Updated on 09.29.17

The Simple Dollar Podcast #1 – Credit Card Debt

Trent Hamm

Well, here it is, finally – The Simple Dollar Podcast. This will be a weekly endeavor – I hope you enjoy it!

The first episode of The Simple Dollar Podcast focuses on credit card debt. I tell my own story of escaping from a pile of credit cards and relate some very specific advice on how to extract yourself from such debt. Also discussed: Rocky IV, Douglas Coupland novels, Steve Bartman, Twittering while drinking your third glass of wine, snarky librarians, and Dave Ramsey’s connection to Star Trek. Total length: 12:12

Listen In!

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Though I hope you do subscribe using one of the above methods, don’t worry – each episode will be featured in its own post, much like this one, on Tuesday afternoons. The podcast itself may appear earlier than that, however, if you subscribe using one of the above forms, but the notes won’t appear until I post about it here on The Simple Dollar.

Episode Notes
Here are some additional notes that go alongside the comments in the podcast. Approximate times for the corresponding links and notes are listed.

0:00 – The theme song is a public domain recording of a Camper van Beethoven concert on October 25, 1986. Listen to the concert in its entirety.
0:24 – Background reading – my financial biography, particularly the part about our meltdown.
0:50 – The World’s Strongest Man competition is held annually, pitting competitors against each other in a wide variety of feats of strength.
0:58 – I talked about that “sunny April afternoon” in a post called The Longest Night.
1:06 – Rocky IV! Ivan Drago whips Apollo Creed!
2:18 – My public library of choice.
2:39 – Your Money or Your Life is a must-read. Here’s how it really impacted my life.
2:54 – Detailed notes on The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey.
4:14 – And I’m still reading; here’s a peek at that mountain.
5:09 – Here are the only budgeting techniques that ever worked for me.
6:45 – Here’s my Twitter feed … I promise, no more meandering discussions of North by Northwest!
7:17 – Redbox is cheap because there are tons of codes out there for free DVD rentals.
7:31 – PaperBackSwap is the best! But you probably already knew that…
7:49 – The three best novels on modern careers that I’ve yet read were all by Douglas Coupland – Generation X, Microserfs, and JPod.
8:12 – Here’s a startup guide for cooking at home if you have no idea what you’re doing in the kitchen.
8:14 – Restaurants.com can be a good money saver.
9:05 – Here’s a startup guide for your emergency fund.
9:23 – Steve Bartman, oh, Steve Bartman. Relive the moment.
9:44 – Proof that Steve needed a bodyguard.
10:18 – Some details on the debt snowball and a mathematically superior (though psychologically inferior) alternative.
11:29 – Your homework, class!
11:46 – For any of this to work, you have to overcome lying to yourself about money.
12:02 – A preview of next week.

One thing I’d like to do in a future episode is have an audio reader’s mailbag. If you have a microphone on your computer and can record an MP3 of a simple, short question you might have on personal finance, careers, pop culture, or anything else you’d like me to answer, record it as an MP3 and send it to me. Keep the total recording under 15 seconds, please.

Comments and suggestions welcome.

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  1. Nick says:

    Congrats on finally getting this published Trent! I know you’ve been working on it for some time now. I’ll be listening to it on my way to work tomorrow.


  2. Eden says:

    Huh? Is this really in mono?

  3. Studenomist says:

    Here it is! I remember hearing about this idea on your blog months ago! Could you please share with us how you put this together. I would love to try this.

  4. Andy says:

    Congrats on completing the first podcast. My only suggestion, and keep in mind that I’m a HUGE fan of the blog and that I mean this in the nicest possible way: stick to blogging.

  5. Baker @ ManVsDebt says:

    It’s awesome to be able to connect with you on yet another level. This kind of thing along with you videos (making detergent, etc…) really make you much more tangible, rather than just the man behind the curtain!

    I’m impressed and I encourage you to keep these other forms of media coming!

  6. Mike says:

    Big fan Trent so take this with respect, but it sounded like a really long blog / column that you read. Especially the jokes with sounded a bit forced. I would recommend that you listen to some other writers who also blog for ideas on how to sound more natural. It will be difficult to pull off without another person to talk to or bounce things off of. Just have a few bullet points, but everything written out. Oh & NEVER cut out the wine. :)

  7. Big Fan says:

    Trent, I am a big fan of your blog. However, I have to agree with Andy. I encourage you to do a few more podcasts. Thanks for all your hard work on your blog.

  8. Moneymonk says:

    Your voice sound weird! as if you are reading it.

