    1. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 26, 2016 at 3:27 PM

      Oh no!! I really didn’t want this to turn into a “don’t be a landlord for these reasons” article!

      While being a landlord surely isn’t for anyone, I consider myself fortunate to be in this situation. The house is generating a solid passive income stream and is shaping up to be a really nice investment. Of course this can all change overnight but I guess that’s what I signed up for!

      Thanks for reading and the comment!

    2. Cara September 26, 2016 at 3:54 PM

      Couldn’t agree more! I think being a landlord is a thankless job…

  11. Fervent Finance September 26, 2016 at 8:42 AM

    This is the main reasons I won’t be a landlord – the tenants! I like that when I invest in mutual funds, no one bothers me. No one pays dividends late. I don’t have to fix anything. Thanks for sharing your story.

    1. Abandoned Cubicle September 26, 2016 at 10:41 AM

      From what I read, the tenants pay in full each month despite being late, and they keep the place well-maintained. Seems a lot of commenters here are taking a “whinypants” view of being a landlord. It’s not as easy as dividend investing, of course, but when you pull in 20% returns on real estate, you could make the case for a little hassle and hustle amounting to better margins on return.

      1. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 26, 2016 at 3:31 PM

        Couldn’t have said it better myself! And great use of the term “whinypants”! :)

  12. kristen September 26, 2016 at 8:48 AM

    I think a lot of people live like this. I just broke up with a very nice guy who lived like this. He is 52 and has $20,000 in credit card debt. No emergency savings and no idea how much he spent each month. I kept trying to help him but I couldn’t get through. He had a $100/month dish bill and subscribed to the newspaper (people still do that??!!). Before I came along, he was donating $125/month to PBS!! If I asked him to pick up milk on his way over, he’d buy $50 worth of groceries. I think he thought I was a little nuts because I tracked every penny, worked as much OT as they’d give me and even worked a second job once in a while. I have a long way to go to be happy with my finances but I have a net worth of $440,000 (I’m 47). I want to retire at 55 so I’m hustling!!

    1. J. Money September 26, 2016 at 11:30 AM

      A woman with a plan! He’s missing out! :)

    2. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 26, 2016 at 4:41 PM

      Its super refreshing to hear somebody take ownership of their finances and do whatever is necessary to achieve their goals! Kudos to you for hustling and grinding your way to FI!!

      Based on your description I think you were dating one of my coworkers. :)

    3. superbien September 27, 2016 at 2:32 PM

      I give you so much credit for good finances, and for realizing that financial responsibility is a must in a partner. It’s easier said than done though!

  13. Financial Canadian September 26, 2016 at 8:50 AM

    After you were done the “storytelling” portion of this post, I came to the same conclusion that you eventually did – the most frustrating part of this whole thing is that the tenants won’t OWN UP and assume responsibility. That would drive me crazy.

    That being said, I admire that you are able to give them the benefit of the doubt. You definitely could be making a much bigger fuss than you are.

    1. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 26, 2016 at 4:46 PM

      Thanks for reading and I appreciate the comment!

      The way I’m handling this situation really doesn’t have anything to do with giving them the benefit of the doubt. I’m simply making the best financial decision for myself given what I know.

  14. Paul September 26, 2016 at 8:58 AM

    I don’t like that so many people lump in gym membership as if your health is an optional expense…. there are so many gyms now that only charge $10 a month now, that and there is something about the atmosphere that just pushes you. Maybe if all you do is run I could see it…

    Personally I spent the money and set up a weight room in my house, but if I didnt have the space I would be going to a gym.

    1. J. Money September 26, 2016 at 11:33 AM

      I can’t wait until I can afford someone to come over to my house every day and physically force me to work out, haha…

      1. Paul September 26, 2016 at 1:33 PM

        Yet another reason to go to the gym!!! J, seriously tho, the motivation knowing I didn’t waste $2000 is all I need to force me to get off my butt. I’ve already hit my break even so every month is profit.

  15. Kathy September 26, 2016 at 9:00 AM

    I’d tell them when you are 4 months behind in rent and have 3 kids you already can’t afford, don’t have another baby.

    1. superbien September 27, 2016 at 2:38 PM

      They have 1 child. It’s a family of 3, including 2 parents.

      1. Kathy September 28, 2016 at 9:41 AM

        The “them” I was referring to was tenants my mother had. Just relating our own experience.

        1. Michelle January 16, 2017 at 4:42 AM

          Kathy, dig your heals in (with yourself, that is) & realize what you’re stating here but not saying ‘to them’ in reality. Takes courage but ‘that’ situation has sufficient opportunity to collapse your own good financial posturing. Four months no rent?!! At this point perhaps you’re enabling them to not take responsibility for their lives. Has no bearing on whether you accept & act on responsibility for yours..

  16. Joe September 26, 2016 at 9:32 AM

    Oh man, I hate the tenants with constant excuses. I hope you are charging them a late fee…
    Our previous tenants were full of excuses. We just paid $4,000 to preschool. WTF, I know daycare is important, but you really need to prioritize the rent check. One of the parent was a stay at home so why do they need to pay so much for preschool?
    Luckily, my current tenants are trouble free and pay on time. Good luck..

    1. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 26, 2016 at 4:53 PM

      I find it most frustrating/laughable when a planned expense is the excuse. Like in your preschool example – it wasn’t like the preschool tuition came out of nowhere and blindsided them!

      I’d love to stop paying rent and tell my landlord, “I’m really sorry, but I spent $2000 on booze and strippers over the weekend, I won’t be able to pay rent this month.”

  17. Maria September 26, 2016 at 10:14 AM

    I’ve been a landlady for over a dozen years and had to laugh at your tenants! That is just sooo typical.
    One thing that I do with my tenants that has helped tremendously for them to pay on time is the following. I hope you consider this idea when you renew their contract or the next time you have a vacancy. When I first sign them up with the rental agreement, I ask them “how would you like to save $50.00 a month?” (You could make it less if that is more appropriate in your case.) Then I explain that if, AND ONLY IF, I receive their rent on the FIRST or BEFORE, they can go ahead and deduct that amount from their rent. It works like a charm! All of my tenants are aware of this discount and know that they can save $50 and take advantage of it! I’m happy because my rent is in my account on the 1st! Win-Win!

