Living tiny is a great way to save money and pay off debt, and my guest today did that in a radical way. $60,000 in student loan debt in just 11 months. You’ll have to listen to the episode to find out exactly how he did it and why he doesn’t recommend doing it the way that he did.

In This Episode:

  • It all started with a joke and a gift
  • How not to vanlife
  • The realities of vanlife
  • New to budgeting? Start with this advice
  • A recipe for success
  • Getting out of debt while still enjoying your life

Links and Resources:


Guest Bio:

Nickolas Natali

Nickolas Natali

Nickolas Natali paid off $60,000 in student loan debt in 11 months by living in his 1986 Chevy Suburban and skyrocketed his net worth to over $200k by 24. He now teaches others how to build wealth with easy-to-implement investing strategies and without having to live as extreme as he did.


The Nickolas Natali Show

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Tiny House Decisions is the guide that I wish I had when I was building my tiny house. And it comes in three different packages to help you on your unique tiny house journey. If you're struggling to figure out the systems for your tiny house, how you're going to heat it, how you're going to plumb it, what you're going to build it out, then tiny house decisions will take you through the process systematically and help you come up with a design that works for you. Right now I'm offering 20% off any package of Tiny House Decisions for podcast listeners. Head over to and use the coupon code tiny at checkout!


More Photos:

Nickolas lived in The Burb while he paid off student loan debt

Now, Nickolas teaches others how to eliminate their debt – without living in a car

He and his brother renovated the interior themselves


What started out as an idea for a swivel chair ended up just being a hole in the floor

Believe it or not, there was space for a Burb-mate for about 8 months!


The water tank lived on top near the spare tire

The lights made it look that much cooler at night


Nickolas Natali 0:00

I was super obsessed with getting out of debt, like that was like my main goal. And I was starving myself - not eating, not purchasing things. And I ended up losing between like 20 and 25 pounds and became malnourished during that time.

Ethan Waldman 0:15

Welcome to the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast, the show where you learn how to plan, build and live the tiny lifestyle. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman, and this is Episode 213 with Nicholas Natali. Living tiny is a great way to save money and pay off debt and my guest today did that in a radical way. $60,000 in student loan debt in just 11 months. You'll have to listen to the episode to find out exactly how he did it and why he does not recommend doing it the way that he did it. I hope you stick around.

I want to tell you about something that I think will be super helpful as you plan, design and build your tiny house. Tiny House Decisions is a guide that I wish I had when I was building my tiny house. It comes in three different packages to help you on your unique Tiny House journey. And if you're struggling to just figure out the systems for your tiny house, you know, like how you're going to heat it, how you're going to plumb it, you know, what construction technique are you going to use like SIPs or stick framing or steel framing, Tiny House Decisions, we'll take you through all these processes systematically, and help you come up with a design that works for you. Right now I'm offering 20% off any package of Tiny House Decisions for listeners of the show. You can head over to to learn more. And use the coupon code tiny at checkout for 20% off any package. Again, that's, and use the coupon code tiny for 20% off.

All right, I am here with Nickolas Natali who has paid off $60,000 in student loan debt in 11 months by living in his 1986 Chevy Suburban and skyrocketed his net worth to over 200k by the age of 24. He now teaches others how to build wealth with easy to implement investing strategies and without having to live as extreme as he did. Nickolas, welcome to the show.

Nickolas Natali 2:22

Ethan, thank you for having me. I'm very excited to be here.

Ethan Waldman 2:25

Yeah, thanks for being here. So let's just start I want I want the long version of that bio. I want the long version of of your, you know. How did you even get started on this? I would, I would call it radical debt elimination plan.

Nickolas Natali 2:42

It definitely was radical. It started my senior year of college, I went into college, actually, with the idea that I was going to have some debt, and I wanted to get my debt down low. So I was like, "I'm going to graduate early. And that should be enough." And then senior year rolled around. And I finally looked at the numbers and it said 60k. And I was like this was not what I was expecting. Maybe I should have been, you know, keeping tabs on this.

Ethan Waldman 3:08


Nickolas Natali 3:08

And as, as I stewed on it more, I was just like, $50,000 is a lot of money. Like I don't want this to follow me for the rest of my life. And so I started to think about different ideas that I could, you know, maybe implement, and one of them that kept coming up was, 'Why not live in a vehicle?' And at first, I feel like it started out as a joke, like, my family's like, "Wouldn't that be funny if you just like live in a car?" And then I was like, "Yeah, maybe that would be kind of funny." And then I was like telling professors and they were like, were suddenly getting very concerned for me, they're like, "Please do not do this. This is this is something you don't want to do." And then that made me want to do it even more. Because I was like, "Oh, I'm going to show him I can do it."

