Why Living In Debt Makes Us Happy

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living in debt

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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  • Shelly

    I have to have a car. There is no public transportation in many places here in the USA. However, I have very little of anything else! It’s crazy the amount of stuff people have and stuff, perfectly good stuff ,people throw away to buy more stuff! We live in an apartment complex have been dumpster diving for a couple of years now. We have found and given away numerous vacuum cleaners, clothes,shoes,pots and pans, comforters and on and on.

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

      Dumpster diving is always something I’ve wanted to try more seriously. Good on you for thinking differently. ;)

  • Dan

    I think buying a small cheaper end motorbike was one of the best choices I’ve ever made, not just financially but overall lifestyle as well.

    4 years ago I picked up 250CC bike in relatively good condition for $3000 $AU. Gets me everywere I need to go and I spend all of $15 a fortnight on fuel – 12 litre tank, get ~400km of travel distance out of it. Just about everyone else I know who owns a car spends more than $60 a week on fuel. Insurance and rego costs me less than half that of most cars too.

    Hunted around for people selling 2nd hand parts and managed to get a good condition rear luggage rack and small storage box for $90 (buying them new was close to $500). Can usually carry around all the gear i need each day with space left over, enough to carry a decent amount of food when I go shopping, though small enough that it also limits me from buying too much (further encouragement to only buy what I need).

    It’s a solitary form of transport and one is a little more exposed to natural elements, but as an Introvert I find these qualities rather appealing. One of the most enjoyable experiences I have these days is a nice relaxing cruise along the country roads where there is very little traffic.

    I’ve also got a few plans for my own home at some point down the track. I intend to be as self sufficient as possible. I will definitely have solar power, and wind power too if the location is suitable enough for it. A rain water tank is mandatory too – I have lived off tank water for several years at my parents house and it is always fresh and pure (I can no longer stand city/piped water, even when filtered). Having my own power and water suplly will eliminate many of the expensive bills that are hitting people hard these days. Also have plans for a big garden for herbs and vegies plus an orchard too.

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

      You have some pretty exciting plans Dan! :) Isn’t it a relief to know that it IS possible to live debt free — it just depends on your mindset.

  • AndyAE

    I just wanted to say thank you for everything you do. I managed to find this site months ago and then forgot about it, but that is the best part because I got to find it all again. I also wanted to say that using some of the tips you gave on the article called “Living on Cloud 9″ and they’ve be a really great help because I was bullied to the point of developing ptsd throughout most of school and I have bad social anxiety, visual hallucinations, and a bunch of other stuff making even opening the front door to let my dog out terrifying. So I noticed while reading this article and listening to music that I can open the door and even not freak out all the time and constantly look behind me, so I wanted to take that time to deeply thank you for everything you and Mateo write on here because (without sounding too dramatic) it’s really giving me a chance to live without fear. Of way too much. So again I wanted to say thank you because your site has just helped me so much. Thank you.

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

      AndyAE — thank YOU! It is such a pleasure to know that the hard work we both put into the articles we write helps to make ripples of change in the lives of others, such as yourself. I hope our work can continue to help you heal. I know what constantly suffering from anxiety is like (as a once chronic sufferer myself), so it is wonderful to know that my lessons can help you.

      Warm wishes!

  • The Black Wolf

    Money to me has no value. When I started working I had no desires to spend a paycheck instead I’ve saved up my money. I’ve seen my father put value upon money over anything else. I’ve grew up hurt by the amounts of money we make.. Not by how little, but by how much. Looking for help and aid I’ve been shot down because I don’t qualify. I don’t want debt. I don’t want to live for a paycheck.

    When I spend my money its usually on helpful items. Everything i’ve purchased has been used, most of it antique. I purchase things I use. I purchase tools. Materialistic things that help me expand and have history to them. The old lincoln welder the harley davidson chopper builder used for 20 years to repair bikes I purchased he gave everything I needed to continue telling me even if I repair one axe head with it’s worth it because I did it. I use the welder to repair an antique propane stove from the 1920’s my father snapped in half. I’m tempted to hide it away since my parents never use it. Would be good for a den.

    I like things that have soul, or allow me to create. I’ve walked three city blocks in 0F degree weather carrying a ww2 typewriter a family friend allowed me to rescue from her attic, she also gave me her husbands old korean war military shirt. I do enjoy material things but not the new ones. I enjoy things that show time and don’t…pollute the energies. The wear and tear and marks of time on an object shows its pride. People want everything new. I want everything old.I want pieces to be humble and share with me their stories. I feel the energies of everything. The old items of the past carry on the memory of the people who used and touched them, even if we can’t see it. You leave behind traces of your soul on everything you use and hold dear. I try to cherish these items just like somebody had too of back then for them to survive so long in a world that destroys its history. Buy things that will last. Buy things you need, or rescue items if you see fit. I’ve saved a tiny old rusty desk/stand from a farmers dump. I used a can of spraypaint I found and painted it gold.The wood rotted away back to the earth but the metal lingered on. Its one of the few items I plan on bringing with me when I eventually move on with my life.

