Whenever I tell someone about our debt free journey, I get mixed reactions and a LOT of unsolicited advice. I hear things like:
“Debt is a tool.”
“You’re always going to have SOME kind of debt.”
“Debt is good for your credit score.”
“Debt is fine as long as it is an investment.”
“Well it’s totally fine and normal to have a car payment.”
But that’s the thing about PERSONAL FINANCE – it’s personal!
What works for me, may not work for you. We don’t have to think alike to reach our own goals.
I saw a quote on instagram the other day that I really loved: “I’m not anti-credit card. I’m pro know yourself and your discipline level with credit cards and act accordingly.” The same thing can be said about debt.
Craig and I have proved that we spend way more foolishly when we are spending other people’s money whether that be for a car, on a credit card, on a home remodel, etc.
When I hand over a credit card to pay for something or say I get a loan, it feels easy and light. I don’t feel the same gravity or weight of what it feels like to pay cash for something.
In 2020, we had spent our very first year paying off debt and to “treat ourselves,” for our hard work and discipline, we launched a bathroom remodel with the intention of cash flowing it all. We thought it’d be around $6,000, no biggie. By the time the actual bills started rolling in, it was around $15,000 and we found it all too easy to reach back into debt for a credit card to keep things moving. It was pretty easy to spend someone else’s money on thousands of dollars in mountain bikes. We didn’t feel the weight of it.
Even after our rock bottom, after our year of crawling our way out of financial ruin, we still found it SO easy to lean on debt. We learned a hard lesson, one I’m reminded of every day when I see our unfinished bathroom remodel: We can’t be trusted with debt.
WE cannot be trusted with debt. That is OUR personal choice. That choice is not made to offend you. That statement is not said for you to convince us otherwise. That’s how WE are committed to living our lives.
Does everyone have a little bit of debt? Most people do. We don’t want to be like most people.
Can debt be used as a tool? Most people can use debt responsibly. We cannot.
Do most Americans have a car payment and that’s okay and normal? That’s fine, but not for us.
When I share about our debt free journey, a lot of people are interested but then the excuses start.
“Well a car payment is good for our credit score.”
“My income is inconsistent so budgeting would never work for us.”
That’s okay for some people, but that’s not okay for us. When we hit our rock bottom, it scarred us. It was painful. It hurt. When people do their debt free screams on the Dave Ramsey show, he asks them what their “moment” was. Our moment was so incredibly painful and traumatizing that we have felt the heavy weight and burden of debt ever since, it’s something we could not ignore.
You can read about that here: We Couldn’t Afford Cafeteria Food.
So if you’re able to get through without a budget, that’s okay. If you think having an inconsistent income is enough reason to not have to budget, that’s okay. If your “why” isn’t stronger than your excuses, that’s okay. If you haven’t hit your “moment”, that’s okay. If you can continue to justify debt in your life and THAT’S OKAY!
We just can’t. It hurts too much. And that’s our PERSONAL finance decision.
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Congratulations on seeing that Debt is a problem for you both when its someone else money, that is a major hurdle to recognize and talk about openly. Life happens and so does some kind of debt for most families, controlling it before it controls you is the trick. You two work hard and stay connected together on your debt journey and that is something you should be congratulated for; you don’t bury your head in the sand about your debt and you talk to each other about it. Congratulations on all your hard work and one day the bathroom will be done and there will be much rejoicing.
Absolutely household finance is personal. So many comments you’ve posted are so untrue. Like you, we hit an extremely painful bottom back in 1987 nearly the same age as you. It was pre-Ramsey. Fear/Anxiety drove us to no-spend, alot of arguing/marital pain and ultimately debt paydown. For 5 years we ate super cheap at home not even springing for a McD hit.
Mythbusting now. Debt is not a tool but it is a method to gift your money to someone else. Debt is an investment for someone else-not you. No, you’re not always going to have some kind of debt unless you WANT it. It is normal in our culture to have a car payment but paying cash is an acceptable method as well.
Like you, we had to put away the credit cards-we were not capable of paying them off monthly which was gifting a lot of $ to others as interest rates back then were upwards of 16%.