    Anyway- this is an asset to your blog–next the video -lol

  9. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    Thanks for the input. This is the first episode – I’m still trying to find my footing with it. I finally realized that if I just kept recording “test episodes” and sharing them with a handful of listeners, this would never go anywhere.

    Trust me, this is *light years* better than where things started. My biggest problem is keeping focus – I have a tendency to go off on tangents too much, so I used a lot of notes to keep myself from doing that.

  10. bsigrist says:

    Thanks Trent for experimenting with new things on The Simple Dollar! I am looking forward to how this podcast matures in future episodes, with your proposed listener questions, discrete personal finance topics, and maybe guests. With the energy and passion you put into your blog, I know this podcast has a bright future. Keep up the good work!

  11. Geoff says:

    Nice first effort Trent. You kind of lost me a few times but a worthy foot in the podcast pool. Look forward to hearing a few more.

  12. J.D. says:

    Trent, my inclination when I was playing with podcast ideas was to read from a script, too. But there’s no way to make it sound natural. When Jim suggested a team podcast, I jumped at the chance. I’d actually recommend something similar for you. How about a joint podcast with your wife? Or interviewing somebody new every week? The advantage of this is that you can have a natural conversation. I still feel awkward on our show, but it’s better than it would be if it were scripted!

  13. Loved the podcast. It’s straight, simple and to the point. Like the Episode notes. Thanks for the tips and keep podcasting!

  14. Jeremy says:

    Maybe it would be better to leave humor out of the podcasts, at least until you get more comfortable with doing the podcasts.

  15. DrFunZ says:

    Great job. Good info.

    But you have to S-L-O-W D-O-W-N so we do not lose words. but that is my only suggestion!


  16. Trent,

    my honest reaction:

    1. You were slightly fast, slow down just a tad. You change speeds when you brought up Dave Ramsey’s points… that’s closer to a good speed.

    2. Lots of rants. I counted at least 3. I kept wonder ‘what is Trent doing?’

    3.Stop trying to be funny. If i want funny I’ll youtube Daniel Tosh. I want info, not humor.

    4.It was a little long. My mind was wandering toward the end, and I wanted to close it out toward the middle as well.

    Other than that keep trying. Good Luck, hope this helps.


  17. michael says:

    It sounds like you’re masking your voice with a changer. Is that the case?

    12 minutes isn’t long. There are podcasts that extend muuuuuuuuch longer. Podcasts are not like blog entries. You can read a blog entry in a few minutes..Podcasts are largely listened on Ipods or MP3 players while people are doing other things. It’s not too frequent that people sit at websites for 15 minutes just listening. I haven’t listened to it yet, but will when I’m out for a walk or doing something around the house.

  18. michael says:

    Also, rants are unavoidable in podcasts. I encourage you to act as normally as possible. Rants will happen. Like any blog entry that doesn’t cater to me, I’ll wait it out. Some podcasts will be very interesting, others will be dung.

  19. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    “It sounds like you’re masking your voice with a changer. Is that the case? ”

    No, that’s my voice. It’s very low. I am about 6’6″ with a size 17 shoe and a size 15 ring. I’m getting towards the size of that guy in “The Green Mile” … anyway, my voice is just naturally really low.

    I’m going to go with much fewer notes for next week’s podcast and see how that goes. I think the format is right, I just need to work out the kinks.

  20. Claire says:

    Cool! Your voice is much deeper than I imagined it to be…

  21. Eden says:

    Should I be hearing this in stereo? I am only getting sound from one speaker (mono).

  22. Mol says:

    Relive the moment link – “The URL contained a malformed video ID. ” =/

    We have all seen your writing evolving, and improving over time, and I know the podcasts will follow suit. My only piece of constructive criticism: sprinkle the metaphors into the podcast, do not ladle them all over it. Less is more for the metaphors. Good luck with the fine tuning! =)

  23. Chiara says:

    Pretty good for a first podcast! It would probably be a good investment to get some radio training at the nearest college broadcasting dept if you want to go far with it. I don’t think it was too long – I listen to many podcasts and actually prefer longer because I can throw one on and get some work done around the house. I also really like the talk-to-a-partner approach – it seems to work much better for people who aren’t seasoned radio performers.

  24. lurker carl says:

    That was good for the first try. I’m curious which style you are aiming for; formal like a newscast, conversational like Ramsey/Orman or folksy like Garrison Keillor?

    Don’t worry about how your voice sounds, focus on content and clarity. Try to keep to fewer topics, drop the metaphors and speak slower.

  25. kev says:

    The problem with the snowball method is that sometimes, you have more than one card that is hurting your credit score, and they all need attention. Paying off smaller balances for small victories is nice, but not always practical. I am completely debt free now (yay!) But to get here, I had to find my small victories elsewhere, and I found them on my credit report.

