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.
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.
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 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