    1. J. Money September 26, 2016 at 11:34 AM

      WOAH!!! That’s a brilliant idea actually!!! Smooth! :)

    2. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 26, 2016 at 4:57 PM

      MARIA! I love that idea!

      1. Crystal October 14, 2016 at 5:22 PM

        That is a great way to get it done!!!

  18. Abandoned Cubicle September 26, 2016 at 10:31 AM

    A couple things. First off, well-written post/rant. Second, you might want to consider adding a late fee provision in your lease terms. My leases all tack on a $50 late fee if payments are in by the 5th each month. You know what? I’d just as soon all four of my tenants paid an extra $50 on the 6th. $200 extra each month is easy money. You have no reason to even consider eviction, so I would strongly hesitate to mention it here. Evictions should never be taken lightly (kids are often involved). I’d also caution against getting too hard on your tenant’s habits, unless you’re aiming to throw face punches like a junior mustache. Telling people to drink water isn’t a solution. Carving out a 6 month rainy day fund isn’t a solution, unless you’re in a class that’s able to preach it in blogs like we do. Pay down debts, avoid the big fancy cars, and avoid DirectTV. Makes sense. But please, let’s all lighten up on the nuclear frugal carpet bombing stuff. Just a little…

    1. J. Money September 26, 2016 at 11:36 AM

      Well that’s no fun ;)

    2. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 26, 2016 at 5:00 PM

      Mr. Cubicle – how do you enforce this $50 late fee? If tenants pay late, aren’t they just as likely to ignore the late fee (unless eviction is in the back on their minds)?

      1. Abandoned Cubicle September 27, 2016 at 12:02 PM

        Surprisingly, not! My buddy who got me into rentals has six duplexes and a four-plex. He pockets nearly $2,000 per year in late fees (that’s right, TWO THOUSAND BUCKS), and hasn’t had a single eviction in five plus years. He’s probably hating me for that jinx…

        It’s sad, I know, to think these tenants could plan better and avoid paying a $50 penalty, time and time again. I’m counting my lucky stars that in nearly four years, I haven’t had a single late payment with over a dozen different tenants under lease. Kind of wish I did though, for that much extra coin.

        And J. Money, come on man, we’re not a judgy bunch here, right? For face punches, we go to that other guy’s blog. ;-)

      2. Crystal October 14, 2016 at 5:30 PM

        My tenant for our one rental home always pays by the 3rd of each month (late fees after the 3rd), BUT she always makes it seem like she’s doing me a HUGE favor. She makes it really clear that she’s paying me rent instead of covering her cell bill, car maintenance bill, etc…like I’m supposed to bow down to her greatness for coming up with $1250 a month for a 3 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath, really well maintained 1750 sq. ft. house in the burbs with the best schools and stuff…ugh. Not to mention, I have only raised her rent $50 a month one time in 4 years even though the property taxes are just getting worse and worse and everything else is renting for $100+ a month more. But I keep repeating to myself – “she’s clean, she pays on time, and just one month vacant would eat a year’s profit from rent raising…”. Yet, I still love being a landlord!

  19. Sabrina September 26, 2016 at 10:45 AM

    You can’t do much about friends or strangers or any other adults and how they spend money, but you can teach your children well! Yesterday I had to make my 18 year old sit down with his bank statements. For the last two months he’s been working steadily 25+ hours a week and started community college about 6 weeks ago. Until I made him add up all of the $$ he spent on food- he had no idea that he was spending almost an entire paycheck each month on snacks. He lives at home and eats well. This is just social eating. We also talked about his goals for the future and how long it would take for him to save for more school, a car, etc…He is very committed to not taking out loans for school, but he just didn’t see the impact a soda or nachos here and there was having on his long term goals. Now he does!

    1. J. Money September 26, 2016 at 11:37 AM

      Next up – becoming a money blogger! :)

    2. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 26, 2016 at 5:06 PM


      I like to think that some people who struggle with money management welcome advice from those more well-informed. While I realize old habits die hard, I believe well written/spoken content can absolutely shift one’s perception of personal finance!

      1. superbien September 27, 2016 at 2:41 PM

        It’s such a shame filled topic for many people, though, that a kinder more empathetic approach would help.

        1. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 27, 2016 at 11:01 PM

          There is no shortage of fluffy, feel-good, “we’re all trying our best” personal finance blogs out there. At time, some tough love is just what the doctor ordered. :)

        2. Michelle January 16, 2017 at 5:19 AM

          Love it, but of course!! ..If you’re not a part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.
          As a renter for most of my life (turning big 50 soon), I’ve understood, entirely well, the ‘rental discount’ if I paid on time. Has the ability to seriously reduce those hostile thoughts toward anybody else’s lifestyle in the matter of: ‘Their non-participation in your better organized fiscal habits’.
          Mark, I hope you find it in your heart to share this article with the tenants who actually need this information. No good to call them out to all of us without offering them the opportunity to recognize their error and do better moving forward.

  20. Stefan - The Millennial Budget September 26, 2016 at 10:51 AM

    Think you said it perfectly, when everything is going smooth we feel invincible so saving for an emergency seems unthinkable. However, one unforeseen event and it would be interesting to see how that affects their payments (assuming no EF).
    Being a landlord can be stressful but the constant cash flow stream will always draw me into becoming one.

    1. Abandoned Cubicle September 26, 2016 at 11:10 AM

      A-Men, Stefan! Being a landlord can be very rewarding, assuming you do your homework and go in with an attitude to learn and adjust (as with just about anything, right?)

    2. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 26, 2016 at 5:11 PM

      Money over everything. Chase dat paper.

