If you are like most people, you don’t like debt. There is no way to sugar coat it – owing someone money just isn’t the type of thing that brings peace or happiness into ones life. Sure, most people have debt of some kind, but I haven’t met anyone with debt that enjoys watching the compounding interest, paying the monthly payments, nor owing someone something. No matter how you look at it, debt just stinks.
And for those of us who use the Bible as a compass for our lives, this verse in Proverbs 22:7 sums up the way that debt makes you feel, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” My friends, I refuse to ever be slave again to any lender. It is one of the worst feelings I’ve ever felt – it left me feeling heavy and hopeless – and that is no way to live.
I am not saying you shouldn’t finance a home or buy a dependable car. I’m NOT telling you, that if you have debt, you are a horrible person. No, not at all. I am, however, addressing the stress that debt brings into the lives of those who carry the burden.
When my husband and I first got married we were literally up to our eyeballs in debt. We had just graduated from Washington State University and had both financed our entire undergraduate education. At the same time, we were buying our first home which also meant we were financing our down payment (crazy, I know), a new washer, a new refrigerator, and a plethora of other expenses.
Not to mention we were first-time parents with a 2-week old baby girl in tow and a lot of hospital bills to pay. We were clearly buried in the debt-trap and felt as if there was no way out. But we were wrong. There were many things we learned as we sought to fight back against our debt and walk in the freedom of being debt free.
There are many, many options for those who are looking to become debt-free. I encourage you to meet with a financial counselor to help you identify which is right for you. That’s what we did. Our financial counselor helped us create a plan that gave us hope as we could actually see an end to it all. And that hope helped carry us through the next 5 years of implementing and sticking to our plan.
I will say upfront that it wasn’t always easy to make the right choices when faced with a temptation to spend money. But as hard as it got, my husband and I held one another accountable and made sure to keep one another on track. And it worked.
For married folks who may have a hard time discussing and agreeing on finances, my husband and I came up with 10 things every couple should discuss about finances as a great starting point. This has helped us and countless other married couples tackle the tough topic of finances successfully.
I highly recommend having an accountability partner throughout your quest to become debt-free. It could be the difference between success and failure. And of course it never hurts to have someone cheering you on!
After we paid off all of our debt in 2005, we vowed to never go back to that place, ever again. No matter what. And in making sure that we remain debt free, there are some things that we just simply don’t do anymore. Not only do they not make any sense, but we just simply know better now.
Today I am sharing the things I’ve learned; the 5 things people who are debt-free don’t do.
5 Things People Who Are Debt-Free Don’t Do
Don’t waste money
I’ve found that once we became debt-free, we were even more frugal than before. And being raised as a 4th generation frugal mom, I can say I was already extremely tight with a penny. There are a lot of things that we’ve found to help us save more money without even having to spend the time to do so.
For instance, there are so many money saving apps that you can use on your smart phone or tablet that will help you save money. We always use our online coupon database that shows us the most up-to-date coupons. We just print the ones we need when we need them; so easy and takes only a minute or two to get exactly what we need!
What ever areas that you are likely to “waste” money in, make it a point to set measurable, accountable goals to closely monitor your spending. If you are able to keep a tight handle on your “weak” areas when it comes to wasting your money, you are much more likely to kick that habit.
Be sure to create a budget that works within the income that you have coming in each month. On my website I have a post on the most popular money saving printables that you can use to create your budget. Once you have your budget laid out it will be much easier to follow your finances and remain on track to your goal of getting out of debt fast.
And if you do mess up, forgive yourself, and move on. As long as you stay committed to growing and changing in this area and don’t give up – you will eventually succeed. I promise.
Don’t waste time
This is a big one. I’ve noticed a vast difference between the way people who think from a debt-free perspective approach time management from those who do not.
Most people who are financially free, tend to see the value in time because they’ve spent a lot of their hard earned time and money focused on becoming debt-free. I can honestly tell you as one who had a mountain of debt at one time, once we paid it all off, I saw every minute of every day in a completely new way.
I found a lot more value in a day when I had the liberty to spend it the way I wanted to – rather than the way that my debt dictated that I had to.
