Get out and stay out. Or better yet, never get in.
I know that’s easier said than done, but I’m convinced that it is the key to having the freedom to become the person you were meant to be. I don’t think any of us flourish and self-actualize while weighed down with debt. Instead we are usually trapped by it.
That our society has become addicted to credit and debt is hardly debatable any more. And the consequences of all that debt are evident in the economic trainwreck we’re experiencing right now. Because the solution to too much debt is not more debt, it is likely the next inevitable meltdown will be much worse.
But all that is just abstract theory. Think of the people we know who have been diligent about not becoming indebted, or who have worked their way out of debt and then stayed out. Those folks have choices most people don’t have these days. They have a degree of freedom most people only dream about.
Cherie and I have always hated debt. I came out of school with about $20,000 in debt–a staggering sum to me in 1985. We had to borrow the money to buy our first house–adding to our debt load. But while our friends were splurging on luxuries (or just shopping and going out to restaurants several times a week) we were paying off my student loans as fast as we could and sending any extra money we had to pay down the mortgage faster. Friends ridiculed me for trying to pay off my low interest mortgage. There were times when it seemed like the mountain was too high to climb, and we’d never get it done. But it did come.
We haven’t paid a cent in interest in many years. We don’t intend to ever do so. We only buy things we can afford with the money we have.
Because we are debt-free we have a degree of freedom we would never have if our lives required that we come up with enough money every month to pay those from whom we have borrowed.
I don’t put this out to pat myself on the back. Being out of debt is nothing to brag about. It should be the norm. Just a generation ago it was a shameful thing to be in debt. Now teenagers get credit cards.
I’m putting it out there because of something I heard on a Farm Dreams podcast. It was advice to aspiring farmers–folks who want to quit the urban rat race, move to the country and start farming. For many folks that is just impossible. They have debts they can’t service on the limited income of a small farm. The podcast gave the same advice I’m giving here–get out of debt and stay out. When people buy things on credit, they are trading future labor for current consumption. They are spending the income from work they haven’t yet done. Spending income they haven’t earned yet forces them to earn that income later and leaves them less of it to spend when they do earn it. Don’t be seduced into buying things you can’t afford and then not being able to follow your dreams. Tim and Liz, who run Nature’s Harmony Farm and are the podcasters, did it. The point if this post is to say that we did it too. It can be done.