YouTube secrets to becoming Debt-Free revealed

An observant viewer just posted the following query on my video highlighting the story of how our family became debt-free (not including our mortgage) to the tune of almost $55,000 in only 9 months:

The numbers don't add up, $55k in 9 months is $6k a month, that's a lot more than cutting back on starbucks/cable etc.

One of the reasons (in my opinion) that Dave (e.g. Dave Ramsey) asks about household income / what did you sell, is that it inspires others to make the bigger sacrifices to pay things off (e.g. sell that awesome car, etc.).

So if you care to share, what did you sell?

Good job and great video, loved it.

It's true that Starbucks and Cable TV cuts alone won't save $6k per month, but i didn't think that explaining the difference between whole life and term insurance would've made for a particularly interesting video! We actually didn't sell anything like cars or real estate, but we did benefit from consolidating assets and paring down other financial vehicles like insurance products.

Here are some of the other factors that went into our massive debt-elimination program:

  • Consolidating savings/investing accounts - we had monthly withdrawals of about $200 going into a Morgan Stanley money market account, but never ended up actually investing the money - things would accumulate a bit, then we'd have to withdraw down to pay for this credit card bill or that late fee. By stopping those silly monthly payments, we were able to focus on a more simplified income/outgo overview. We closed the $2000 money market that was sitting around at Morgan Stanley and used that money to pay down our debts instead.

  • Switching from whole life insurance to term insurance - this was actually a biggie. Whole life is supposed to add an 'investment' package of sorts to your life insurance, adding so-called 'value' over time. Dave Ramsey explains that once you factor in all the policy's fees, the actual rate of return on the money is pretty horrible - worse than regular bank savings account, if i recall correctly. Closing our whole life enabled us to collect a lump sum of $12,000, as well as saving over $100 per month for the cost of the insurance itself.

  • Going GEICO - yes, i hate to sound like that silly green gecko, but switching auto insurance policies actually saved us a bundle! Upon reviewing our car insurance packages, i saw that we were pretty bloated with extra 'goodies' - by paring down to the bare minimum for coverage, we were able to save about $300/month.

  • Temporarily stopping retirement contributions - for 9 months, i halted my contributions to my 403B retirement plan at Curtis. That saved about $400 per month - once we cleared our credit card/home equity loan debts, i immediately reinstated the 403B.

  • Let's see - that brings the monthly savings to $200+100+300+400=$1000. Multiply that by 9 months = $9000. Add the $2000 from the extra money market at Morgan Stanley and the $12,000 from the whole life insurance and the total debt-attack fund so far comes to $23,000. Add in other major budget saving factors like the ones i described in the video and others like grocery savings and the cancellation of other subscriptions (such as my beloved and my own membership at a premium gym), and i think you could add another $1000/month to the pie, bringing the total to $32,000.

    The remainder came from some terrific bonuses from my wife's job (she's a physician) and some amazing influxes of work for me (extra recording projects, concerts, and work for the Philadelphia Orchestra). It seems to be really true that once you start 'getting smart' with your money, then more money tends to flow in much more easily.

    Even without the hefty work bonuses, it's easy to see how we could've knocked out the full $55K in just under 2 years (as we originally planned, by the way). Hope these extra details are helpful as you plan your own exit strategy from the debt-mines!

    Just for fun, here's the video that the above commenter was referring to one more time (it aired on the "Dave Ramsey" TV show, btw) :

    [ 04 June, 2008 ] • [ Hugh ] •[ ] •[ Link to this article ]

    Business-Busy Blogroll

    So sorry for the delay in updating posts - even with the school year finished at Curtis, things have been incredibly busy for me!  The blessing and the bane of the working musician is that we are conditioned to grab work at every opportunity, given the transient nature of our art coupled with the uncertainty of never knowing for sure when that next job offer will appear.  When things load up, boy - they really load up!

    One task for this new website that i haven't been able to get around to earnestly has been to link up with like-minded blogs and web articles dealing with finances for musicians and sundry business aspects of our art.  Here's a short list of some interesting links that merit addition to your RSS blog reader:

    • The Collaborative Piano Blog - this is one of the very finest classical music blogs out there, written by Dr. Chris Foley.  He covers the gamut of artistic and practical issues for pianists who love to collaborate with others - be sure to check out his articles on collaborative piano career options, his fascinating poll on rehearsal/coaching rates (in US $), as well as his article on Musicians as Entrepreneurs (which subsequently links to two terrific articles - one by Kerry Miller of Business Week, the other by Valerie Kampmeier from Free2Create).
    • "M is for Money, N is for Ninth" - this is a terrific article by Joe Queenan from the music section of the U.K. Guardian that gives a neat overview of the financial travails of history's greatest classical musicians.  Sobering, yet amusing, to say the least!
    • "The Business Side of Classical Music" - this is a video interview with Charlotte Lee, an artist manager with IMG (we had an opportunity to meet a few times several years ago when she was working with Lang Lang - i wonder if she remembers me!).  She gives some terrific insights into what's involved with working from the management side of the business.  Several other video clips by Charlotte are available if you look along the left menu bar, with topics ranging from starting a career in the arts to aspects involved with maintaining a long life in the music business.
    • - the above clip, btw, is hosted by, a terrific informational resource for working musicians, with knowledge bases and video tutorials covering marketing, production, legal issues, education, careers, and many, many more music-related subjects.  You can even find a video master class series on jazz! 
    • - this site is mainly geared towards rock and pop bands, but i'm convinced that classical musicians can gain a lot of invaluable information from our artistic brethren in the more 'mainstream' genres.  Some helpful articles include the series on "100 ways to promote your music", "Selling your music online", and "Raising Finance for an Album" (which gives a fascinating example of 'micro-financing' through sites like - believe it or not, there are already classical musicians represented there too!)
    • Other micro-financing music sites include (otherwise known as Calabash) and - the idea with micro-financing (a la is to enable musicians to enlist the investment of fans in small amounts to help produce their music. 
    • - in addition to providing a terrific web-based music studio management system, also provides an immensely informative blog on the business of teaching music lesson privately.  They've enlisted a great roster of blog authors who contribute regularly, covering recent subjects such as "Helpful Hints on Expanding your Studio" and "Economic woes posing challenges to private music teachers".
    • Careers in Music - this site is provided by MENC: The National Association for Music Education, and gives a comprehensive list in 16 categories of music careers, ranging from Music Education to Performing Arts Medicine and Music Technology.  Salary ranges, prerequisite social/knowledge/skills and recommended educational training suggestions are listed for each category.  A terrific resource for younger students/professionals looking for viable music career options!
    • Bob Baker's Indie Music Promotion Blog - this gentleman has been blogging since 2004, giving sagely advice and news to indie musicians on all aspects of marketing and self-promotion. 
    • The Muse's Muse - a mega-resource for songwriters, both beginners and professionals.  It's a busy site, with everything ranging from artist spotlights to music software resources, message boards, insider news and toolkits for the aspiring muse. 


    Whew!  See what a little bit of surfing will turn up?  I'll be sure to post more links as i run across them - send me a shout out if you have some recommendations of your own!

    [ 03 June, 2008 ] • [ Hugh ] •[ ] •[ Link to this article ]