Ethan Waldman 3:45

Why? Why do you think that they didn't want you to do it?

Nickolas Natali 3:49

I think maybe just safety reasons.

Ethan Waldman 3:52


Nickolas Natali 3:52

Or I think yeah, maybe they were just concerned about like me moving into my car and then never moving out of it. I'm not sure. Maybe they thought it was gonna be like so drastic, I would never talk to anybody again. I was like, off the grid for good.

Could be any of those reasons. But what I think the real catalyst that turned it into like a real thing was I didn't have a car to live in. Like I had a Honda Accord, but it wasn't really like made for camping out. But my my sibling's, dad kind of heard about some of the scuttlebug, scuttlebug. And it was like, "Hey, if you're for real about this, if you're legit going to move into a car, I'll give you my 1986 Chevy Suburban." I don't even think it ran because he was like, "I'll give it to you, and you can live in that if you're for real about it." And so I was like, "Oh man, well, this sounds too good to pass up." So I took him up on it.

Ethan Waldman 4:52

Okay, so 98 Six Chevy Suburban. That's like, I've looked at some pictures of it on your Instagram. It's like a big white beast.

Nickolas Natali 5:01

That's exactly what it is. Yeah, it's, it's long, but it's not tall. That was the unfortunate part.

Ethan Waldman 5:08

Yeah, I mean, essentially, it looks, you might think of a Chevy Suburban now, that has a lot of headroom. But this almost looks more like a pickup truck, just that has a permanent cap on the back.

Nickolas Natali 5:20

That's exactly, it's exactly what it is. And it has this little so like the driver's row, because they had rows and the passenger row, that was like probably like six or eight inches lower. And then where I ended up putting the bed in the back rows, it was like up another like eight inches, so it shortened it even even further. So I was always having a crunch over, be real Notre Dame like.

Ethan Waldman 5:44

So it was not a great vehicle to start for a van or a house conversion, but it was free.

Nickolas Natali 5:52

It was free, and you can't pass up on free. And when my brother and I,

Ethan Waldman 5:57

Well you can, but...

Nickolas Natali 6:02

That's alright, I couldn't at that point, I write all my numbers in the negative. And I was like, "Hey, this is in the positive." My brother and I started the conversion though soon thereafter. And it was makeshift, you know, it's it's not what you see people rocking the Sprinter vans. It's very plywood in a couple of nails.

Ethan Waldman 6:22

Yeah, yeah. So talk about, you know, what, what did you do to convert it? And I think in the pictures, there's like, I can see maybe water tanks on the roof.

Nickolas Natali 6:36

That's right. So how the conversion kind of looks like is, one we made a bunch of mistakes. Those are always fun to talk about. We had this idea, originally, that the driver's seat wasn't going to be a driver's seat. It was going to be a swivel chair. We wanted to have this chair that I could turn around and kind of like, interact with all the people that I was going to have over. And so we like, I don't know if weld is the right word we sawed, I believe we sawed this giant hole where it was going to go. And then it didn't fit. So then there was just this permanent hole underneath the driver's seat forever. Like it's still there. That was a big, big mistake. And every time I drove it, it would just shoot hot asphalt air right under me. Made it so hot and terrible.

Ethan Waldman 7:26

That's the measure twice, cut once rule in effect.

Nickolas Natali 7:32

Yeah, we didn't measure at all that was really bad. And then another really poor idea on our part was we wanted to make more room, which makes sense, but we took out the air conditioner. And that also just played into like how brutal the whole experience was. But some things that we got right were we did put a power inverter in. We did have a second bed that was a couch that turned into a bed so somebody could come over and then had a little twin bed. The pantry and the water. Yes, room. Yeah. Privacy. Somebody ended up living with me for eight months in it. So it worked out nice for a little bit. But the water tank. On top. Our vision for the water tanks. Ethan was we also drilled holes, I guess that was our thing, just drilling holes into places but we drilled a hole in the top and ciphered the water down to a sink and just let gravity do its thing. So all I would have to do is refill the tank up top.