    I’d get a copy of my credit report every 5 or 6 months. I paid the extra couple bucks to get the one that shows the numeric score. Every 5 points I gained was a small victory. Moving into a more favourable risk group was a huge victory; it made me feel like a respectable citizen again, and boosted my self-confidence.

    The report itself gave me all the info I needed to strategize and earn my points. Points came from reducing debt and paying on time, but also in managing which cards I reduced at what rate.

    But in playing that game, I missed a key piece that was holding me back. I had two cards closed due to missed payments five years earlier; that was my graduation present, the horrifying realization that I was a bad credit risk. (I still curse the maniacs who gave a student two cards, each with $5,000 credit limits, almost as much as I curse myself for being stupid with them.)

    On one of the closed cards, the “available credit” was going down with the debt; the numbers matched. On the other closed card, the available credit stayed at $5000. I didn’t think much of this, until I realized that my credit score was negatively affected by the fact that my available credit was too high. Part of the score is calculated based on your available credit; The potential to get into more debt than you can pay is a derogatory factor.

    When I realized this, I called the card company to ask them to reduce this imaginary credit limit that I couldn’t access anyway, but they wouldn’t budge until the debt was paid in full. They absolutely insisted on reporting that I had this huge credit limit, thus dragging my score down

    I was going to complain to the credit reporting agency, but at that point, I only had about $600 left owing on it. I had planned to let that one ride a bit and get the other one cleared, but I changed my strategy and cleared it in full within three weeks, the combination of clearing that hunk of debt AND losing the imaginary $5000 in available credit was a huge boost up.

    So if anyone is paying down multiple cards, keep an eye on the available credit, and use that along with your credit report to decide which ones are hurting your credit score the most.

  26. Johanna says:

    I suggest being careful with the pop culture references. When you introduce them in a way that sounds like you expect your audience to already know what you’re talking about, you really run the risk of alienating listeners who don’t.

    I’m not a big baseball fan in general, but I lived in Chicago (albeit in Sox territory) in 2003 and was following the Cubs’ playoff progress, so I’m familiar with the Steve Bartman incident. Even so, 5+ years later, I did not immediately place the name “Steve Bartman.” I’m not saying you shouldn’t mention him – just don’t ask questions like “You remember Steve Bartman, don’t you?” unless you’re quite sure that the vast majority of your listeners will answer “yes.”

    Ditto for the Star Trek references. Probably not a good idea to assume that a TV series from 15-20 years ago is universally familiar today.

    If you’re doing podcasts because they’re something you really want to do, then by all means, keep at it, and I hope you get better. But if you feel they’re something you *have* to do for some reason, don’t. There’s no shame in sticking with writing rather than speaking if that’s where your talent lies. At least, that’s what I do, and I refuse to be ashamed. :)

  27. Jen says:

    Awesome job, Trent! I thought it was great.

    I didn’t think it sounded forced, or like you were reading at all. I’m in science, and have been subjected to plenty of talks where people are reading.

    I didn’t think you were talking too fast either. Although I do agree that it was a bit metaphor heavy.

    Keep up the great work, and I look forward to future episodes. :)

  28. Amit (India) says:

    First of all , nice to hear your voice :)
    Congrats on your first podcast

    My suggestion is that you slow down a bit while speaking.
    Readers from non-US countries (and mainly Asian (like India)) might not be able to get you.

    Your are doing a great job Trent.
    All the best !

  29. Congrats, good luck, and… thanks! I just subscribed via iTunes and look forward to listening (as well as reading) along.


  30. machine says:

    I agree, slow down a bit. Listen to your local public radio station, try and emulate that.

  31. Well done – great information and the story helps to glue it all together – congratulations!!

    On a similar note, a friend of mine tells his credit card story in a 3 part series here: http://www.twentysomethingsense.com/2009/02/a-plan-a-failure-and-a-lesson-learned-part-1.html

    All the best to anyone else getting out of cc debt – YOU CAN DO IT!!

  32. michael bash says:

    As a long time coach of Oral Interpretation of Literature in my school’s Forensics Society, read as “reading aloud”, you fall into the most common trap, reading too fast. So the most common coaching point, SLOW DOWN. You go so fast, you run out of breath sometimes. You want to interpret your piece; your listener has never heard it before. If nothing else slowing down will reduce your errors which are frequent. So .. you’re a typical beginner with the problems that go along with that. You CAN improve. Also the music at the beginning and end should definitely be reconsidered.

  33. Roy says:

    I am totally confused and will wait for the movie.