      Thanks for the comment, Stefan! I like when people call me perfect. :)

  21. Free to Pursue September 26, 2016 at 11:04 AM

    “Unless you have a baseline, you don’t ever truly feel the effect of spending.”

    So true! When we don’t know what our “conservative, yet satisfying” amount in each category is, it’s hard to know what “enough” and “excess” is, for us. And we can’t tell whether we’re spending in line with our values when our default to justify our spending is that it’s “normal”. Normal for who? What does that even mean? I, for one, am perfectly fine being weird if that means I can optimize every dollar spent to create my very own, unique, kick-a** life. *Mic drop*

    1. J. Money September 26, 2016 at 11:39 AM

      SO incredible meeting/talking with you this weekend… Thanks for making the time and energizing me!!

      1. Free to Pursue September 26, 2016 at 1:38 PM

        Ditto! Can’t wait to follow up when I have more to share (which will be sooner than later). This is truly the “stuff” that life is made of, the stuff that makes it impossible NOT to spring out of bed in the morning. Oh, the possibilities!

    2. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 26, 2016 at 5:13 PM

      Holy hell.

      “I, for one, am perfectly fine being weird if that means I can optimize every dollar spent to create my very own, unique, kick-a** life.”

      I’m blowing this up, framing it, and hanging it above my bed.

      1. Michelle January 16, 2017 at 5:37 AM

        Oooh …wicked smart lady and loving her pristine sense multiplication! ..I read it, took a photo copy & promise myself to make a lifestyle adaptation because of it. Once ya know, you can’t un-know.. Spot-on, Ms Free To Pursue!

  22. Financial Panther September 26, 2016 at 11:14 AM

    It’s always amazing to me how much people can find to spend. You think that making certain amounts of money will mean you are comfortable, but its really easy to spend it all if you aren’t deliberate with your spending. So far they are getting lucky, but even if nothing ever goes wrong for them, they are basically just running on a hamster wheel.

    1. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 26, 2016 at 5:19 PM

      People are genuinely misinformed when it comes to saving. Ask the average Joe on the street what a good savings rate is and he’ll tell you 10%. He’ll also tell you that a two-week emergency fund is appropriate.

      Thanks for the comment!

  23. TJ September 26, 2016 at 11:19 AM

    Yep…I converted my personal residence to a rental for a couple years. I did not enjoy that experience at all. Rather be more diversified and have my money work for me.

    I don’t particularly like shaming other people’s money decisions, but it’s always amusing when well off people can’t seem to find the money to pay their bills on time.

  24. Amanda @centsiblyrich September 26, 2016 at 11:30 AM

    Love this post! We are future landlords, so I’m certain we’ll run across this at some point. It sound to me like you subscribe to the Your Money and Your Life approach to finances – exactly what we do! Unfortunately, people don’t tend to make the connection between the money they spend and the hours they work!

    1. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 26, 2016 at 5:22 PM

      Thanks so much, Amanda!

      We need to start viewing expenses in hours instead of dollars. That new car doesn’t cost $30K, it costs six additional years of obligatory employment.

  25. Fiscally Free September 26, 2016 at 11:38 AM

    Your tips are the most basic concepts of personal finance. It’s amazing how many people need to learn them.

  26. Danny September 26, 2016 at 11:49 AM

    As a landlord the second you allow someone to pay late, you have lowered the expectation forever, especially if there is no penalty involved. I told my last tenant that one time will be the only time it happens. They were late the second month and just like it said in the contract they were done. I’ll never forget the comment that the neighbor told to me after they moved out. They said, “Can you believe this guy, he expects us to pay on time every single month.” Yep, time to be an adult. Next renters have been on time so far.

    1. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 26, 2016 at 5:25 PM

      Thanks for the comment, Danny!

      Can you elaborate on “they were done”? Did you simply ask them to move out and they obliged? Did you have to evict? If you did evict, did you find that the cost/stress/time associated with the eviction process was justified by the inconvenience of late rent?

  27. Samantha Allen September 26, 2016 at 12:05 PM

    I was thinking about consequences here… I mean, they are feeling zero consequences for paying the rent late, so why would they modify their behavior? They don’t even know its a problem. Unless you are charging them a substantial late fee (which you should), it’s no skin off their backs.

    1. J. Money September 26, 2016 at 12:12 PM

      maybe he’s secretly hoping they’ll come across this blog post? :)

      1. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 26, 2016 at 5:45 PM

        The cats out of the bag!

    2. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 26, 2016 at 5:44 PM

      Late fee is definitely a prominent theme in the comments of this article. I’d love to get as much feedback on this as possible.

      So I “charge” a late fee but its difficult for me to enforce as I don’t feel that an unpaid late fee justifies the time/cost/stress of an eviction. What do you think?

      And believe it or not, my tenants and I do communicate! So they absolutely realize paying rent late is a problem to me, yet they’ve come to realize that as long as I get dat money by the end of the month, there isn’t an immediate consequence.

      1. Abandoned Cubicle September 27, 2016 at 12:07 PM

        Do it. Update that lease form today. And while you’re at it, you could put in a buy-out clause to help prevent broken leases. Good luck!

        1. superbien September 27, 2016 at 2:47 PM

          A landlord can’t change a lease retroactively. Leases are in place to protect both sides. Month to month, you can do what you want but not in a lease. That said, many tenants don’t know the laws, so you might get away with it. Pretty bad karma though.

          I’ve always put a late fee clause in my leases, even just with roommates (I had the best credit so paid upfront to the landlord, and for reimbursed). One way to make the late fee immediate is to send a Paypal bill.

  28. Braden September 26, 2016 at 12:53 PM

    You are offering them fee free financing; they’d be foolish NOT to take advantage of you.

    On another note, of all the posts I’ve read and learned from on this blog, this is truly the least informative and most polarizing for me.

    None of us owns the right to do ravenously dissect and cast shame regarding someone else’s choices; no matter how much information we believe we’ve collected on their will and way or how astute we envision our own practices. Maybe they are playing the market on those days they take from you. Are they fully funding 529’s, IRA’s and 401k’s?? You don’t know. You’ e taken a cursory view and decided it was without doubt; you’ve allowed relaxed terms and chastised them for it.

