For the past 9 years, I have lived on a sailboat in the Florida Keys, (several actually), lived in Key West, a life long dream, and I now live in Hawaii, another life long dream. I’m not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t live in some fancy mcmansion. But I live very comfortably now, and have the option to travel back and forth between the two island worlds along with other places should I desire. I want for little in material goods. I sure as hell ain’t starving to death, and I am enjoying the shit out of life right now, even with a summer ahead in Pa.
Wanna know my secret? How was I able to achieve a life of island living intermixed with some occasional piratin’?
Minimalism is probably your first answer and yes, ridding myself of almost everything did contribute a lot to my cunning plans. But there was something else. No, not my ability to spew random bullshit, a bonus mind you but not the reason. Actually, I have been able to live in said island paradises because of two simple words:
I know what you are thinking, not this crap again, but pay attention, because apparently many of you are not. A recent report shows the total credit card debt, just credit card mind you, in the U.S. of A. stands at 1 trillion dollars.
Ponder on 1 trillion dollars for a minute. This is money owed for goods and services already consumed. Things which are now gathering dust in some closet or have been digested and are now a part of the eco system. Credit card debt. By far the worst kind of debt one can incur. And it is growing every day thanks to the obscene interest rates the banks charge for loaning out money to people who should not be borrowing anything. Trust me, if you dare, I know all too well the dangers of credit card debt. It held me back for years and cost me a lot money which would come in real handy right now if I had it. But I don’t, it’s gone, and I learned some valuable lessons in economics as a result.
I cannot tell you how many times I sat up at night, looking at a big pile of money owed on things like mortgages, vehicle payments, utilities, and of course, credit card debt. I would sift through said pile, looking at the balances owed, and the endless months and years it would take to pay the damn things off. I would look at my cats, whichever ones happened to be with me at the time, and wonder aloud what I could be doing if I didn’t have all these damn payments. The cats would just demand to fed. The next morning I would have to get my ass out of bed, put on the worker bee costume, travel to some hellish job, and subject myself to another day of slavery for a few lousy dollars so I could chip away at the debt. There were some days where it seemed I was making no headway and others where it seemed I was falling behind. It took some doing, but eventually I got rid of most of it.
I still had credit card debt when I first moved to Key Largo but the house and motorcycles were gone along with the payments. I bought the jeep on the cc, paid cash for the sailboat, and went to work at the kayak shop. I was still in debt but I could see a faint light at the end. Life took a bit of a turn when I started up the paddle board business and used all my remaining credit on the card to finance the business. It was then something life changing happened. The credit card company thanked me for 30 years of borrowing from them by doubling my interest rate. With the balance sitting at $16,000 life was not looking too good. But at the same time, the BP oil spill happened, and all of us in the Keys were able to get a settlement from said oil barons. The money was sufficient to pay off the card with some left over, so I paid it off, and cancelled the card.
The card company was shocked, shocked mind you, because I was insulted by them doubling my interest rate. They offered to cut the rate back to what it was, and I offered to personally come and shove the card up their ass. We parted ways and I have not had a credit card since nor do I have plans to obtain one.
The day I got confirmation said card was paid off in full was one of the greatest days of my life. For the first time since I got out of high school I was debt free. Well, almost. I was still running contracts with the phone companies for my iPhone but it wasn’t a big deal and eventually I got rid of said phone companies. But when I realized I no longer owed money to anyone for anything, it was like a huge weight had been lifted off my back. Key West looked doable. Hawaii beckoned in the distance. Yes, income issues still came into play, but dealing with income issues is a whole lot easier when you have some control on what and where you will be spending your money every month. Not facing another payment on an endless contract paying obscene interest rates to the corporate warlords makes all the other financial issues a lot more palatable.
I have now been debt free for about 6 years, almost the same as when I started the Fritter. I learned my lesson the hard way. No more debt, no more interest payments, and a very simple approach to buying anything:
Do I need it?
Don’t buy it.
Can I pay cash for it?
Don’t buy it.
Am I sure I need it?
Don’t buy it.
Buy it but shop around first.
Am I reeeaaallly sure I need it?
Don’t buy it.
So, I know what you are about to tell me. I can hear it now, “But Capt.! I have a credit card but I pay the balance off each month so I don’t have to pay any interest.”
No battle plan survives the first shot. All it takes is one purchase, one month where you are unable, for some reason to pay off the card, and before you know it, you are paying interest and the balance keeps growing. I don’t care how fiscally responsible you think you are. All it takes, is one time and you are back in debt and said debt can steamroll rapidly if you are not careful.
“But sometimes I need the card in case of emergency.” A valid point sort of. Emergencies come up all the time. Going into debt is a no excuse for dealing with said emergency. Find another way. Do something which does not incur interest or hurt your financial situation. Get creative. But don’t resort to the card to bail you out every time a financial crisis comes up. A credit card is too easy to fall back on and make bad financial decisions as opposed to making more better decisions based on your available cash. Credit cards are a trap which I fell for, and according to the report, many others have. Don’t do it.
While credit card debt is the worst, as far as I am concerned, all debt is bad. What is particularly bad is our entire economy is based on debt. Starting with the Federal Reserve and moving all through society, debt is assumed to be necessary. In fact, there was panic in a recent report in which the writers were perplexed by the fact people were not borrowing as much. Maybe some of people are wising up to the game and staying out of debt. You would be amazed at how much more cheaper life is when you pay cash or don’t buy at all.
Yes, I know. How does one obtain a house or a vehicle without getting into debt? Simple. Rent, find a smaller house you can pay cash for, and quit buying new vehicles, easily one of the worst investments you can make with your money. Get creative dammit! Quit desiring things which you cannot afford to pay cash for. Be realistic and save your cash for more important things, like those dreams you had of things you wanted to do but couldn’t because you owe money.
Look, you can make excuses all day long about how easier it is to borrow money to get something you desire as opposed to waiting until you can pay cash or even more better, doing without, but as long as you are willing to go into debt, you are sentencing yourself to a lifetime of slavery. You are a slave to whomever you owe the loan too, and you are a slave to whatever lifestyle it takes to pay off said loan. How many times will you be sitting at the kitchen table looking at a pile of bills talking to your cats?
It’s simple. No really, it is simple, pay attention dammit. I’m trying to help you not make the mistakes I made.
If you are out of debt, stay out of debt. Under no circumstances incur any loans for any reason. Pay cash or do without. If it is an emergency, find another way but stay away from the credit cards. If you are in debt, do what ever you have to do to pay off said debt. Don’t skip out on it. You borrowed the money, pay it back. Pay it back as quickly as you can using whatever means you can. Sell stuff, cut back on other expenses, punish yourself enough so when the loans are paid off, you’ll never want to borrow again.
Hard times are coming. Things appear to be happening in this world where being minimal and debt free are going to be a distinct advantage. Don’t get caught owing lots of money to the corporate warlords. They care not for your welfare, only their money. Only you can care for yourself. Get rid of the debt. You can thank me later.
What hard times are coming? Next post.