    I cherish nature and the energies around it, but I do have human flaw of liking material things.even though I find them useful, and I buy them to last me a lifetime. I’m slowly trying to detach myself from the vices I had growing up. I have a desire to either one find an abandoned place to live, or purchase land and make a den using what materials I can scavenge and save.

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

      “People want everything new. I want everything old.” You strike me as an interesting person Black Wolf. Being in touch with the living energy is an uncommon ability – one that everyone can possess – but most people don’t because of their disconnection from themselves and the world around them. I’m a bit of a magpie myself, and like to collect gemstones and crystals of all kinds as it’s like carrying a piece of the earth with you. But there definitely is something magical about antique items. One of my favourite things to do is to shop in opshops – not only do they save you money, but there are so many forgotten and discarded items there that carry so much history. They have a way of making you feel more connected to this world, and in a sense, larger than yourself because of the long histories they carry. I believe one of the most fundamental instincts of the human being is to scavenge – just as animals do in the wild – but our societal structure condemns this and promotes buying instead, something that makes life lose its charm and effort.

  • Marina

    Just a little add : I’ve seen that it was possible to share any comment on social network. Please, whoever you are, don’t share my first long comment on any SN at all. Thanks :) .

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

      It’s uncommon for any of our readers to share other readers’ comments, so don’t worry Marina. :) (Also, our statistics show that your comment hasn’t been shared at all).

  • Marina

    Hello !

    I’ve discovered your blog a few days ago, and reading it is a real pleasure. Though you and your commenters seem so far from me (I’m living in France, my native country I hate so deep, except my native French countryside), I am so happy to see that I’m not the only outsider and “orphan” living in this world :) .

    There are so much things I’d like to write on many of your articles (by “your”, I mean both your’s and Mateo’s articles), but I have to begin with something and, strangely, your words about debt really caught my eyes and thrust me into writing this comment :) .

    Before I begin, don’t pay attention to the grammar and vocabular mistakes I may make, because though English has now become my second language for so many years (thanks to school and harsh personnal pratice when I was 12 years old), I’m still far from being really fluent.

    Well, my parents raised me in a strong self-awareness concerning money. They never had any debt at all, and the fact is that some very close family members never stopped to have big debts, even nowadays, everytime leading them to the edge of downfall but finally never falling, and my parents clearly didn’t want to reproduce that scheme.

    The reason why these close family members never ceased to have debts would be quite long to explain, but let’s say that they are direct consequences of a massive family trauma that they try to hide and evacuate by spending more than they really earn, into buying useless huge things and giving great parties to make believe they are wealthy people. The truth is that, they deceive everyone except me and my parents but of course, we cannot say anything to anyone, just watch the disaster and the lie keep on displaying again and again under our eyes…

    So debt, to some people, is a way to hide from terrible unconscious contents. It works like the addictions process ;p .

    The massive family trauma I was speaking of, however, completely reached me, eventually leading me to be, since I was born, the “infans” (latin original word for “infant”, “child”, meaning in fact “the one who cannot speak”, and who is therefore considered as a thing but not a human – the scapegoat we load with all our bad passions in order to clean ourselves from all our guilt and moral stench…), and later a real outsider and “orphan”, as I like to say.

    I was a solitary child and this later lead me to depression, an horror I’m still struggling against. I was 17-18 when I realized I had no future in my native countryside. No job, no flat of my own, no friends, no lovers. And that by keeping on “living” in that small territory, encased in my parent’s house, I would only go deeper into depression and, finally, madness, and I would never seize a chance to “evacuate” my traumas.

    So despite my depression and agoraphobia, I decided to go to Paris after I was graduated from high school, all alone. My parents were new house owners, so they had (and still have) to pay for this and couldn’t help me, and I didn’t want them to have debt because of me. A year after arriving to Paris, I had a job, I was 20, and I was almost pennyless, which means that if I had not had this terrible luck of finding a job right on the edge, I would have returned to my parents’ home, eventually leading me to a terrible disaster… I’m 25 now and never stopped to work (as a fool office employee, but yes, the job has to be down by someone in order to make the society keep on moving and turning…), what a luck I had ! That doesn’t mean I am happy, that doesn’t mean I am peaceful. On the contrary, it’s in Paris I found my worst and my most woeful years, though I have a job, a flat, some friends and a BF. But it would have been ever worse if I had stayed jobless and lifeless at my parents’ house. Who knows, I would maybe be dead by now…

    So not having debt for me is a way to be free from “materialistic ruin” and the distress that goes with. If I want to concentrate on my psychic healing and engage on that very hard but wise “outsider way”, then I have to have money, if ever things go wrong for me, for one reason or another : it’s a minimalistic guarantee for survival to me, it’s even the basis.
    That’s the reason why I have so much money collected on my bank account. When I began to work I had nothing but a very few hundreds of euros on it, and now I have some thousands. The minimum wages are very small in France (and I am a “minimum wager”), but the rents in Paris are incredibly high, so that in a month, all your wage may be spent on both rent and food only. I had to private myself during the first years, but it wasn’t difficult since I’m a minimalistic soul from the beginning (thanks to the “economical” education I received from my parents, and thanks to my will of keeping depression aside by not creating me more issues than I actually had/have with myself). I never had to private from food. But apart from books, I had no distractions, no trips, no clothes, no new technology (to be honest I hate NT, apart from having a PC and a good Internet connection. And I have a very old and simple cellphone. It just phones and types text messages. That’s enough).

