There are insightful posts floating around from bloggers who are in debt and are dreaming of what their lives might be like after they’re finally debt-free. Some jokingly say they’ll be thinner and others consider getting their regular massages again.
The best part about their posts is that none of them say they’ll go back to their old ways. You don’t see any of them saying “I can’t wait to go blow all my savings on clothes after I’m debt-free!” or “I can’t wait to max out my credit cards again!”
Debt, lost. Happiness, found.
I was once in the same position as those bloggers in debt. I remember feeling trapped by frugality, like everyday was a struggle with my finances, like I would never be out of debt.
Lucky for me, something happened along the way. Something I’m very grateful for — more, even, than every Mark Wahlberg movie that was ever made (and that is seriously something we should all be grateful for).
I learned that I was much happier. That’s right, I was happier living below my means. I was happier enjoying activities that didn’t cost money. Once I cleared away the fog of spending and living lavishly, I got to know myself.
In the original draft of this post, I listed all the things I learned to love (like writing, being more active, being more social, an uncluttered life, etc. etc.), but I won’t bore you with the full list. I never would’ve discovered these things had I continued my debt-producing habits – shopping, spending, and looking for happiness through materialism.
Basically, my debt pay-off journey smacked me upside the head with a dose of reality. Sure, I’d have fleeting moments of material happiness when I was in debt, but not the kind I have nowadays. You know, the kind where you get way too excited about running outside on a sunny day or going on a walk with some stud named G or cleaning out your closet in an effort to be more minimalistic or a blog post that you wrote that you thought was hilarious and didn’t care if anyone else got it (heh).
My new habits
Of course, I still get super excited about (very few) material items. And I still love going out to eat with my love. You may know him? He goes by the name of Pinot Noir. Oh yeah, and it’s fun when G tags along as well…
But really, my debt pay-off habits are engrained in me for good and I’m totes okay with that. It’s no longer a battle. It’s simply easy. I still go shopping, but the occasion is rare and it’s never mindless. My debt pay-off habits have even spawned a bit of minimalism in my life.
As it says on my About page, you choose your happiness. That’s what you’re doing when you pay off debt – choosing happiness. You have the ability to choose your life, it doesn’t choose you. And, unfortunately, that’s a misconception that many (unwealthy) people can’t break free from.
I would be inclined to agree with you here, amber. While I don’t think that everyone should be in debt, it definitely gives those who were a strikingly different perspective than those who have never been in it. I haven’t finished paying off my debt (hopefully in the next 18-24 months) but I have learned a lot of new habits and can already tell that I wont be going back to my old ways.
I’ve eased off the debt payment just a tad, and I think I’ve found a great balance in where my spending and free time goes now. One thing that I learned from my debt payoff (I’ve finished with the credit cards) is that I actually CAN pay it off, instead of just resigning myself to trying to pay it down before I charge it up again. I’ve learned that making things is easier than I’ve ever thought (like laundry soap and house cleaner) and that I actually enjoy it. It gives me something to do and I can see the results when I’m done.
All in all, being in debt has taught me many things that I never would have learned had I not been in debt ,and I’m glad I know them.
I agree that it teaches people quite a lot! Congrats on almost being debt-free!!!
I’ve never been in debt except for cars, mortgage or student loans. All paid off now except mortgage. Other then that it was always one thing at a time that I focused on paying off in a reasonable time frame. I’m not sure why but somehow the desire for being debt free and not wanting to have interest and debt hanging over my head was just a natural thought process for me since teenage years. I embraced it early on before I ever even understood the disaster that high debt can cause. I never thought credit cards were cool like many of my friends and family. I am glad I didn’t have to learn the hard way but I can definitely understand how it just has to happen that way for some.
Debt pay-off came naturally to me, but I didn’t even realize I was getting into debt when I did. I paid off my student loans in 5 months after college and didn’t even realize I was racking up my credit card. When I finally realized I had $3500 on my credit cards, I got down to business and learned a very valuable lesson in the process. 🙂
The highest debt I ever had was $700 in credit card debt. That’s the only debt I ever had. I paid it off with help from my bf, he loaned me the money and I paid him back, but ever since then, I’ve learned that if you can live with a small amount of money and manage it, you will be able to manage & control yourself and your money with a higher salary.
I also learned that it doesn’t matter how much you earn in life, you need to save. I thought that since I was earning a small amount that it didn’t matter if I didn’t save. I was wrong and I stupidly spent each paycheck in 2009. This year I’m doing better, I try to save 30% of each paycheck, I finally have savings, I don’t have debt. It does matter no matter if you make 10k or 100k. I learned that you really need to save no matter what.
I also found new hobbies like sketching. I hate hobbies that require you to constantly shell out money. Anyway I have higher goals for 2011, I can’t wait. 😉
That’s awesome, Jaime!! And good point – you should save as much as you can no matter your salary. Sounds like you got it all figured out!!! 🙂
Nice post Amber, I can relate in the sense that my happiness comes from watching my kids, rather then socializing at the local watering hole, stay home enjoy kids, money spent $0 – out with friends for drinks $100+
I’ve never really been in debt, but I think I learned lessons anyway (just not in as tough of a way.)
that said BF has debt, which affects both of us…so it’s almost like I’m learning firsthand, ya know?
What an excellent point! I read a ton of get-out-of-debt blogs, but they all tend to focus on the hard work of getting out of debt–cutting back your budget, scrimping and saving, feeling like you’re never going to reach the end. It’s so refreshing to see someone spinning their situation in a positive light.
You’re completely right–my life after debt (and even, in a way, my life while paying off debt) is going to be so much better for having gone through this. I’m learning to realize the things that truly make me happy. I’m learning to do more with less. I’m learning the satisfaction of minimalism. All lessons I don’t know if I ever would have learned if I hadn’t had to struggle with debt.
Thanks for the dose of positivity! I’m going to try to keep it in mind more as I work to pay off my own debts.
Aw, thanks for the sweet comment Kelly/Cordelia! 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed the post! I’m lovin’ your blog right now!