  34. Sunshine says:

    Great job on finally getting the podcast out! Any suggestions that I have were already addressed (mainly – slow down, less jokes, and less pop culture refs).

    Good luck and I look forward to see it evolve!

  35. Rajeev Singh says:

    Great work Trent and congrats on getting this finally done.. Am thrilled to see this. Would love to do this on my own blog someday. Yes slowing down the tone will help u connect with wider audience.

  36. Michael says:

    I agree with J.D. You should do podcasts with somebody else or a series of people. That will be harder for you to do than J.D. because you’re more self-conscious, but people will like it more when you succeed!

  37. TJ says:

    I’m so happy for you Trent!! I stumbled on your website about a month ago while looking for a recipe for bread (funny, huh?). I have LOVED it and I’m excited about the weekly podcast. I agree with the constructive criticism provided; however, I know once we all get used to your voice and mannerisms, it will be fully enjoyable. Hang in there, be proud, and hugs to you and your family!!

  38. onaclov says:

    When I downloaded (right click save as) Windows Media Player wouldn’t play it saying that the formatting didn’t match the .mp3 extension, I tried VLC and still a no go, did anyone else directly download from the link on this site, or did everyone just use the links for itunes or listened online?

    Thank you,

  39. Darlene says:

    Snarky librarian, here. I have to tell you – listening to this at work – I laughed really loudly listening to the podcast – about – tweeting while drinking. OMG – SOOOOO funny!! Great job – looking forward to future episodes. Cheers, Darlene

  40. Mary says:

    Trent, Love your blog! Love your podcast! I can’t wait to see how you progress. It shows a lot of promise. I agree with slowing down. I’d rather hear two words I can understand than four words I’m trying to figure out while you are then two sentences ahead. I like the idea of a joint podcast between you and your wife, or interviewing someone. Don’t take out the humor. It will become less stilted and more genuine with time and experience. Good job!!

  41. George says:

    As a long-time reader and fan of your writing, I’d have to agree with a number of the previous comments. The pace of the podcast was too fast, the jokes and tangents were frequent, sounded forced, and didn’t contribute to the content, and the audio seemed quite odd – it wasn’t totally mono, but the sound level was far higher on the left channel than the right.

    If this is a media form that you want to pursue, it’s a good start and I look forward to improvements in future editions. Given some practice your podcasts will reach the same level of quality as your writing.

  42. Sm4k says:

    Hey Trent,

    Glad to see your podcasts finally making it to the public. The only comments I have:

    1) I have a similar voice, and a lot of people ask me the same thing, especially after they see that I’m 6’3″ and only 175lbs.

    2) I agree about making it stereo. I was listening to it while driving and it was a little awkward to only hear the left channel.

    3) (Minor Point) when I added your feed to my Zune player, it comes up as Copyright Trent Hamm 2003-2006. I assume it’s supposed to say 9?

  43. Janie says:

    Jpod: did you ever see the show? It only lasted one season here in Canada – a lot of folks were pretty peeved it was cancelled – it was hilarious! You may still be able to download it via the CBC website:

  44. michael says:

    I finally listened.

    My only big advice would be to push the mic a few more inches away from your mouth. There were a few instances where you fuzzed the speakers. Talking a little slower might help too.

    Are you reading your podcast? Have you considered using flash cards and going with a freely spoken attempt? Could be a difference.

    I’m looking forward to the next podcast!

  45. Rob says:

    Great first effort, Trent. While there are a lot of worthwhile critiques (mono/stereo, scripted format, slow-down speech), just think of where you’ve come from your first written post. As you know, it takes time, effort, and practice, practice, practice. Keep it up. I’ll stick around and look forward to your progress.

    PS – don’t ditch the wine. I’m sure the half-drunk Tweets will be funny to reflect on five years from now ;)

  46. Johanna says:

    I don’t think reading from a script is a detrimental as some of the others seem to think. Plenty of broadcasters read from scripts (or, you know, teleprompters) and it’s fine. The difference, though, is that they don’t stick stuff like “Now, where was I? Oh yes…” into the script – unless they’re really, really good at acting. Extemporizing into a microphone is hard. Reading a prepared script into a microphone in a way that makes it sound like you’re extemporizing is also hard. Try not doing either, at least to start.

  47. Sharon says:

    Transcript is available, I hope!

  48. Jackie says:

    I would love to hear an interview with your wife on one of these podcasts– would make an interesting audio switch-up too! I think interviews are a form well-suited to podcasts– more auditory interest, added-value from blog entries because you get to hear the more informal, less edited version than might appear when it’s written down. It might help you loosen up some too, and maybe slow down, which seems to be one of the biggest concerns here.

