Why Living In Debt Makes Us Happy

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Why Living In Debt Makes Us Happy

It seems to be a prerequisite of modern life: debt.  That beautiful four letter word that haunts us throughout our lives on this earth.

If you’re like most people – you’re probably in debt, and a hell of a lot of it.  Unfortunately, I’ve also wandered naively into the jaws of the debt monster, who jabbed a massive $10,000+ student debt loan into my derrière.

But after some reflection, analysis and a bit of light reading, I realize something interesting about debt.  Debt is really brought about by a mindset more than anything.

This mindset determines what you choose to do with your money, and consequently how you will live your life for the next 50 years.

So what exactly is this shockingly mysterious yet amazingly obvious mindset …?

Debt Called Me A Sheeple

Deep down, what motivates our desire to get diploma’s, cars, houses, pets, gadget’s, gizmo’s and extra bells and whistles to what we own?

Our desire to be normal.

We want to be like everyone else deep down – naturally, it’s the best way to feel accepted in society and fit in.  So why not do what everyone else does?  Why not buy, spend, purchase and own constantly?  If everyone else does it, it must be the best way to go, right?

Wrong.  Although it may seem reasonable to buy a car, purchase a house, and get a massive student loan to live a practical and purposeful life, in essence, we’re condemning ourselves to a life of slavery.  A life of debt paying.  A life of 9-5 work.  A life of constant repayments.

So much for retiring when we’re 40.  The word “retirement” is now synonymous with “start working at 18, retire at 65 and drop off the perch a few years later”.

So why do we fill our lives with so much crap?  If you’ve ever read up on minimalism, the art of living with less, you realize that most of the stuff we own is superfluous.  We don’t need 20 shirts, 7 pairs of jeans, 15 pairs of shoes, 2 dogs, 2 cars, 150 nick knacks, or 31 different colognes.

When we get a paycheck, we don’t need to go out and purchase the latest iPod, use it on fancy meals or spend it on lavish clothing.

Have you noticed how tempting it is to spend a nice juicy paycheck?  If you’re like most people, the temptation to buy is too much to bear.  Simply walking through a shopping mall is enough to make our fingers fiddle and our eyes twitch.  We want that set of silver plated potato peelers.  We want that set of Tweety bed linen.  We want that family of Swedish garden gnomes on special for $9.95.

We want, we want, we want.

We’re rather like obese chocolate fanatic Augustus Gloop from the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory story.  We need more and more things to fill up our proverbial bellies.

“Things” seem to act as existential gap-fillers in that they make us happy.  They momentarily appease our thirst for wholeness.

So we end up buying and draining our bank accounts, and living off the next paycheck, and living for the thrill of the “purchase”.  No wonder we’re all in so much debt.  Not only is it common, and accepted in society, but it gives our lives a meaning and direction when there was none.

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Debt Is My Meaning In Life

With all the work we do, to get more money, to buy more things – it’s no wonder that many of us lack any real meaning, direction or passion in life.  We simply have no time!

We’re too busy working.

We have no time to discover what we really want, who we really are, and what will really make us happy.  So obtaining “stuff” and “things” becomes our passion, and paying off debt becomes our meaning and direction.

After all, we need a meaning to get out of bed, no matter how superficial.

Debt Regret

I’m a firm believer in the curative properties of deeply felt regret.

True regret makes you change.  True regret makes you fight to not make the same mistakes as you once did.

That’s why one of the best things that I ever did in my life was to look at my total salary earnings for the past year, and see how much I saved.  Oh boy.

The next step I found helpful in the “debt regret” stage was to look at all the stuff I had, and see how much of it was actually needed or necessary.  For me?  Not very much at all.  Oh dear.

And the third step was to reflect on how much I could have saved towards financial freedom, but didn’t.  This was perhaps the hardest stage because upon reflection, you realize just how many extra days, months and years of work you’ve added to your life due to your frivolous spending.  Not nice.  But necessary.

At this point in time, being jobless, I’m learning the hard way.

Living Differently

Living debt free is a trial and error practice.

I encourage you to be eccentric and think about how you can live differently from other people.

Could you do without a car, and catch public transport instead?  (Apparently owning a car costs the average American around $9,000 a year).  Could you do without a lot of the clothing you have stashed away?  Or without certain types of expensive food?  Could you even do without a house, living in a small apartment or caravan instead?

What ways can you downsize your exterior life, and upsize your interior life?

I’d love to hear any stories, opinions or recommendations that you have!

Photo by: R00dy


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  • Zane

    What an intriguing article! I’m only 20 years old and i’m already writing my major life goals. One of my major goals in life is to avoid going into debt. I am strongly opposed to the 9 to 5 and I am strongly opposed to the Rat Race. I refuse to own a mortgage and i will live rent-free and mortgage-free.