Ethan Waldman 8:29

The tanks on the roof. Nice. So you did like a gravity feed water.

Nickolas Natali 8:32

Yeah, it was great. And then it shot straight into the ground outside.

Ethan Waldman 8:36

Yeah. A lot of people do that.

Nickolas Natali 8:39

Good. Oh, I guess. Yeah, it was bad. I mean, messey but like I mean, it's

Ethan Waldman 8:44

it's a pretty self looking vehicle like because you look at it and you wouldn't think that there's necessarily someone living in it except for the water tanks. I wonder did they did they give you ever?

Nickolas Natali 8:54

They did. So my first job out of college was working for the Department of Defense and the very first day they sicked the bomb sniffing dogs on it because they're like, "You have wires on top of your vehicle." And they did a full search. That was, yeah. They're like, "Is this your vehicle?" And I was like, "I don't know. Tje dogs are sniffing it right now. Maybe it's not today."

Ethan Waldman 9:20

Yeah. Is this the your siblings father? Do you want to think about your like, oh, was my just like smuggling drugs in this van for him?

Nickolas Natali 9:31

Exactly. All the doors underneath are packed with big things of coke? No, we figured it out, I definitely should say this that I think it was stealth to the greater public but since I had a nine to five job, it soon became a problem in my my day to day work life because that was the very anti, what you should do if you get a security clearance government job They're very unhappy. Yeah.

Ethan Waldman 10:03

Why? Why are they unhappy about that?

Nickolas Natali 10:06

They launched the government investigation on me, because because they thought I was their words, "a bum that was stealing money from the government". That was their words. And so they went through everything I had ever done for that organization. Like, every email I ever sent, every text I ever sent, every message I ever sent every you know, card was that calling timecard. You put in every piece of work I've ever done, and they just pretty much tried to find dirt on me to, you know, give, give me that felon charge. I don't know if that was a real goal. But I think they were really concerned that I was taking money from them. It was a horrendous experience. But

Ethan Waldman 10:50

That sounds awful. And you think it's all because of the van or the Suburban?

Nickolas Natali 10:56

That's what they said, they're like, "You know, you drive this crazy truck. And we don't really know where you live." I was like, "I don't know why you have to know where I live. You know, I'm coming to work, and I'm doing my job."

Ethan Waldman 11:07


Nickolas Natali 11:08

And they made me like, give them a house address and all these things.

Ethan Waldman 11:15


Nickolas Natali 11:16


Ethan Waldman 11:17

That's rough. I'm sorry to hear that. You went through that. But but you stuck. You stuck with it.

Nickolas Natali 11:22

I stuck with it.

How I circumvented the whole situation was my ex girlfriend at the time, her friend gave me a call. And this is mid mid investigation, like maybe day one gives me a call and is like, "Hey, your ex girlfriend is going to go study abroad, and you need to take care of her car." It was a Toyota Corolla. And I was like, "I live in a car. There's no way on earth that I'm taking care of someone's car, especially since we're not even together anymore, you know?"

Ethan Waldman 11:56

Right. Right.

Nickolas Natali 11:57

And she's like, "That doesn't matter to me. I'm gonna come drop it off with you." And so she dropped off this Toyota Corolla, right in front of my Burb. And I have to like drive my Burb to Walmart, and then run eight miles back to get this car and then drive this thing to Walmart. And I played that game for like, maybe two weeks. But what ended up happening was I started taking the Corolla to work during the investigation. And kid you not like three days later, one of the people heading it up, came up to me and was like, "I don't know why people think you live in a car. How could you do that? You have two cars." And suddenly all these rumors disappeared. And I was like, "Okay, yeah."

Ethan Waldman 12:39

Wow. Wow. That's, that's impressive. So you just commuted in a different car. And that solved the problem.

Nickolas Natali 12:49

That solved the problem. I ended up moving into the Toyota Corolla for two months, with nothing but a towel. Because I think I at that time, I really wanted to like not have any. Give them no reasons for suspicion. But it made life even more ridiculous. And, yeah.

Ethan Waldman 13:11

So how did where did you sleep? How did that work?

Nickolas Natali 13:15

Man, I would put the back seats, I'd fold them down, and then I'd stick my legs diagonally into the trunk, and then I'd use the towel as a pillow.

