Very often people think of being in debt as a bad thing, I don’t necessarily think that is true. Debt can definitely be a burden if we can’t afford to make our payments, but we can learn many financial lessons from getting into debt as well as getting out of it. We may have got into debt because we were financially irresponsible (or at least I did), but paying of our debt(s) makes us financially responsible.
Paying off my debt definitely sucks. I can think of many other things that I would rather do with my monthly payments, but I guess that is the price I paid for learning the hard way. I don’t regret getting into debt, although I definitely don’t recommend it. I wish that I could have learned to be financially responsible without carrying thousands of dollars of debt; but unfortunately I have yet to see “Introduction to Personal Finance” being taught in elementary schools and high schools (although I am trying to work on it).
How did you learn your financial responsibility?
As a kid I had to help out around the house and I definitely had to do chores, but I never really had to work for my money until my parents decided to get divorced. Money was just kind of always around when I was a kid. As I grew older and I didn’t have enough money to buy all of the things that I wanted, I used my Credit Cards to buy them. Unfortunately this bad habit helped me accumulate thousands of dollars in debt with high interest rates at a very young age.
I was making minimum payments on all of my Credit Cards and I was not worrying about the interest costs. As soon as I made a payment and my credit became available again I was out spending money and maxing out my Credit Cards. This bad behaviour went on for several years until one day I decided that enough is enough.
How did you get out of debt?
I continued working two jobs throughout University and after graduation I decided to get my finances in order. I set up regular biweekly payments to all of my Credit Cards. My primary financial strategy was to make the largest payments on to the Credit Cards with the highest interest rates and the largest balance. I stopped lending money to friends and I stopped offering to pay for meals. I started tracking every single penny that I earned and spent. I also set a “get out of debt” target date.
Nowadays if I can’t afford to buy something I think twice about how much I really want it. If I can live without the item then I just forget about it. However if I really want it then I save up to buy it. But usually I decide that I don’t really need or want the item. I admit that living without everything I want really sucks, but it’s a lot better than being thousands of dollars in debt.
Subconsciously, maybe this is why I enjoy renting and don’t want to buy a home. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to have a mortgage. I know that buying a home can be a good investment, and I know that people think that renting an apartment is throwing away money. But if I can’t mentally cope with being thousands of dollars in debt how am I going to mentally manage being hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt?!
Photo by Tom Newby