It’s been nearly 7 years now since I paid off my last debt. It was the infamous credit card which I had maintained for over 30 years. I borrowed heavily with it, and in the final months, I had maxed it out to finance my paddle board business. It was then I received a thank you note from MasterCard telling me how much they appreciated my business…and as a token of their thanks, they were going to double my interest rate to 26%. Imagine their shock when I paid off the balance and closed the account. Never again.
From the moment I graduated from high school and was given a new car with the payment book, until the moment I paid off the credit card, some 38 years later, I never had a day in my life where I didn’t owe money on some sort of loan. It was a given, at least according to what I was taught, debt was a necessary evil in life. There was no avoiding it. If you wanted to exist you had to have debt. Car loans were required, because nobody paid cash for a car. Mortgages were just an ‘investment’ because your property would always go up in value. Another myth. Credit cards were simply a part of life. You used them to buy more shit which quickly lost it’s value, long before the balance was paid off. Debt was always, and for some still is, mandatory.
But not anymore.
It took some time for me to realize what I had done when I paid off said credit card and closed the account. I got a bit nervous when I realized I had destroyed an extensive line of credit and now cash would be my only option. But as things progressed I began to understand just how suffocating the debt was, and how easy it is to get by without having to borrow one’s way into debt purgatory.
With the credit card, buying stuff became more easy. It was nothing to walk into a store and grab some crap, whether it was needed or not, and just flip out the card. Painless. One never feels the money leave one’s wallet. Of course, later on, the bill comes due and the realization comes of the error of such purchases, But, we all just pay the minimum, let the interest build, and incur more debt, thinking, mistakenly, we will pay off the balance later when things have improved. Seldom, do things improve.
Now, with the credit card gone, and no more debt, when I went out to get anything, it was only if I had sufficient cash to pay for said anything. Suddenly, my purchases became restricted. I could no longer just get what I wanted regardless of cost or need. I had to actually think about whether or not I need a new trinket, if it fit within the budget, and how would my dropping cash on said trinket affect my ability to pay for other more necessary things, like food or rent. Being debt free and without the credit card created a whole new mindset when it came to spending, or not spending. And without the ‘convenience’ of said credit card, my spending went way down. And remains so to this day.
At first, it was a bit restrictive, but as time went on, and the mail was bereft of monthly statements and bills, I began to realize just how much of an impact debt had on my life. Debt determined absolutely everything I did. It dictated what I had to do for a living along with how and where I could live. I could not travel as I wanted because of debt. I could not take chances with my income because of debt. Any dreams I had of doing something other than being a worker bee in the hive were dashed because of debt. And now, I had no debt.
As time went on and there were no monthly installments, no car payments, no credit card bills, it dawned on me how free I had become. Suddenly living on a sailboat in Key West wasn’t a dream, it was reality. Being able to up and travel to interesting places (current location be damned) without having to worry about returning to go back to work to pay the monthly debt was doable. And not buying anything unless the cash was readily available, really saved me a lot of money.
As I said, it’s been 7 years debt free and I have learned how easy it is to get by without the need to borrow money to survive. If I want or need something it’s simple. If I have the cash, I can obtain said something. If not, I go without. So far, there has been nothing I can’t live without. To be sure, there are things it would be nice to have. A new catamaran would be pretty cool. But I can live without it. A new jeep would be great. But I’m used to going without a vehicle and said new jeep would be more of luxury than a need. Buying a property with a mortgage would mean I would have a permanent home. But I did the mortgage thing…twice. Worst decisions I ever made. I’ll take my chances and be homeless. Affordable rents can be had, most of the time. Although Key West is getting a bit dicey.
As for everything else, I pretty much have all I need in life for now. I replace stuff as needed and as I can afford, without the need to borrow. Otherwise, I go without.
Oh, I still have bills of course. The usual kind like paying for the hosting of this here blog. And a few subscriptions for business. And internet as always. I still enjoy eating so no getting around spending there. A roof over my head is sorta kinda nice to have. But all of said bills are fluid and can be adjusted. There is no penalty if I don’t pay for food next month, other than the whole starving to death thing. But still, no down payments, no interest, no low monthly payments for years on end.
I had considered trying to grab another credit card not too long ago. The reasoning was so I could rent a vehicle as needed or grab a flight if an emergency occurred and I had to be someplace in a hurry. But I thought it out and realized another credit card would start the whole debt thing all over again and dropped the whole silly idea. Staying out of debt is more better and I intend to stay so.
There is a slight downside to having no debt, especially over a long period of time. When dealing with financial institutions or corporate warlords they may demand some sort of credit history, to see if you are worthy of their standards for doing business. I shocked more than a few worker bees when I told them I have no debt. And with the last real loan being paid off 7 years ago, I don’t have much of a credit score to rely upon. The whole idea of being out of debt is foreign to most companies and they assume you are doing something wrong or illegal if you want to pay cash for a purchase. If you want to see a good example, go try to buy a vehicle, new or used, for cash at a dealership. They make more money through financing and will do everything in their power to stop you from paying cash up front. It’s fun to watch them squirm when you refuse to take out a loan. But fuck ’em. Interest rates for loans are obscene along with all the fees and add on’s. If you still have a loan of any kind go look at the papers and read everything. Do some maths and you figger out right quick how much money you have been screwed out of because you did not pay by cash or simply did not buy in the first place. Debt is expensive. Worse than you realize. Way more worse.
Granted, there are probably going to be circumstances where I may incur debt through no fault of my own. Medical debt comes to mind. Something I would prefer to avoid if necessary but if it comes, not much I can do except try to settle it as best I can. Or die leaving a mountain of debt and no heirs to worry about it. Screw them. But to intentionally go into debt for something, not happening. Never again.
Despite my income woes, which has nothing to do with debt, I have been able to get by much more better over the past 7 years without the extra bills. Everything I own is paid for. Everything I do is paid for up front. No matter how tempting the offer, I will never borrow money again for any reason. If I don’t have the cash, I go without. You would be surprised what you can live without.
Living debt free. It has been well worth it.