Ethan Waldman 13:25


Nickolas Natali 13:25

And it was awful. And then I should probably mention part of this story wraps around, like ny crazy obsession at the time. I was super obsessed with getting out of debt. Like that was like my main goal. And I was starving myself not eating, not purchasing things. And I ended up losing between like 20 and 25 pounds and became malnourished during that time that I was doing all these things. So I was living in this Toyota Corolla. Like I was almost becoming sunken. So exhausted, undergoing a government investigation and still feeling like I had to work. You know, 60 to 80 hours a week of overtime, just burning myself into the ground.

Ethan Waldman 14:10


Nickolas Natali 14:11

But I had so much fun doing it at the same time. Like it's, it's not an experience. I look back on and be like, "Oh, man, I regret it." I was like, I loved it. It was a lot of fun.

Ethan Waldman 14:20

It sounds like type two fun.

Nickolas Natali 14:22

Yep. Yes.

Ethan Waldman 14:24

More of the fun that like you look back and you're like, "Oh, that was great."

Nickolas Natali 14:28

Yeah, and then you're like, "I can't believe this is real."

Ethan Waldman 14:31

Yeah. So I mean, all jokes all kidding aside. I mean, this is how how did you approach the paying off of the debt because the top line number is $60,000. But was that made up of like different loans? Like what did you - where did you start?

Nickolas Natali 14:50

I use the snowball method.

Ethan Waldman 14:52


Nickolas Natali 14:53

So essentially just chopped down the little guy first. I was really big on like, I needed that motivational push I needed the momentum to knock one down and keep going.

Ethan Waldman 15:05


Nickolas Natali 15:05

That was probably the biggest strategy as far as like allocating the debt, but also, every time that I got paid, I would do these two things. I'd tithe and then I put all of the money into the debt. And then I'd be like, "Okay, I have 20 bucks to eat food for the month," or whatever it is. Just do everything backwards to ensure because I knew if I like gave myself, whatever my paycheck was, I'd find a way to like spend it on everyday living.

Ethan Waldman 15:35


Nickolas Natali 15:36

But I just didn't want to, you know, I wanted to get rid of it.

Ethan Waldman 15:39

Yeah. So you did it in 11 months. $60k. And, and I think I read somewhere that, you know, your salary at that point was not that far above 60k.

Nickolas Natali 15:51

Correct. My salary starting out was $62 or $63. Somewhere around there. And that's gross. So net, I was, you know, faling well under that.

Ethan Waldman 16:04


Nickolas Natali 16:05

And that kind of pushed me to do these, like 60 to 80 hour work weeks. And I think I'm like, kind of fortunate in that way that my occupation at the time. Did hourly, overtime.

Ethan Waldman 16:14

Yeah. You had the opportunity.

Nickolas Natali 16:17

Yeah, I was young and scrappy enough to like want to do it. But it was also just countercultural to that work environment. Like it was standard to do your 40 hours a week every week. And I came in and I was like, "I'm gonna do 20 to 40 hours more than that." And yeah, never see the money

Ethan Waldman 16:37

Just and just get rid of the debt. So you know, after the debt was paid off, how much longer did you continue living in the Burb? And I love I love the name. The Burb.

Nickolas Natali 16:50

The Burb. I continued living in it for probably another year and a half to two years. or so.

Ethan Waldman 17:00

You really liked it.

Nickolas Natali 17:02

I think I liked it. And I also think that I became accustomed to it, like,

Ethan Waldman 17:06


Nickolas Natali 17:06

it really became my lifestyle. And after like the six month mark, when I first started, like I mentioned my, one of my best friends, he joined me in living in the Burb as well, because I got him a job at the same place. He had a similar amount of debt, I think he had like 30,000. And we both like, found this, like rhythm, to push each other to spend less and less and pay off our debt quicker and quicker. And he ended up paying off his debt. And then I think we had maybe like four months after we both became debt free, where we just continue to live inside the Burb and stack dough, as you know, try to get back on our feet. And somebody heard about our story, like living together and trying to do this thing together in China. And then they asked us to come to China to talk to them about living in like a Burb. And we just scared all these Chinese high schoolers to not go to college. It was I feel like we maybe did a little bit of disservice because they're like, "Where did you wash your underwear?" And we're like, "We had to do this because we went to a private college." And they're like, "Maybe college isn't for us." I'm like, I don't I'm sorry. That's not what I mean.

Ethan Waldman 18:20

That's amazing. I'm guessing you. You just threw out your underwear and bought new underwear when it got dirty. I'm kidding.

