5 Life Altering Lessons I Learned From My Debt

Starting position of a chess game. House of St...

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Several years ago, my wife and I dug ourselves into debt pretty deep.   It wasn’t as bad as some, but it was much worse than anybody could actually want.    Recognizing the problem as a problem was a life-changing event.  From there, I’ve been examining every thing else about my life.   As part of that examination, I’ve spent a lot of time really thinking about the ultimate causes of the debt and what it has taken to motivate ourselves to get rid of it.

I’ve realized a few things:

  1. The things I want right now do not matter. I own around 2000 movies.   Up until last spring, every time I went into a store that sold movies, I’d peruse the cheap rack and buy 2-3 moves.  I’d watch them all, but the vast majority were only ever watched once or twice.  The rest may as well have been rented.   I wanted them and I wanted them “right now”, but after watching them once, the value vanished.   Most things I’ve bought on a whim lost their value to me shortly after bringing them home.  Planned purchases are enjoyable longer.
  2. The things I care about do not cost money. I cannot buy a kiss from my kids, or a hug from my wife.   The school project my son did on his hero(Me!) is absolutely priceless.  The TV, the smartphone, a new car, these things are fleeting.   Teaching my kids to read or ride a bike, getting beat by a 6 year old at chess, these things will last us all forever.  It took $30,000 of unsecured consumer debt to drill that lesson home.
  3. Instant gratification is easier than security, but not nearly as gratifying. It is incredibly easy to buy what you want when you want it.    It is much harder to postpone buying something until you can afford it.   Once you build that habit, and see the savings of delayed gratification, it’s worth it.   There is a comfort in having a few months worth of expenses in an emergency fund that no amount of knickknacks can match.
  4. I like getting stuff more than I like having stuff. It’s easy to succumb to the temporary high of a quick purchase.  It’s easy to train yourself to crave that high to the point that it’s impossibly to walk out of a store without buying something.  I did that.    When I cleaned out my entire house this spring, I came to the realization that I don’t need–or even want–most of the things I own.   I wanted it once, but once I had it, the infatuation was gone.  I didn’t have many problems unloading most of my crap.  It felt good to get rid of it.
  5. Owing money sucks. The borrower is slave to the lender.   When our debt exceeded our annual income, we were working 3/4 of the time just to stay afloat.  Instead of being able to spend my time and money on the things that matter, I was forced to spend thousands of hours just covering interest and pretending to make progress on my shackles.  That’s not how I recommend spending your life.   Time is the one thing you have that you can never get back.  Don’t waste it on crap like debt.

Have you learned anything from your debt?

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  • 2 comments

    Comments

    1. And now look at you, so close to paying off your mortgage! What a great turnaround. Thanks for sharing your lessons.

    2. I hate debt. It makes me feel icky knowing that someone will own more of my new house than I do. So my debt lessons have all taught me that early debt payoff is the right decision for me even if it means losing out on the couple of extra percentage points that I could have earned elsewhere. With interest rates at an all time low anyway, even an early mortgage payoff at 4.5% isn’t the crappiest investment anyway, lol.

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