    The way I read this, the party who demands the money is lenient in their demands. From a corporate finance position, having dealt with large scale cash flows, you always, ALWAYS, seek longer, more lenient payment terms as a purchasor…..and if your “lender” sees fit to allow 60, 90 360 days, celebrate and pay them even later.

    My AP manager would congratulate the tenant for holding onto their cash longer and condemn the landlord for allowing it.

    1. J. Money September 26, 2016 at 5:01 PM

      Hah! Interesting way of looking at it.

      I can def. see both sides to this post being offensive (many have already unsubscribed from it!), but I also love that it’s got all of us TALKING ABOUT IT right now. For as many people who have emailed/commented today about how lame this post is, I’ve got an equal amount of “THIS IS MY FAVORITE ONE YET!!!”

      The beauty of the internet :)

    2. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 27, 2016 at 8:58 AM

      Thanks for the comment, Braden! And I’ve definitely considered your perspective before. Humans respond to incentive. In the minds’ of my tenants, there is no incentive for paying on the 1st of the month.

      You’re also right about me not knowing every intimate detail of my tenants financial portfolio. However, once a certain amount of information is gathered, I find it safe/productive to make well-educated assumptions on the topic. In this situation, I didn’t come across any fully funded 529’s, IRA’s, or 401K’s during my background check a year ago, so it seems safe to assume they’re not delaying rent payments to fund one. Maybe they have, but if I’m going to operate on “maybes”, then maybe they also have a meth lab in the basement. I have no reason to believe they cook meth as my background check and regular interaction with them don’t suggest it (and the house is on a slab), but as you suggested with the retirement accounts, I don’t know for sure.

      Also, I think your corporate finance analogy is a bit of a stretch. The financial advantage of delaying a $1800 rent payment 10-15 days is significantly less significant than what you may have come across in the corporate finance world.

      Lastly, congratulating somebody for putting their family in a position to be kicked out of their home (they have a six year old kid for crying out loud!!!!!) seems misguided. Your AP manager needs to be less liberal with his/her congratulations. :)

  29. Felisa Savage September 26, 2016 at 1:59 PM

    I have lots of those tenants. Once I had to evict someone, even had to have the sheriff there to serve them and remove the locks since they refused to move and inside was the receipt for Direct TV that they just installed a week ago.

  30. Done by Forty September 26, 2016 at 2:33 PM

    Even just tracking your expenses, if you do nothing else, will result in huge gains. Most people can’t begin to make real progress because they don’t really understand where the money goes.

    1. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 27, 2016 at 9:35 AM

      Couldn’t agree more. I’m a huge advocate of “if you want to improve X, measure X”.

  31. Donna September 26, 2016 at 2:59 PM

    LOVE this! So true!

  32. Shelly September 26, 2016 at 3:22 PM

    “My tenants are a middle-aged couple with a vaginally-birthed son.” “My tenants are a middle-aged couple with a biological son.” Sounds weird, right? Mark, dude, he is their son. Who happens to be adopted. Is that relevant to this story that has nothing to do with adoption? No. I’m an adoptive parent and it’s annoying to have my kid described as my “adopted son” as if he’s some weird “other” or less-than a biological child. I know that’s not what you are trying to do, but yeah, just doing a little adoption education here! Not ashamed at all about adoption, but if it’s not relevant to the story, leave it out. Thanks for listening!

    1. J. Money September 26, 2016 at 5:13 PM

      Damn, I can totally see that… Maybe he specified it since adoption costs a lot of $$$ to do? Either way, I’m sorry you left worse off than when you got here :( Appreciate the comment though – I have a feeling it’ll stick anytime I see this happening anywhere else in the future!

      1. Shelly September 26, 2016 at 9:03 PM

        It’s all good! Totally didn’t leave worse off – it was a good article! And damn, adoption IS expensive! The tax credit helps quite a bit, but depending on which way you go, yeah, $$$.

    2. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 27, 2016 at 9:42 AM

      Yikes – that was pretty insensitive of me. Thanks for calling me out on that, Shelly.

      That said, the purpose of throwing “adopted” in there is to help portray my tenants as loving, generous people. Accurate or not, the general perception of people who adopt is just that – loving and generous.

      And the reason for me wanting to paint my tenants is loving and generous is to show that they are actually good people – just financially inept.

      1. superbien September 27, 2016 at 2:51 PM

        Good point about specifying children as adopted and how alienating and othering it is – and great response that you see the point but meant it as a positive character reference.

        Thumbs up on excellent respectful dialogue.

      2. J. Money September 28, 2016 at 11:11 AM


        This thread is just getting better and better as the week goes on… And I agree we’re a pretty civil group here, esp compared to other online areas – yikes.

  33. Harmony September 26, 2016 at 4:32 PM

    Our only experience as landlords thus far has been with our good friend. He usually pays the rent on time. We didn’t need to do a background check on him to find out his salary – he met Mr. Smith working at a factory, and is still there. We know he doesn’t make a lot of money, but he wisely lives a pretty frugal lifestyle. He only splurges on concert tickets once and a while, because he’s obsessed with music.

    I agree that a lot of those in the middle class probably validate their spending by looking at the amount of their paycheck – I make $____, so I should be able to buy _____.

    1. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 27, 2016 at 9:47 AM

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Harmony! Though renting to a friend would scare the hell out of me. If something goes amuck with paying rent, you’re may not just be out a tenant, you may also be out a friend. :(

      Absolutely agree with: I make $____, so I should be able to buy _____. And the second ____ is defined by social norms. Unfortunately, social norms are all sorts of backward in this realm.

  34. Cara September 26, 2016 at 4:44 PM

    My sister and brother in law took a $10K hit on one of their units when a tenant stopped paying rent and refused to move out. In NYC, the law is on the side of the tenants. It can take 6 months to get a non paying (or even a destructive tenant) out. I have always known that I did not want to be a landlord, but this really drove it home!