Nickolas Natali 18:28

I just flipped it inside out. I never washed it.

Ethan Waldman 18:31

Oh, gosh. Okay. Yeah, cuz you don't want to spend that like dollar on the laundromat that could go toward the debt, the debt payment.

Nickolas Natali 18:40

Dip it in the pond.

Ethan Waldman 18:42

Yep, yep. So. So you, you continue to stack dough. And at some point you you kind of transitioned from being a software engineer to being a software developer to do teaching others how to do what you did.

Nickolas Natali 18:59

Yeah, I think a lot of this could have been prevented, had I known more about personal finances. And I really learned this the hard way. Like I made a crazy, huge decision to take on so much debt at, you know, 17-18 years old. And then I really didn't have any of the skill set to properly manage that debt. Nor did I have any idea of how to manage money or even bring in income. Like all these things that are kind of like, crucial to being able to do it. So now I'm, you know, fixated on trying to help other people not have to, even if they're in the predicament of debt, like understand how to get the most out of life, have fun, be able to not feel guilty about spending things that you enjoy, but making sure that it's allocated and making sure that you're taking care of the other priorities of getting out of debt, and also putting yourself in a position where 20, 30, 40 years from now you will be fine. Like your investments will take care of you. You won't be sad and having, you know, strangers or your children come give you baths if you don't want that.

Ethan Waldman 20:13

Sounds, that sounds great.

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You know, you you talked about? I don't remember where I read it just somewhere on your website is talking about how the experience of living in the van versus what you were seeing on Instagram, you know, in the like hashtag van life influencer type space, were just like wildly different experiences.

Nickolas Natali 22:21

Yes, 100%. They absolutely are.

Ethan Waldman 22:25

And do you think that that's? Do you think that's common? Do you think that most people who choose to live really live full time in a van or vehicle like that their experiences probably aren't being represented?

Nickolas Natali 22:39

I do. I don't want to speak for everybody out there. But I do think it's absolutely glorified. Like van life, when I was in it, I was so frustrated because I was like, "I am tired. I'm exhausted. I'm sick of looking for safe places to park." And maybe it's because I was attached to this like specific location of my job. But at the same time, I think anybody living in a van experiences difficulty even if it's just searching for a bathroom. I can't tell you how many times I would run into a Starbucks just to have them you know, open their, their bathroom or even where do you store your food? Because there is probably a lot of van dwellers like myself that had a little cooler and ice only lasts for so long. So your food goes bad.

Ethan Waldman 23:24


Nickolas Natali 23:25

All these other things are never talked about you to see these very scenic photos and videos of them out overlooking nice cliffs. But really, I do think there's, you know, there's there's just as much - I don't know if hardship is the right word, but there's just as much struggle in the in the van life than is actually portrayed.

Ethan Waldman 23:45

How do you how do you like to track your expenses? Do you use a particular software or spreadsheet? Or how do you do it? And how do you teach others to do it?

Nickolas Natali 23:55

Oh, man depends on where they're at. I think a great place to start is bring a - and this is somewhat somewhat extreme- but take a little notepad, take a little pen. Anytime that you make a transaction, write it down. I think that's the first step or at least in my eyes, because suddenly you're aware of how much you're spending and how often you're spending. Because there's this other action that you're going through saying, "Okay, I just spent five bucks at Starbucks, blah blah blah." And your brain recognizes these things and it forms a habit. It's almost similar to how we've seen in studies where people who want to lose weight, instead of like telling people to go on a specific diet. They just tell them start writing down everything that you're eating, because suddenly you have a mirror that you're looking at saying, "Oh, this is actually what I'm doing. You know, I can't hide this, these purchases online, these Amazon purchases that are hitting my bank account, but if I never looked at my bank account, I'm in the clear." I think that's probably the best place to start. My personal preference is not one that I would recommend for everybody. either. I enjoy doing it very similar thing, every time I make a transaction, I'll go into a Google Sheet, and I'll write it down. I think the probably the healthiest of all of these is using a financial app. There's one that I like called Mint, it's very popular. But every time you make a transaction, you can categorize it, then you can see it on your phone, and it tracks your budget for you, essentially.