  49. Shevy says:

    I think it was a very good first attempt. My suggestions would be:

    Fewer metaphors and jokes, with the ones you use more spaced out throughout the podcast and possibly use ones that work together in some way.

    I don’t think the speed is as much of a problem as clarity. Work on your enunciation and that might also slow you down just a notch.

    Humor that comes out of a situation is way funnier IMHO than a joke per se, which is why the part about tweeting while drinking was so funny.

    An interview or Q and A or something similar might work well and feel more comfortable to you too. Also it means you’re talking for less time, which is probably less stressful when you’re just starting out.

    But give yourself a big pat on the back! You stepped out of your comfort zone and did it. It wasn’t horrible. It didn’t suck. In fact, it was pretty good. And every one you do from now on will be easier and better.

  50. Kris says:

    Great first effort Trent. I know I would have a difficult time doing a podcast. However, I have to agree that it sounded forced and unnatural and as listeners we need to hear your passion for this. You made a comment about going off on tangents and my reply to that would be “that’s great, go off on the tangents.” I know from listening to other podcasts and from listening to the Dave Ramsey show, that sometimes the best info that really makes you think comes across when the host off on a tangent about something.

    Keep it going, I look forward to the next podcast.

  51. Michael says:

    OK, I have to admit I didn’t actually listen to it when I made my comment. I still think what I said, but now I also think you sound like the NOAA radio guy. :D Lighten up!

  52. argus says:

    it was a really weak podcast. poor, forced, monotone reading of written text, no flow, weak jokes. all in all a typical first podcast :) take this as constructive criticism and build on it

  53. Timbul says:

    As I listened, this is a summarised points of some of your writings. Clearly you should make more of this. Because I do not have that much time to read, so I prefer to listen while I do something else. Keep up the good job!

  54. Julia says:

    Just a thought – you’re so much more personable on your how-to video!

  55. Andrew says:

    I would like to know what you goal you are trying to accomplish with this podcast. It seems to me that this podcast isn’t aimed towards established readers of your blog. Is this to drive new readers to your site? Is it for those who don’t read your blog very often?

    I’ll agree with others who have commented about the quality (script reading, metaphors, etc.). However those are all things that will correct themselves with time and experience.

    My question is what is the content of this podcast going to be, and will it serve any purpose for regular readers.

  56. Eric C says:

    I just listened to the podcast and I liked it. I listen to a lot of podcasts, both by the big people and some smaller ones. My only recommendation would be to add a person into the mix, or as you said, answer questions. I’m subscribed on itunes and I’ll stay subscribed.

    Also, will you keep posting them here? It allows for discussion.

  57. christy says:

    Way to go stretching your horizons. I can give you lots of compliments and I think you know they would fall on content. I take exception that Jon Luke is the coolest bald guy- hands down-Yul Brinner in “The King & I”. Ok my suggestions will be in bullets-ouch but hopefully quick. I am critiquing hard since I don’t know you and your friends can tell you all the good points!
    -agree with reading comments, don’t read a script
    -on a voice level, your voice seems to resonate in the back of your mouth/nasal cavity. It’s deep because of your size/throat but resonates in the wrong place. Try experimenting with different sounds and bringing your voice from your gut, imitate the voice of a dj you like and feel where your voice is resonating when you do it, practice that resonation
    -quickest way to change the sound of your voice, assume the facial expression of the tone you want to sound like- warm/ friendly–smile, mean- scowl, if you see actors doing voice overs they “act” out the scene in the radio studio
    -pop references were sometimes too obscure and if you have to explain them then it gets dry, I don’t do sports so had to force myself to not shut down mentally at that point
    -imagine your target audience, sit that imaginary person/people across the table from you and then talk to them, see them disagree with you or shake their heads or however you expect them to react and respond the way you would with a live person, auditory messages need more of this than a written message
    -keep some warm water close at hand, you will get dry after speaking for that long and can usually slip in a small sip when needed, be sure to drink a glass of water before starting
    -refer back at the end to a humorous point you made earlier, listen to a good stand up routine and you will hear this and it really seats that joke/point in your mind
    Thanks for finding new ways to help people with their finances.

  58. Bobby says:

    Great effort! Using a personal anecdote to begin is a solid idea–moving forward it might be a good idea to include one in every podcast. Personalizes the advice on the whole. I also agree with the posters above that the podcast might be twice as good at the half the length. Edit, and edit some more. To the topic: Another option for those with credit card debt over $10k is credit card debt settlement. A pro can negotiate with your credit card company to reduce the balance owed. Useful for some, but not for every scenario.

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