  35. B.C Kowalski September 26, 2016 at 5:18 PM

    Nice post, and a great deconstruction of the “I can afford it” mentality. As Elton John proved, any amount of money can be spent away. Famous athletes do it all the time – it’s easy to let your lifestyle overtake even a ridiculously high income.

    One note of caution: I’d be leery of letting the late tenants slide too much. Some day that emergency they’re not prepared for will happen, and they won’t have the money for rent; not just late, but not at all. Then that will put you in a horrible position, because they’ll have a pretty sad reason for not paying rent, and you are left with either letting them go rent free or evicting them during a crisis. Just a thought.

    What’s frightening to me is how many people don’t question this high-spending lifestyle. I’m glad my dad taught me to say no to myself. I thought he was a jerk who didn’t want me to have anything at the time, but now it’s a great life skill that’s allowed me to survive almost any financial situation while many of my friends/colleagues seem constantly in dire straits.

    1. J. Money September 26, 2016 at 5:23 PM

      Good point re: emergency!

    2. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 27, 2016 at 9:54 AM

      Being lenient on the late payments can definitely be a slippery slope. Though I don’t have a better alternative at this point (see other comments for more detail).

      If it ever got to the point where they flat out don’t pay for a month, eviction is the only option. The way I see it, rent gets paid every month one way or another: either the tenant pays it or I pay it. And there are people close to me who I’d give $1800 to before I’d give it to my tenants. Call me heartless but that’s the way I see it!

      1. B.C Kowalski September 28, 2016 at 3:08 PM

        Your post made me think of a TV story I remember seeing when I was a kid in the 90s about a family struggling on $60,000 per year (the equivalent of like $100,000 per year or so now). Now I think that’s become something of the norm.

        Being a landlord is definitely tough. I have a friend like your tenants. She’s into running and biking (and Triathlons), and I swear buys EVERY SINGLE device, gadget or piece of clothing she can find related to these activities. And complains about not having money. Sigh.

        1. The Deliberate Lifestyle October 1, 2016 at 2:55 PM

          People justify certain purchases because they contribute to a healthy lifestyle. While I agree that splurging on running/cycling gadgets goes down easier than cable TV packages or inefficient cars, these still need to deliberated over.

  36. Your First Million September 26, 2016 at 5:35 PM

    This is so true! The Washington Post came out with an article not too long ago where they did a study to see how many Americans could not afford a $400 surprise expense. Well, the study found that ALMOST HALF (46%) of Americans would not be able to afford a $400 surprise expense! I really think that shoots need to be teaching kids about personal finance. You don’t have to be rich to be financially responsible. Here is the link to the Washington Post article:


    1. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 27, 2016 at 9:56 AM

      Thanks for sharing! I’ve heard similar results to similar studies in the past!

      This article should be posted in the hallways of every high school across the country!

  37. Jon @ Be Net Worthy September 26, 2016 at 8:09 PM

    Mark, thanks for that guest post, I really enjoyed it! It’s funny how you can catch yourself living in a bubble and not realizing how the rest of the country lives. You did a robust job encapsulating the vast majority of Americans! It’s crazy when you think about it – so many people running around living one paycheck away from disaster.

    1. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 27, 2016 at 9:59 AM

      Wow, thanks so much for the kind words, Jon!

      I think it speaks volumes to the amount of stress the average working class person admits to live under on a daily basis.

  38. Laura September 26, 2016 at 9:11 PM

    I love your blog, you are hilarious! I learn and get free entertainment every time I read one of your blogs.

    1. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 27, 2016 at 10:00 AM

      I’m sure this comment was direct at J, but I’m still going to thank you for calling this article hilarious!

      1. J. Money September 28, 2016 at 11:14 AM

        I’m not going to lie – I did take credit for it in an email the other day :) At least I was smart enough to realize how great the article would turn out, right?

  39. ZJ Thorne September 26, 2016 at 11:41 PM

    I had an opposite situation, but it was similarly frustrating because facts did not seem to matter. My apartment kept flooding because my landlady did not insulate outdoor pipes in a cold climate. She is from a hot climate and only “hired” friends who were also from the hot climate. This would have made sense if she stopped doing it the first year after owning her house. But I digress.

    Apartment kept flooding and she did not fix it. My belongings are ruined and I give her my 30 days notice. I don’t even ask her to replace what her negligence caused (the third flood in as many weeks). I just want out. I pay my rent even though I can’t occupy the space (she never handled the water. Just let it sit for weeks and told me I was ruining her life) and look for a new place. Find a dry place in a shared house. Perfect. I move in what was not destroyed by her negligence. I wait for my security deposit. The appropriate number of days go by and I hear nothing. I call the number I have for her and her relatives. She left the country. I wait another week just in case it was lost in the mail. Nothing. So I report her to the Landlord Tenant Authority for not returning my security deposit without the appropriate explanation I am due.

    The landlord tenant authority find her and convince her to return my deposit (late) without the statutory damages I am then entitled to. I ask the LTA why the damages did not apply and they told me that her failure to return the deposit in a timely manner was not done intentionally. I re-read the statute. There is no intent listed. It just states that you have X number of days to return a deposit or the explanation why you aren’t returning it. The LTA gets salty when I ask about their reading of the statute. I wanted to ask them if they did not have calendars in other countries because the number of days passed are the same regardless of where she ran away to. The LTA also informs me that the entire apartment was illegal, and she had no business license allowing her to rent it out.

    TL/DR my landlady accused me of ruining her life for moving out when she failed to maintain the property to a habitability standard.

    1. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 27, 2016 at 10:22 AM

      Its unfortunate that laws/rules/regulations only exist because there is a small percentage of the population who need them to be a functioning part of society.

      I would suggest that the vast majority of landlords are decent people who want to provide their tenants a comfortable home. However, there are obvious exceptions to this – hence the term “slumlord” is a thing.