Ethan Waldman 25:22

Yep, I've used Mint for a long time. And I really love YNAB - You Need A Budget? That's my personal, my personal favorite. But But yeah, I think just being aware of what you're spending is the first step. And then like, you know, in terms of helping other people eliminate their debt. Do you have like a target that you recommend of like, "Okay, what percentage of your income are you putting towards your debt?" Or is it just different in every, you know, different cases are different.

Nickolas Natali 25:53

I think different cases are different, but I think it's always recommended, at least in my mind, to put as much as you can toward it, without, without causing yourself, you know, long term damage to your mental and emotional life. I do think, however, there's areas in our lives that we think are non negotiable, things to spend on that simply are not true. And I also think most of these conversations are less about numbers and math, which, you know, when we write things down on paper, and we see, okay, you can get out of debt, and 1112 months, 15 months, whatever it may be, it's more about the emotional side. Most of the time, it's about how people feel about money and their relationship with money for most people that, or I should say most for many people, money is a huge stressor, money brings up feelings of guilt, when they spend money is, you know, a sense of power control over, you know, maybe even their significant other. And I think it kind of takes these two steps of one for debt, making a decision to do things like to pay it off, because a decision breeds action. And then two is kind of recognizing what's your actual relationship with the money you have? You know, how do you treat it? How do you feel about it? Are you stoked on it? Are you excited? You're like, "Oh, I gotta hold on to this," or ""Oh, somebody's gonna come get it, I'm gonna have to spend it." So I think that's the place to start too.

Ethan Waldman 27:20

Nice. Yeah, many, many of my listeners have debt. And, you know, they are also faced, you know, they want to live tiny, and are faced with the unfortunate reality that it's really hard to get a loan for a tiny house. they're faced with both debt, and then the need to actually save quite a bit of money aside so that they can pay for this tiny house. What, you know, what would you recommend in that hypothetical, like, do you do tackle the debt first, and then save for the tiny house? Or do you just say, like, "Okay, I'm just going to service the debt, I'll just make the minimum payments on the debt. Granted, it's not a credit card, but like, take care of the debt and just and then save for the tiny house, and then really pay it down after I'm living tiny." It's a catch 22 In my mind, but maybe you have a an idea.

Nickolas Natali 28:12

It is a catch 22. I think my my gut is saying that you should always try to pay down the debt first, before you pretty much accrue more debt. Because it sounds like the mortgage isn't necessarily like a necessity. Right? If you have the power to pay down the debt that you currently have, you can do that. And obviously, you have to make some sacrifices along the way. But I bet for most people, they'll feel way more comfortable or at least be in a better financial situation. If they pay down their debt, then saved then got the tiny house, then stack some fat cash, andstart investing.

Ethan Waldman 28:47

Yeah, so that's that's like, investing piece is like the next piece of this puzzle for you. Because, you know, that's what allows, that's what allows the little guy to kind of tap into something bigger and actually build wealth.

Nickolas Natali 29:01

Yeah, 100%. And I think the word investing can kind of be intimidating to a lot of people, but my, I have a very simple, easy approach to investing. I invest in index funds, their low expense ratio index funds that pretty much track the performance of the market. And they pretty much match a 10 to 11 or 12% ROI over the years. And it's easy, it's pretty passive. And I think my encouragement to anybody listening is, you know, post debt life, it can really only take you 20 to 25 minutes setting up an account in Vanguard finding a index fund that follows the s&p 500 setting up automatic investments, or, you know, 500 bones a month to max out your Roth every year, and that over 20 years, four years, almost pretty much I won't say almost I mean it pretty much as we've seen it time and time again guarantees that we are millionaire by the time you're ready to retire.

Ethan Waldman 30:05

That's awesome. Now, is that similar a similar concept to the F.I.R.E. movement, that Financial Independence? Early Retirement? I mean, if you get if you get to that point where you can retire on the investments, I suppose it is.

Nickolas Natali 30:22

Yeah. 100%? Yeah, I think I think it's similar in the sense of like, when somebody is in debt, they put as much of their things, much of their percentage of their income into their debt, I think F.I.R.E. in my mind is taking a very similar approach to get to a certain number in your mind. And investing for putting that percentage down until that number happens. I think for me, in my mind, my number is 2 million bucks. I think that's, that's my fire number. Because if you take 4%, and the 4% rule is, you know, has some people have a lot of different opinions on it. But essentially, you could take 4% of your investments each year, and still be able to have your investments grow over time, and you'll never run out of money, essentially. And that would give you like, 80,000 bucks, 60s, around $80,000 every year.