    Nowadays I allow myself to buy more stuff. A lot of clothes, DVD’s, and more books than before, and recently some figurines of fictionnal and mythic characters I love. Figurines are very expensive ! When I was a kid, it was a passion, but a frustrated passion. So now I try to allow myself to put my money in. But to be honest, I always feel a little guilty after making a great expense for my own pleasure, but if I do it, I know it’s because I have the means to do it. And the fact is that I can easily brake myself, settle a limit and stop my expenses for a month or more if necessary. However, I don’t allow myself to travel abroad, even if I know leaving France for a few days during my holidays would be of a great good for me. But travelling is very expensive, and I don’t allow myself yet to “waste” more than a wage on a one or two weeks journey. It’s a big big frustration, and even a suffering (both mental and physical, yes !), and I’m afraid to die without having seen and met the natural/cultural beauties and the wonderful people our world shelters.

    I have my driving license but no car, it’s useless in Paris, so no car expenses at all, only train expenses when I come back to my family. The French public welfare system (which is, however, threatened by our French government for so-called economical purposes -_- …) refunds the patients from their medical expenses. But we still have our taxes to pay one per year.

    Let’s say that I know have quite a lot of money for my age, but finally I don’t allow myself to spend more than the third of what I have. One per week, I write all my expenses on a notebook (I keep the receipts of every expense I make until I write them) and I then compare my results to those of my online account bank, to see what I have left on it (fortunately always quite a lot), and to make sure that no fraudulent transactions have been made in my back : nowadays it’s very important…

    Just to finish, I’d like to add that I’m a very generous person in general with my parents, my friends and sometimes with associations :) .

    I know I should allow me more fantasy and live in uncertainty like Blackfish, and in some way I envy people who are able to do it. I know my crave for putting money aside and being minimalistic is also a very deep neurotical issue to me, sometimes. But I can’t help and I know it’s just a matter of time before I can very allow me to more uncertainty in my life, eh. I’m still a very optimistic person :) .

    Well, that was a very long comment, but I had to completely explain my simple yet at time complex relationship with money.

    Maybe that will help some of the Loners here. Hope it will, anyway :) .

    Wishing you all the best for the upcoming year,

    À bientôt !

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

      I really like this observation of yours Marina: “So debt, to some people, is a way to hide from terrible unconscious contents. It works like the addictions process ;p .”

      I think you have some pretty useful advice, especially in regards to avoiding debt. For example, only spending a third of what you own, and writing down all of your expenses on a notepad. For me, I find that only having a debit card (and no credit cards) helps a lot, as it prevents you from spending money that you don’t have! Also, I always ask myself “Do I really NEED this product/item?” Often the answer is “no”, and so I resist the purchase, but if it is “yes” I don’t hesitate.

      To me it is encouraging to see more and more debt-aware people such as yourself! So many people’s lives are ruined by the unconscious cycles of debt. It can be hard to stay debt free when the majority of people in society aren’t!

      Thank you Marina!

      • Marina

        Hello Luna !

        Thank you for your observations in return !

        “It can be hard to stay debt free when the majority of people in society aren’t!”
        How true ! I must say that the hardest to me is being told by people around that when we are young, we have to enjoy life without sparing no expense… I then feel tempted to spare no expense in order to make some dreams come true… But fortunately these temptations last very short :) . Maybe that among these people that want to force you on the bad side are some who have the biggest debts (but who hide it), and these ones just want you to be like them in order to compensate for their money issues. And there is the fact that our consumer society exhorts us to do whatever we want, without any limits. And all the ads we can hear on the radios, and see on the TV’s, Internet pages and subway stations are making us sick.

        Every new year I have the same vow : to never stop trying to get rid of what is “unessential” (don’t know if you say it in English), whether it concerns relationships, expenses of any kind, food, false passions… It’s a never-ending hard but fascinating way to one’s own inner truth :) .

        Best wishes !

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

          Very true. The reality I can see is that without supporting and encouraging such careless spending, the entire structure of our societies crumble … jobs are lost, corporations go out of business, the economy falls … so it is in the interest of everyone to perpetuate this cycle of buying and spending – but not in our own personal interest!

          What a wonderful pursuit! :) Cutting back anything that contradicts that sense of personal truth, or limits freedom, is such a wise way to live life!

          Thank you for these inspiring ideas!

          • Marina

            You’re welcome :) !

            Thank you in turn for these nice discussion we had about the debt and money matters.

            Well, as this new year begins, I think I’ll have two “good resolutions” : to get rid of what is unessential (or to try at least, ’cause as humans we are not perfect), and to become my very own best friend (or to try too, lol) :) .

            Thanks to you and Sol for helping me in this way.

            PS. I have just noticed the link between Luna “the moon” and Sol “the sun” ;p .

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

              I wish you all the very best in these pursuits. (Also, I’m glad you figured out the connection of Luna and Sol – few people do!) Take care! ^_^

  • 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