Debt – The Less You Owe, The More You Live

By on March 25, 2016
debt - the less you owe, the more you live

By Jeff Davidson –

Think back to your high school and college history classes: can you recall a nation in the history of the earth that accumulated huge deficits over a prolonged period of time, lacked a concerted effort towards reducing these deficits, yet was able to sustain economic prosperity for its citizens? 

Can a nation, going into debt for trillions annually, or a person – you in particular – run up huge deficits and expect no consequences? It’s likely that you have some financial debts. For decades, millions of Americans have accumulated personal debt via credit cards, loans, and other forms of financing.

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Subtle Servitude

Sustained deficit spending eventually erodes your ability to prepare for the future, and worse, to capitalize on current opportunities. The more you owe, the more enslaved you are! In Consumerism, Dr. Judith Schor notes that you’ve likely been taught to consume more than you need.

Right now, how would it feel if all your credit cards were paid off? How would it feel if you paid your monthly rent or mortgage several months in advance? How would it feel if your car loan was paid off? How would it feel if you were actually able to pay some of your utility bills for months in advance? For most people it would feel great. You’d feel in control of your time.

I know the arguments about losing the interest I could have earned if I let my money sit in the bank instead of paying the electric bill three months in advance. Ah, but wait. A month after I’ve paid my electric bill three months in advance, I get the next month’s bill. Guess what? It shows that I have a huge credit and that nothing is due – I smile when I see these kinds of bills, and so will you.

A Moratorium on Spending

To reduce your personal financial debts, I suggest placing a moratorium on spending, regardless of what items entice you, until your credit cards have zero balances. 

Now, please, let’s not confuse issues. There is value in paying others to do that which you don’t like to do. These are separate issues. Paying for something that frees up your time is a life benefit. Paying for material things which you don’t need, and certainly don’t save your time, may be satisfying, but ultimately can be draining.

Here are some useful exercises for controlling your checkbook, and hence reclaiming your life:

  1. Write out checks to pay bills in advance of their due dates. Then, keep an advance file with a folder for each day of the month. Place the check in a sealed, addressed, stamped envelope. Then put the envelope in the folder of the day it’s to be mailed. This way the money is allocated in advance in your checkbook, and your bills are paid on time. If your checking account pays interest,  you don’t lose interest.
  2. Once in a while, overpay the balance on your continuing accounts or pay early. This gives you the aforementioned psychological boost when you see a credit on your next statement, and gives you a good reputation with your creditors, which comes in handy.
  3. Keep a stick-on note in your checkbook for an immediate reference that lists what’s coming in this month and what needs to go out. This provides you with a running mini-cash flow list you can refer to at will. Update it every week, or day, if necessary.
  4. Review old checkbooks and see what you paid to whom for what. Do the same thing with your monthly credit card statements. Put a red mark next to all those expenditures that you didn’t need to make, or that you could have done without.
  5. Now, considering expenditures on the horizon, which ones can you do without?

As author Roger Dawson says, “It doesn’t matter how much money you’re making; if you’re spending more than you take in each month, you’re headed for trouble.” If you spend less than you take in eventually your debt will decrease, perhaps even disappear.

 

Jeff is the work-life balance expert for our time-pressed generations.  He helps career professionals overcome the relentless torrent of information and communication overload.  You can find him at: www.BreathingSpace.com.

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Debt – The Less You Owe, The More You Live