Ethan Waldman 31:13

So when you say $2 million, you mean $2 million? Like, in in principle?

Nickolas Natali 31:21

Like, yeah, invested in index funds that are gonna continuously grow. And I can just snag a little tiny bit from it.

Ethan Waldman 31:28


Nickolas Natali 31:28

Every now and then when I need it.

Ethan Waldman 31:30

Yeah, that's cool. And I mean, sounds like you're, you're on your way to doing it. Do you have a like, you have a target age that you're you're going for?

Nickolas Natali 31:40

You know, that's, that's a great question. My target age for those finance goals is 30. But as of recently, I feel like I'm, as much as that is still a goal for me. And I will be pursuing that wholeheartedly. I think my mindset mindset is shifted a little bit in the sense of, now my goal is more so about, there's, there's let me say this, there's a guy that I know, and he calls it Impact Billionaires. More of my mindset is switched to serving as many people as possible. And his his coin of Impact Billionaires is like people who are investing to serving other people. And those people are able to serve more people. And it's just this continuous flood of things that, you know, make the world a much more sustainable and better place overall. But 30 is my number. But I also want to have it paired with the idea that there's so much more than just accruing wealth for accruing wealth's sake.

Ethan Waldman 32:37

Yeah. Yeah. That's really cool, I think. And that also, probably makes it easier to accrue wealth when you feel like you have a purpose behind it.

Nickolas Natali 32:48

Yeah, and I think that's the biggest problem with since the problem that's the biggest emphasis and paying off debt or investing or anything that we do any goal starts with a why. Right? If your why isn't strong enough, you're not going to be motivated to do it. When your why isn't strong enough. The days where it feels hard, you're not going to do it. So if there is no purpose, like you're saying, there is no something that gives you that fire in your stomach, fire in your belly to do something.

Ethan Waldman 33:15


Nickolas Natali 33:15

Then it's not going to go on. So for debt or for any financial reason, or living in a tiny home. That why has to be incredibly strong.

Ethan Waldman 33:24

Yeah, yeah. Well, maybe one of the purposes for you is is your podcast, the Nickolas Natali Podcast? Can you tell us about it?

Nickolas Natali 33:36

Yeah, absolutely. We have a tagline of entertaining or sorry, interviewing entertainers, experts and entrepreneurs to live a more fulfilling life and level up your business. And it's essentially just asking people who have either gone through something really challenging how they got through it, or talking to people who have successful businesses and saying, "Hey, what are the things that you did right? And what are the things that you did wrong? And how can we implement that in our own lives to push ourselves forward?"

Ethan Waldman 34:06

That's really cool. Because it's a it's like, I feel like if you were trying to just make a podcast about getting out of debt or about investing, you've probably run out of steam sooner than later. But you've been going now for what three years? Two years? Three years?

Nickolas Natali 34:23

Yeah, I think I think I started in either, yeah, late 2018. Ish. So we're, we're right around there.

Ethan Waldman 34:30

Yeah. Episode One Do you have maybe there are a couple recent episodes that you know, ones that stand out for you that you you'd like to tell our listeners about?

Nickolas Natali 34:42

Sure. I think I'll stand out one that first comes to my mind is we just had somebody on named Austin Beals, and he has this story of he had this head fungus? This like dandruff? But like extreme dandruff if it's called like psoraric something or other. What he did was he created the serum in his kitchen, and then found a bunch of other people that struggle with this crazy head fungus. And then he supplied the serum to them. And now he has a profitable business. And I think it's just such a good example of two things, one, using your own story and the things that you go through to help other people that are on the same road.

Ethan Waldman 35:24


Nickolas Natali 35:24

And two, as far as business perspective goes, one understanding who the audience you serve is, like, at their core level, like understanding like, what it feels like to have head fungus, or even like what it feels like to build your tiny house out perfectly, like really understand them, and then focus on them completely to serve them well.

Ethan Waldman 35:45

Yeah. Very cool. Very cool. That's, that sounds like an awesome story. I'm looking forward to giving that one a listen.

Nickolas Natali 35:53

Please let me know what you think.

Ethan Waldman 35:54

Yeah, yeah, well, I will do that. So

you have an online course? Which, just like the names of these things are awesome. Get Out of Debt Like A Maniac or GOODLUM?

Nickolas Natali 36:12

That's right. That's exactly it. Yeah.

