Bye Bye Consumer Debt

23 Aug 2013

This is a significant week for me because I paid off my last credit card!

The debt was not from spending sprees, expensive electronics or a new car. In fact, I drive a 23-year-old car that I bought new and plan to drive for 300,000 miles.

The debt was from emergencies, like dental work, mission trips that went over budget, and life. It was also from new windows and buying things that seemed like a good deal on sale.

I think I have had some sort of consumer debt for more than 20 years. Now I say, Adios! Au revoir! さようなら and до свидания and Arrivederci!

As the bible says, the borrower is slave to the lender (Proverbs 22:7). I certainly feel more free than I did a week ago!

So how did I do it?

  1. I listened to Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. The course if offered thousands of times across the US every year and is available online. I borrowed the CDs from my niece who took it.
  2. I got serious about getting out of debt. Ramsey calls this, “gazelle intensity.” A gazelle being chased by a predator runs for its life—as fast as it can to get away from the problem. Until I realized how important it was to clean up the mess, I lacked the motivation to do it.
  3. I followed up by listening to Ramsey as often as possible, on the radio while driving, and to his podcasts. An addict needs constant encouragement to do the right thing. I was addicted to debt and needed help.
  4. I followed Ramsey’s advice to save up $1,000 in an emergency fund. Now when I need dental work or car repairs, there is some money there and I don’t have to reach for the plastic (credit card).
  5. I started using software to help me budget and monitor my spending. You Need A Budget (YNAB) was just what I needed to keep track of all my accounts and know where my money was going. I’ve also listened to 92 podcasts in the last 20 months, learning many sound principles from founder Jesse Mecham, especially how to live on last month’s income.
  6. I reduced my spending. It wasn’t hard to look for places to save: cut the satellite dish, shop at a warehouse club, refinance the house, and shop for cheaper insurance.
  7. I increased my income. I went looking for financial opportunities and found myself teaching at 3 colleges and universities part-time while also doing non-profit work. I had to get a bigger shovel (as Ramsey calls it) to not only to pay off my debts, but to live more sanely. Debt is often a spending and an income problem.
  8. And of course, I got serious. I became more aware of my spending habits and kept the goal in front of me.

Despite becoming the norm in cultures like America, debt is a complete drag. It’s an indication that life is pushing you instead of you pushing life. And living healthy is about pushing life—in every aspect.

Now I’m on a mission to get rid of my student loan and pay off the house ahead of schedule!

Being like everybody else is easy. Being different is smart.

Don’t be the status quo (up to their eyeballs in debt); buck the system and be free.

If I can do this, you can too!

 

Royalty-free image photographed by John Gardiner courtesy of http://www.sxc.hu

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