And this, my friends, is a whole different level of victory and peace that I had never even fathomed. One way that I continue to stay in this mindset is by keeping close tabs on every area of my life through lots of planning and honest self-evaluation every now and then to make sure I am still moving in the right direction.
I encourage you to take an audit of how you are spending your time each day. Pay close attention to areas that are leading you to be wasteful with your money or that can lead to potentially tempt you to spend unnecessarily. This will help you reach your goal of being debt-free even faster.
Don’t go into debt
This one should be self-explanatory, but unfortunately it is not. I have met a family or two that started off life with no debt and then decided to be careless and go into debt. I’ve seen families break apart as they crumbled under the burden of monthly credit card payments, mortgage payments, and car payments.
I’ve watched family members have their utilities shut off because they fell behind on payments due to not making enough money to cover all their expenses as a result of racking up debt. And the truth is, it could have all been prevented if a spending plan had been set in place. But unfortunately when we don’t have a solid plan for our finances, life will come in and take over, every time.
There are some really simple ways to ensure that you don’t go into debt. But this one is the probably the most obvious for people as well as the hardest for most people to follow: If you don’t have the money to buy it (and it’s not an absolute necessity like food or shelter), then just walk away. Debt free living is just so worth it, I’d highly recommend you try you absolute hardest to follow this tip as much as possible!
Yes, walk away.
Everything in life that money can buy is replaceable. And that good deal you were tempted to spend on, will likely come around again. And for some reason it doesn’t, you will probably stumble upon something even better.
Bottom line – don’t allow yourself to be tricked into spending money to get the best deal. It’s just a slick marketing trick to make you to think you are getting a deal that you are actually spending money you don’t have to.
Be strong enough to deny yourself the pleasure of what you want in the short term to give yourself the ability to buy things outright in the long term. It is so worth it. Once you become debt-free, do yourself a favor and continue to make wise choices to remain debt-free.
Don’t neglect building your savings
Let me say this first: You do not have to be debt-free to build up a savings account. We had a very healthy savings account even when we had debt. It is tempting to believe that you can’t have any savings when you are focusing on paying off debt. But this simply isn’t true.
Even if your finances are crazy tight with no budget at all, you can still put away something small. Maybe start off by putting away $5 or $10 a paycheck. Then as you continue to pay off your debt you can bump it up to $20 or $30. And then go up from there. The point really isn’t how much money you are saving, rather that you are saving.
So I challenge you to set a small savings goal each month and as you continue to free up more and more of your money you can bump up what you are putting away. It is a wonderful feeling to set and accomplish financial goals!
A little side bonus of becoming debt-free is that you will naturally be able to make your savings account a lot healthier. And believe me, myself and all of the other people we know who are debt-free are very committed to saving money. It becomes a way of life. Be sure that once you become debt-free, you don’t give yourself a license to go crazy and not save money or you’ll find yourself back in the debt trap!
Don’t waste the opportunity to make money
As anyone who is either already debt-free or striving to become debt-free already knows – becoming debt-free is not something that just happens by chance. You have to learn how to get rid of debt, make a plan and work that plan until your goal is accomplished. Don’t stop.
In our 5-year quest to become debt free (from 2000-2005) we found ourselves learning about many different types of ways to make money. From investing to selling on eBay, we have tried many ways to continually gain new streams of revenue.
And over the years, one thing is for certain – we definitely enjoy making extra money so we can give away more money to those who need it. I know not everyone shares our belief system about giving, but it really is an important part of making more money.
As a Christian, we can agree that there is truth in this statement: You reap what you sow. Sow generously (with your time, finances, etc.) and watch the blessing of God unfold in your life! And the beautiful thing about giving generously is that it actually becomes more of a blessing to give than receive – and it’s a wonderful habit to demonstrate to your children as well.
While I know that not everyone is the same, I can testify that as we have continued to stand strong and not do the 5 things listed above – it has helped us to remain debt-free. I hope that some of these points help you along your journey to remain debt-free!
What are your best tips for continuing to live the debt-free lifestyle? Or if you aren’t debt-free just yet, what are your best tips for those on the journey to becoming debt-free?