Ethan Waldman 36:14

Nice. And so that, like, what, you know, if I signed up for that course, what like, what am I in for? What is that gonna help me do? Or is it gonna teach me?

Nickolas Natali 36:24

Oh, that's gonna teach you everything from want getting out of debt, like a maniac, of course, but to managing your money in a way that's going to prepare you for the rest of your life. And three, hopefully relieving most of that stress that we feel around it. You know, it's one thing to pay off your debt, but it's another thing to feel stressed the entire time you do it.

Ethan Waldman 36:44


Nickolas Natali 36:45

I think the course has a has a big emphasis on, you're not going to sacrifice the joy you have in this life in order to pay off your debt. Yeah, we have, I have found a way to pay off my debt really quickly. And I talk exactly how to do it without when I'm talking about being now malnourished or any of those things. But also the fact that you can enjoy so much more life when you kind of flip things on their head and say, you know, I can prioritize my finances and also prioritize my relationships. Because now suddenly, I'm not relying on having to spend an expensive meal just to see my friends. It's like, hey, there's so many other substitutes. Like we can go on a hike. And now we can enjoy enjoy the outdoors, or, you know, we can do any of these other not high expense activities, and still do things right. Also, there's things about credit in there, get your credit, right Things about how to pay off your debt best. There's resources for you to use, like, all of the budgeting, spreadsheets, things like that. So anything you would need to get your debt paid off. It has it in there.

Ethan Waldman 37:51

Yeah. So like, if you want to do what Nikolas did you want his help doing? It? Sounds like that's the place. That's the place to go.

Nickolas Natali 37:58

Exactly. That's perfect. Ethan, I like that.

Ethan Waldman 38:01

All right, use that.

Nickolas Natali 38:04

I'm gonna pull on Oprah. Everybody look under their seats. There's a course ready for you.

Ethan Waldman 38:08

Ooh. So one thing that I like to ask all my guests is what are two or three resources that either inspired you or helped you on your kind of personal journey that you would like to share with our listeners? Resources could be books, YouTube channels, movies, people. Open ended.

Nickolas Natali 38:32

Yeah, I love that. I got the first one for you. And then I'll find the second one along the way. The first one is a book we all know and love. The 4-Hour Workweek. Tim Ferriss. A classic.

Ethan Waldman 38:44


Nickolas Natali 38:44

This one inspired me for a few reasons, I think. And this isn't like the direct emphasis of the book. But I think we all internally have, have some limited beliefs about what we think can be accomplished. And I think what this book does is kind of say, you know, if you are willing to think differently, and if you're willing to kind of identify what those limiting beliefs are, that you have, you can suddenly open up this entire world of new opportunity, you can take back your time, while being able to still do the things that you can take back your time while still earning enough income to sustain yourself and do the things that you love to do. So that's the first first one, the second inspiration, man.

Ethan Waldman 39:31

It doesn't have to be two, it can just be...

Nickolas Natali 39:33

There has to be two. Ethan, there has to be two. I'm gonna say the second inspiration for me is probably my brother Daniel. You know, not everybody has my brother Daniel as an inspiration, but I'm going to tell you about him. He's the one that helped me build out this camper

Ethan Waldman 39:49

He's the one that cut the giant hole in the floor.

Nickolas Natali 39:51

Yeah, that's why I'm inspired by him. He just saw to anything. Really. He was an example of kind of like the the integrity that I think I probably needed to see at a very specific time in my life. And through that I've been able to learn and know for myself that integrity is such a valuable part of our lives and crucial to doing anything well, you know, because when it comes down to turning a quick buck for something, or doing it the right way, not cutting corners, it's always going to be the right way not cutting corners, and that's been invaluable.

Ethan Waldman 40:29

Awesome. Oh, that's a that's a very touching place to leave it. Nicholas Natali, thank you so much for being a guest on the show today.

Nickolas Natali 40:38

Thank you for having me. Ethan. You are a tremendous host. I think everybody should listen and give you five stars on all their all the reviewing platforms, Spotify, Apple. Give him the best reviews. Ethan, you're great.

Ethan Waldman 40:49

I agree.

Thank you so much to my guest, Nickolas Natali for being a guest on the show today. You can find the show notes, including a complete transcript, links to Nicholas's website and more at Again, that's Well, that's all for this week. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman, and I'll be back next week with another episode of the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast.

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