      Likewise, I would suggest that the vast majority of tenants are decent people who just want a comfortable home and are willing to pay the agreed upon amount at the agreed upon time. However, there are obvious exceptions to this – people who take advantage of the tenant-favoring laws to live free.

      It doesn’t need to be so complicated – the tenant/landlord relationship can be mutually beneficial if we all just acted decently. That said, I’m really sorry to hear your unfortunate story. I don’t like your former landlady. :)

    2. Yetisaurus September 27, 2016 at 2:32 PM

      Whoa. Did you sue her in small claims? Did you have that option? I would have. For the value of the belongings, the penalties, etc.

      1. J. Money September 28, 2016 at 11:20 AM

        All this sounds horrible :( I’m so glad you’re out and safer now!!

  40. Money Beagle September 27, 2016 at 9:10 AM

    I like the ideas and agree with most of the problems and such, but I really think it could have been done without the name calling. Just because everybody isn’t as wise as you doesn’t mean they should be belittled.

    1. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 27, 2016 at 10:35 AM

      Thanks for commenting!

      The name calling and any associated swearing serves two purposes. One, I think it helps demonstrate how passionate I am about this situation and personal finance in general. Two, it keeps things interesting for the reader. Lots of REI/personal finance articles are pretty cut-and-dry. I say, f*ck that!

      1. Abandoned Cubicle September 27, 2016 at 12:12 PM

        Just make sure to aim some of that name-calling and swearing right back at yourself. Self-deprecation is even better for readership than vitriol, based on who I follow (but certainly not based on my meager beginnings. D’oh!)

  41. ChooseBetterLife September 27, 2016 at 10:37 AM

    Argh! The excuses!
    I had a friend who got pulled over for speeding solo in the HOV lane on the freeway with windows much darker than were legal. And the cops were just out to get him…
    Almost everything we do is a choice, and while ‘good’ choices vary depending on our values, we can’t make progress until we see that we do have some say in how our lives turn out.

    1. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 27, 2016 at 1:55 PM

      Yes! There are so many things that are fundamentally out of our control that we should feel an intense obligation to take ownership of the things we can actually control!

    2. J. Money September 28, 2016 at 11:23 AM

      Haha yeah.. I used to ball out with tinted windows and a super dropped kit and remember getting mad at myself anytime i was pulled over which I really couldn’t complain about. Except for once when the cop pulled me over and then asked how my day was going and wanted to do small talk. NO THANK YOU! You’re writing me a ticket for $100! Haha… I think he was super new because he literally whipped out a ruler to measure the distance between my car and the road. When have you ever seen that??? :)

  42. Jenna September 27, 2016 at 12:15 PM

    Bookmarking for me and my kids. Awesome straight talk, thank you. Always, Jenna

    1. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 27, 2016 at 1:56 PM

      Thanks for reading, Jenna!

      FYI – Straight Talk was my nickname in college.

  43. superbien September 27, 2016 at 1:18 PM

    The message is so good – but the judgmental snark felt mean and oppressive.

    I am 100% with you on the objective topics – yes, work for an emergency fund, don’t buy expensive stuff when you live paycheck to paycheck and a cheaper option will meet your needs, don’t make expensive routines that drip your money away.

    I just think that anyone reading this article is going to feel defensive and stupid, and this website is about working together and encouraging each other. I just recommended this site to a friend who wants to eliminate her debt, and I cringe imagining her reading this article and feeling sad and small and defeated.

    1. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 27, 2016 at 11:10 PM

      While the article is loaded with snark (Snarky Markie was out in full force), it was not my intention to make anyone feel “defensive and stupid”. Rather, I hope by calling out the poor financial habits that my tenants demonstrate, readers who share similar habits will work to remedy them with a sense of urgency they might not otherwise have felt.

    2. J. Money September 28, 2016 at 11:32 AM

      I do think many people will read it and not be *as* offended since he’s talking to *someone else*, even if you’re in a related spot, but you’re right that it’s very different than what we normally do here. I considered editing out all the curses, but I also think it’s good to keep it real every now and then so I made the call to leave it be. 99% of the stuff here will be super encouraging and fun, but the underlying theme is transparency and keeping it real, and we def. can’t say Mark didn’t do it with this one :)

  44. Yetisaurus September 27, 2016 at 2:56 PM

    I totally get the frustration as a landlord of tenants who “can’t afford” rent but who live a higher-flying lifestyle than their landlord. It’s maddening. I will also echo the posters who are practically yelling at you to enforce your late fee. Dude, that’s why late fees are there! You gotta enforce it!

    You don’t have to evict them at the first late fee. But here’s what you need to do. You need to put in your rental agreement that money received will first be applied to late fees, then utilities or HOA charges or anything else they might be responsible for, and THEN to rent. So the first dollar that comes in is applied to everything but rent. If your agreement doesn’t say this, then make sure you put it in there next time to give you more legal coverage. Either way, continue this plan of attack:

    Let’s say they pay rent on the 15th and don’t include $50 for the late fee. You send them an invoice on the 16th that says “thank you for your payment of [dollar amount]. Here’s how it was applied. You still owe $50 of rent.” They will probably shine you on until the next month, and pay late again. You send another invoice, same thing. Apply the payment to the late fee, and now it will show they still owe you $100 in rent. Lather, rinse, repeat. After 5-6 months of this, tell them that if they don’t get caught up with the [$x] in past-due rent, you’ll give them a 3-day notice to pay rent or quit (in CA, that’s what we do. Not sure about your state) for the cumulative amount of rent that they haven’t paid for the past several months. That will probably jar them into getting caught up and not paying you late again.

    The idea is not that you evict for the first unpaid late fee. The idea is that you keep track, and you send them written notices showing the late fee as paid and the rent as not completely paid. When the rent amount snowballs up to a big enough deal, THEN you file eviction papers if necessary.

    BTW, you better have in your lease that the tenant is responsible for paying court costs and atty fees (up to a capped amount) if you prevail in an unlawful detainer action. Then those costs rightfully fall on their shoulders, not yours.