    • http://lonerwolf.com/luna/ Aletheia Luna

      That is a smart life goal Zane, and in our society: one very hard to avoid! BUT it is achievable! You only need to be aware and conscious of what you do, who you give your money to, and the impact long-term decisions (big and small) will have on your life.
      Thank you for commenting!

  • William

    The cost of rent is on the rise now and will probably go even higher. Rent can often cost more then a mortgage. If you are a partial home owner (have paid down on your mortgage) then you could have the flexibility of downsizing your home and getting a 10 or 15 year mortgage. If you own nothing, then you could look in to starting in a rural area. Cities are designed for debt. Research modular homes, pole barn homes, shipping container homes. You will likely need to be outside city/town limits to be allowed to build these style homes.

    Living outside of a city/township can void any public transportation, but no fear. $9K a year for a car? You can buy a very reliable used car for that and run MUCH less cost. The last car I bought was $6350 at a steelership and it was a Toyota sports car with 75K miles. I plan on owning it till it becomes a pile of junk and it gets over 30 miles to the gallon. Learn to be a mechanic. Start with oil changes and spark plug changes. Now, some people have zero mechanical skills, so maybe not everyone can do it, but if you can, a decent set of starter tools cost less then one repair at a shop, so get your hands dirty and start saving money. You might find out you enjoy it too. If your really daring, look in to old Mercedes diesels and bio-diesel. It could be possible to own a car for a grand or less a year depending on how far you have to go.

    • http://lonerwolf.com/luna/ Aletheia Luna

      Thank you for your advice William, particularly in regards to owning a home/car. I love the idea of building a “tiny house” on a small piece of land. Also, I use public transport all the time, which saves a whole lot of money. While it isn’t as convenient, it sure is more unique, challenging and provides you with more exercise each day.

  • Blackfish

    I had to get rid of all debts. Including my biggest, my home (actually, it belonged to the bank). We never really own our homes. They don’t call it a “mortgage” (death note) for nothing.

    I feel so much better now. I can travel, go where I want, when I want. I’m in Hong Kong right now, on a trip,writing this; “embracing uncertainty”, if you will.

    I like this sooooooo much better than debt!

    • http://lonerwolf.com Aletheia Luna

      Blackfish, that is awesome to hear! Congratulations :).
      All the best with your new found freedom!

    • Raynebow

      Blackfish, I’m just curious…how did you do it? I’m a seventeen-year-old senior planning to go to college, but once I get out, I plan to travel the world on sheer will and prayer, I don’t know how to accomplish that though, so I was wondering if you can give me some tips.

  • Jacob Franklin

    Interesting article. You’re very “awake”, as they say.

    We’re living in a truly sick and ugly culture. Like other nations before it, America will either self-destruct or be invaded as punishment for the many evils found within her. But until that day, all we can do is spread the truth.

    • http://lonerwolf.com Luna

      Thank you Jacob. Unfortunately, we’re somewhat responsible for our current sick and ugly society. All we can work towards is a higher form of awareness, and an appreciation of self-study and self-awareness that will help cure the society we’ve helped, in part, to build. Thanks for reading. :)

  • Tessa Coker

    It is called retail therapy and when you get rid of other addictions in your life, it rears its ugly head… Caravan here I come!

    • Tessa Coker

      Found this poem in Elaine Aron’s newsletter just now!

      Making Ends Meet by Fiona Gyde

      I have spent all my words
      And in return–
      The need to retreat
      To save up again
      Broken and penniless
      I’m in debt to myself
      To Those
      Who would still
      Like me
      To spend.

      • http://lonerwolf.com/ Luna

        This is an excellent find …. thanks so much for sharing!

    • http://lonerwolf.com/ Luna

      Retail therapy is absolutely the breeding place of debts (lots and lots of it). I’d love to try living in a caravan for a year – we share the same dream!

  • Alberto T.

    “Never use money to measure wealth, son.” ~Robert Duvall in film, Broken Trail

    • http://lonerwolf.com/ Luna

      Great quotes Alberto :)

  • dewdroppings

    I have just started following a couple who have sold their conventional lifestyles and now travel full time. They are in the Galapagos at the moment. I share a birthday with Amerigo Vespucci and Yuri Gagarin so I plan to do the same in a few years. I blog to describe the experience of being a hermit and have named my blog Week of the Loner 3-19 March on wordpress. Blogging about being different is fun. I just got my firdt follower, an African American author. Cool.

    • http://lonerwolf.com/ Luna

      Dewdroppings, thanks for dropping by :) Sounds intriguing, I’ll check it out! Thanks for sharing.

      • dewdroppings

        Don’t forget to google Week of the Loner on wordpress. My other blog on surviving cancer naturally has thousands of views . The new one is well- new