We learned to purchase mindfully. We learned to have cash on hand to cover monthly expenses. We learned to use a credit card to OUR benefit. We purchase anything possible on it and pay off the balance EVERY month days prior to the due date. We have not incurred a penny of interest since the mid-90s. We have a card that pays for travel (air, hotel, rental car). So we use THEIR $ which comes from everyone who enjoys paying interest monthly 🙂
My financial planner does “make me” use zero % financing sometimes on larger purchases and I make those payments out of my ‘monthly allowance’. It is very hard for me to do but it does make sense to let my money earn $ in my investments while it costs me nothing extra to string it out. My husband always tells him “you know she’ll pay it off early because she can’t stand it” and then they both laugh at me. It’s true.
We have been debt free since January 2011 at age 49. We each maintain a credit score over 800. It is possible to write a check for a vehicle and we have done it twice since 1999.
Sooooo, YOU GO GIRL! You do you and let the critics incur their debt and gift away their money to others if they need to. You and your family will be enjoying the significantly reduced stress of money. and enjoying all the moments instead with your 3 kiddos 🙂
It’s funny, but your brain reacts with a pain reaction when you hand over cash to pay for something, but not when you use plastic to pay for something. I choose to avoid the pain by using plastic for just about everything, but I do have the discipline to pay off my credit card every month because I have a huge problem with paying interest!! So nice that you have figured out what you can and can’t handle financially. I am frugal on most things and I like having money in the bank as a “cushion”. I remember when I was first married, having $100 in my checking account as a “cushion” was important to me. That went up to $1,000 as I got older, and now I like 20 times that much, just in case!! You know, that 6-month+ emergency fund that started before I knew what that was!! When the economy was insane in 2008, we went 2 years without a paycheck (hubby owns a business) and having no debt, combined with savings, got us through that dark time without having to borrow money or live on credit cards. Debt isn’t “normal” for everyone! When I talk to someone who is making car payments, I suggest that they continue those payments into a saving account when they pay off their vehicle to build up a fund to pay cash for their next vehicle – they’re used to the payment, so they can get the interest instead of someone else! We want to live like no one else now so we can live like no one else later…I’m at “later” and I can tell you it is SWEET!!!
Debt can be useful, mainly for a mortgage because saving for an entire house before you buy is almost impossible. On other hand, I decided, when I saw how little I paid went to the actual mortgage and how much went to interest, that paying off the principal would be a smarter and wiser thing to do. We paid for our first small farm in 15 years. I always had to budget carefully because we were both teachers and each got 10 paychecks per year. No pay in the summer months.
I kept records of everything we paid out… our utilities, gas for vehicles, food, clothing, entertainment (not much of that) and could look back and see how much our spending increased when we hosted special meals or the weather got cold. I preserved all the food we could find for free or cheap in the summer months. I sewed all our clothes.
We did and do use credit cards as much easier for paying for gas and groceries but all are paid off every month. When I listen to Dave Ramsey, I am shaking my head at how people get into debt and nod my head when he gives advice to pay everything off and get out debt. We bought our first brand new vehicle when my mother in law died and we got just enough from her estate to go and pay cash. Ever since then, we save, we buy. I drive a really nice car and we paid cash. Yes, it takes longer to get what you want but, I am now 75 and have a home in Arizona for the winter months and a lovely home for our main residence. We have enough money in our savings that we can take care of ourselves and, even though we had some lean years, we always had fun and there was never a shortage of food in our home… though it might have been no name brand (which upset our daughters.) We packed our lunches, took our own coffee to work and same for our kids (again, they weren’t happy that they couldn’t have money for their lunch) but we also made trips to Disneyland and ski trips so, saving meant doing family activities that were well planned and didn’t put us in debt. Keep going with your debt free attitude and eventually, you will be on the plus side and accumulating savings instead of going month to month. Dave Ramsey system works!
It took an accident and loss of a job to get us into major debt. I went from having a perfect credit score to a dismal one in a matter of months. We no longer have a credit card and use a debit card for online purchases and gas. So if it’s not in our checking account, we know we can’t afford to buy it. Our cars are used and were paid-in-full at time of purchase. We recently had a new roof put on our house and since we’d been saving for a few years, didn’t have to borrow a dime. Any large purchases are discussed beforehand and we no longer care about having material things.
We often have people tell us we need credit but we have one permanent source of income and try to live off of it in the event our self-employment income would diminish. The only debt we have now is my student loan debt, which thankfully I only borrowed what I actually needed.
As for others, do what works for you and your family.