    Also, before you start this plan of attack, you should probably have some written communication with your tenants where you tell them that you’ve let them slide dozens of times on the late fee, but you don’t intend to do that in the future. Remind them that the lease says there’s a late fee of $___ if they don’t pay by [deadline]. If they pay after that deadline, tell them that you will apply rent payments first to the late fee, and then to the rent. Set up the new expectations and follow through.

    1. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 27, 2016 at 11:24 PM

      Yeti – thanks for the thoughtful note! This is definitely a strategy I have not considered and I can see the benefits of structuring a lease in such a fashion.

      That said, it seems that you’re just moving money around. That is, you’re just allocating payments to different buckets. Maybe there are legal advantages to doing this when you go to evict, but my opinion still stands – evicting over late fees is not in my best interest.

      Consider a situation where a tenant has paid $10,000 in rent over ten months. Each month the rent was received on the 15th, which results in a $50/month penalty. Including the late fees, the tenant actually owes $10,500 – so the tenant still owes $500. Rolling this amount into the previous months unpaid late fee month after month doesn’t change the fact that the tenant still owes $500.

      I imagine that claiming the $500 as unpaid rent holds more water in court than claiming it as unpaid late fees. But my whole stance is based on the fact that I want to avoid court if at all possible!

      Help me understand what I’m missing!

      1. Yetisaurus September 28, 2016 at 1:10 PM

        Exactly, it is just a change in allocation. The difference is that the courts here generally don’t allow you to sue/evict for late fees. So by allocating rent payments to late fees first, then rent, you preserve your ability to sue for the money later.

        If you’re not planning to ever sue for the money, then that’s fine. It’s totally your choice. But if you’re annoyed by your tenants paying late, this is the way to fix it and to enforce the late fee. You don’t have to sue/evict until the dollar value grows to a point where you don’t want to deal with it anymore. If you decide not to sue, and just to keep tallying the number, then when your tenant finally does move out, you can deduct that unpaid rent from their security deposit.

        Honestly, though, while I understand your aversion to taking things to court, I really think you need to toughen up on that. The tenant by now has learned that you’re a pushover, and if you don’t correct it, it will almost certainly get worse. I’ve been a landlord for 13 years and I’ve seen this general scenario many times. Right now they’re just paying a little late and getting away with it. When the first disaster happens (and it could be anything including “needing” to get their son a car), you will be pushed even further down the priority list. They will be a month behind on rent, and they know you won’t charge a late fee or sue. They’ll give you stories and start paying partial rent, while falling further and further behind. Each promise of “I’ll give you $400 on Friday” turns into “oh, my direct deposit didn’t go through. I have to call the bank. I’ll pay you early next week when they get it straightened out.” Eventually, you’ll end up with them being 2-3 months behind, and their security deposit won’t cover the amount owed. Good luck trying to collect, too, because it sounds like you’ll be standing in line with several other creditors.

        I’m not trying to be doom-and-gloom about it, but I want you to know what the future often looks like with tenants like this. If they were moving out in the next 3 months, I’d say don’t worry about it. But if it seems like they might stick around for longer than that, I’d do what you can now to reestablish your authority before they take real advantage of you.

  45. NGNEER September 28, 2016 at 1:03 AM

    I didn’t enjoy this post but I wouldn’t have taken the time to write a comment if I hadn’t gone through the comments section and read every reply from the writer to the commenters.

    You have an answer for everything and despite several people’s opinions on various things (ex.late fees), you always have to justify why what you’re doing is more right.

    You need to self reflect and become a better listener. You don’t always have to have the last word. If you decide to take my advice I promise you’ll be more successful in the long run.

    Based on previous comments what I’m expecting is you thanking me for mine and then adding justification for all of the comments/actions above. Please surprise me and leave the second part out :).

    1. J. Money September 28, 2016 at 11:38 AM

      Haha… I thought he was actually doing a pretty good job keeping it civil and responding back with why he thinks what he does (and in some even asked for more clarification as he fully admits he hasn’t thought about some of it), but either way perception is reality so I guess it’s just one of those things.

      Now you have me wondering if MY comments are similar! I’m always being super friendly and backing up my opinions, haha…

      1. NGNEER September 28, 2016 at 8:50 PM

        No. Not even close. This guy needs to take some notes from you.

    2. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 28, 2016 at 9:30 PM

      I’ll do ya one better! I’ll thank you for taking the time to read the article AND all the comments, while throwing in a sarcastic quip so others don’t think I’ve gone soft.

      My insistence on being right really shone through when I said the following:

      “Yikes – that was pretty insensitive of me. Thanks for calling me out on that, Shelly.”

      Oh and I was totally adamant about getting in the last word when I ended my comment to Yetisaurus with:

      “Help me understand what I’m missing!”

      But J said it best – perception is reality. So if my starting a dialogue in an honest attempt to learn comes across as close-minded or stubborn, I’ll do better! And if you’re promising that I’ll be more successful in the long run, it seems like a no-brainer!

  46. Millennial Moola September 28, 2016 at 1:27 AM

    I know I’m an idiot but I almost thought about purchasing NFL sunday ticket package. Even Will smith couldnt make me feel guilty enough to stop watching grown men debilitate their brains in their later years for entertainment purposes. Thank goodness for J Moneys $8 antenna trick

    1. J. Money September 28, 2016 at 11:39 AM

      Did you do it??? I’m loving it!!

      And you’re allowed to have NFL Sunday ticket – you just need to have a few million in the bank so the ratio is better :)

    2. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 28, 2016 at 9:32 PM

      If NFL Sunday Ticket brings enough value to your life to justify the cost, you better buy that package!

  47. Charisma September 28, 2016 at 10:33 AM

    This was an amazing post for so many reasons – the lessons give and most importantly, the humorous way in which you proved that being good on paper doesn’t necessarily mean all good. Thanks for your words of wisdom with a snarky twist!

