The farmer in debt, lying awake at night, can, if he listens, her it gnaw.
If he owes nothing, he can hear his corn grow.Robert G. Ingersoll
It must be the way I was raised, but I’ve always hated being in debt. In fact, the very idea of owing anyone money stresses me out. I guess I’ve always just viewed debt as a sacrifice of your long-term freedom for short-term gratification.
Before I went to college, I created a spreadsheet that tracked how much I’d take on in student loans and devised strategies to minimize my burden. Luckily, with the support of my parents, grants, scholarships, internships, and two years as an RA, my family and I came out of it with no more than a couple of small loans.
And while I consider myself very fortunate to not be in student loan debt right now, I also attribute my current financial position to my complete and total disdain for owing anyone anything. Let me reiterate: I fucking hate debt.
Which is why I obsessed over leaving college without any. And I didn’t rest until I found creative solutions to my problem. I simply refused to let the crushing responsibility of student loan payments tie me down.
Of course I, in my infinite naiveté, assumed everyone thought this way about debt and figured most people were aware of its paralyzing nature.
Then I saw this graph:
Clearly, people are spending faster than they earn. In America, each household with a credit card carries $8,398 in credit card debt.
I have my thoughts behind what drives this behavior, but one thing is clear: this system isn’t working. If it was, the Fed wouldn’t need to print trillions of dollars just to save the economy.
Now, we can debate the pseudo-science of macro-economics for eternity, but I think the answer is actually very simple. I think we all – individually – need to consume less than we can afford to on a monthly and annual basis.
It starts small. Lead by example.
If you’re living on debt today, try to understand why.
Is it because you truly need loans in order to make ends meet? If so, there are lots of ways to cut costs, make more money, free yourself from financial woes, and increase your quality of life. Please reach out to me directly and I will be happy to assist.
Or is it because you want pleasure now, without earning it? Do you spend thousands of dollars online shopping because you need more items or because you’re bored and looking for an escape? Do you drop hundreds of dollars each week on drinks and fine dining because you love food and socializing? Or are you trying to impress someone?
I bring these questions up because these are some of the traps I get caught in. I have fallen victim to consumerism many times before and I’m sure I will again someday.
But every time I escape these pressures, I feel better. Happier. Lighter. More content. And living below my means is a trusty safeguard.
So, start by asking yourself tough questions. Find your truth. And then contemplate joining me on the dark side: the beautiful world of freedom.