    1. The Deliberate Lifestyle September 28, 2016 at 9:34 PM

      With a name like Charisma, I could have guessed that you’d dig my snark!

      “Words of wisdom”. “Amazing”. I’m blushing over here! :)

  48. Broseph Brosito September 28, 2016 at 11:52 PM

    On point article Marky Mark, which is surprising for how little points you scored in volleyball this week ;)

    1. The Deliberate Lifestyle October 1, 2016 at 2:58 PM

      Thanks, Captain Broseph! Unfortunately I bet I don’t score many more this week… :(

  49. xx xx October 2, 2016 at 9:16 AM

    Having one rental is a great way to jump start your fortune. The problem with the hassle factor is that when your rental property business grows so do the hassles, until one burns out. At least that was my experience. Made good money. Sold it all at top of housing bubble. Rolled it all into stock market. You’re absolutely spot-on about tenants. In general, they are totally clueless about how to manage money. Of course, if they weren’t, they probably wouldn’t be renting.

  50. Brook Hart October 2, 2016 at 5:53 PM

    I really have come to enjoy your blog . This story is true for so many people. They just don’t have their priorities straight. I bought a house at tax auction for 4100.00. Ten years old and in good shape minus the wiring the owner ripped out. This house was foreclosed on and who knows how it actually ended up at auction, but that is not the point. The owners abandoned most everything in the house. Their mortgage was 275.00 a month. Both adults worked. Looking at their checkbook I was amazed at how they spent their money. 150.00 a month each to the dish, cell phone and Aaron Rents. They gave their house up because they couldn’t give up the TV, phone and whatever rental they had. Most likely TV, furniture etc….. My house has cost me about 20,000 in improvements and back taxes. I am now mortgage free. I live in a lovely cul de sac and my house is appraised at 167,000. Of course I am in a rural area and I imagine it would be worth more in the city. My taxes are do soon and the money is tucked away ready to submit. I prepare for everything ahead of time.

  51. Tommy October 2, 2016 at 10:22 PM

    Did you check their credit score before renting to them? Nothing beats it.

    If they have a score of 720 or higher their likelihood of defaulting on payment owed is less than 2%. It would also mean that they pay on time since paying late on other debts would have reduced their credit score below 720.

    720 – 900 is essentially the same credit score. The lower end score may mean they have larger revolving credit card debt, but they pay it just the same. I’ve personally never seen anybody with a score of 800 or above and that includes big wigs that work at the bank.

  52. Teri D October 4, 2016 at 7:01 PM

    I am also a landlord. I also run extensive background checks on people wanting to rent one of my apartments. And, I also don’t need their rent payments to fund my month. But, they don’t know that. When someone is late I read them the riot act. I tell them I also have bills to pay and if they don’t pay their rent, I can’t pay my bills. If someone was consistently late, for over a year, they would be out so fast! Two months in a row would be enough for them to have to look for another place to live. It is my property, my investment and I expect returns from my investments. They are paying for the right to live in my property. If they don’t pay, they don’t have any rights.

    I figure I am part of the system that “let’s them mindlessly spend their money.” The buck stops with me. If they can’t even pay for the roof over their heads, how do they pay for anything else? I hold people accountable and wish more people did the same.

    1. Arrgo October 8, 2016 at 2:22 PM

      I agree and great perspective. Irresponsible freeloader types need to get their priorities straight or get out.

  53. Mr ten October 21, 2016 at 10:55 AM

    Wow…..fascinating comments on the horror of being a landlord.

    I’ve been landlording as a side hustle since 1998. One of my favorite excuses for being late on rent was when the tenant emailed mensaying she can’t talk right now since she is in Paris and can’t pay rent for another two weeks.

    Oh to be in Paris and not have to worry about rent. C’est La Vie.

    The key to landlording is to treat it like a business and don’t judge people or take things personally. Late fees are late fees. If you don’t enforce them they will always pay late.

    Moreover, why ate you driving over to your rental to collect rent?

    Does your mortgage lender swing by to collect the mortgage payment?

    Here are some tips to make life easier and train your tenants. Keep in mind, some tenants are not trainable and there comes a day when you simply have to serve them notice and find a better tenant like J Money.

    1. You only have one rental. Set up a bank account at a big bank with lots of branches and tell the tenant they must deposit rent into this bank account.
    2. Enforce the late fee. If they don’t pay it, send a letter demanding payment or they will have to move out within 7 days. State that you will ruin their credit score with a judgement.
    3. Offer a free grace period per year on the late fee. Just like the banks or credit card companies that allow you a break on a late fee if you have a great payment record.
    4. One of the landlords offered a $50.00 discount if rent was paid by the 1st. Be careful with this one. Some states don’t allow this.
    5. To recoup the late fees not paid, deduct ’em from their deposit and document it by sending them a letter. Then demand they make up the difference since the rental requires a certain deposit as part of the lease.

    Lastly, bless your tenants and all the people out there who choose not to own a home like J Money or simply have to rent since the drive monster trucks, spend a fortune on entertainment and pay late fees. They allow landlords to own an asset that costs them next to nothing as a result of renters paying their mortgage, taxes, insurance and maintenance and repairs.

    Oh, and provides monthly yields north of 10% excluding all the other tax and appreciation benefits.

    Yes, investing in dividend stocks is easier. Since it costs little time, you get little returns.

    Landlording costs more time for more returns.

    Plus, good luck trying to sue a company that doesn’t pay the dividend anymore. If my tenant doesn’t pay, I can be in and out of court within 3 weeks and if the tenant doesn’t pay, send em to collections, keep the deposit and get a better tenant in the unit.

    I love being a landlord and investing in the market. However, when the stock market imploded 60% peak to trough from 2007 to 2009, my rentals kept humming along spitting out cash flow like a magical ATM machine.

    C’est La Vie.

    1. J. Money October 23, 2016 at 3:13 PM

      Haha, love it man.. great tips and insights – especially with the J. Money renters of the world ;) You can repay me in beers later for getting the good word out on renting.


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