A few posts ago I talked about the importance of getting out of debt. Just as important is staying out of debt. This requires a shift in thinking.
A realization that you don’t need nearly as much stuff as you thought you did.
In the book Your Money Or Your Life, the authors talk about the concept of “enough.” Having enough means having all your basic needs fulfilled, plus some of your wants, plus a handful of luxuries. When you begin to acquire more than what is “enough” for you, your fulfillment level begins to curve steeply downward.
“But I don’t make enough even to get to ‘enough’!”
What if your wants aren’t that many, but your current income won’t allow you to get even that far, to the point of “enough?”
Start your own micro-business. Sacrifice your wants until you are making enough additional income to buy them. Don’t get into debt over something you don’t need.
Remember, if you are in debt, you are a slave.
Steps to staying out of debt
Here are several things you can do to help yourself stay out of debt.
- Keep your emergency fund fully funded. You should have three to six months of basic expenses (to take care of needs, not wants) saved up in an account. Whenever the fund gets depleted, fill it back up with the money you now save each month because you’re not having to pay off debt.
- Cut up your credit cards. Instead of credit cards, get a check card from your bank or credit union. You can’t get into debt using a check card because if you run out of money in your account, the transaction won’t go through!
Some people freak out at that idea. “What if there’s an emergency and I need more money than is in my bank account?”
That’s what the emergency fund is for.
- Stay out of stores – including online. The only store you need to visit on a regular basis is a grocery store. Instead of wasting your time at the mall or in Target, start a blog or a YouTube channel that will eventually make you a little extra cash.
Another alternative, if the weather permits, is to take a walk around the park or the city lake with a friend.
- Don’t buy it for a week. Should you happen to find yourself in a non-grocery store, if you see something you are tempted to buy but do not need, wait a week before buying it. Chances are good you will have forgotten about it, or it won’t seem nearly as appealing to you as it did seven days earlier.
- Don’t buy brand new technology. I grew up in a poor family, and when VCR’s came out in the 1980’s my parents couldn’t afford those $1,000 things. Three to five years later, they were only a few hundred dollars. A few years after that, around a hundred.
Now they are obsolete.
Digital cameras were several hundred dollars when they first came out. Now they only take you back a hundred bucks or so.
If something cool comes out on the market that you really want, wait at least two years. By then, you may find friends or relatives who are tired of their slightly-used gadget and will just give you theirs! If not, you will be able to buy it at a much cheaper price than you would have when it first came out.
- Have a car fund. When you pay off your car, start saving the money that used to be your car payment for the next car. On a related note…
- …Drive your car until it won’t go anywhere – or is costing several thousand dollars a year in repairs. If you “have” to have a new-looking, recent model vehicle every two to five years, you are asking for slavery! You need to get your priorities straight.
- Don’t upgrade in house. Unless you’re already living in a shack and/or a really bad neighborhood, be happy with the space you have. More space just means more cleaning, maintenance, and money spent on property tax, anyway. There’s no law against children sharing bedrooms. I know that’s old-fashioned, but the kids aren’t in charge, the parents are.
Ladies, you don’t need a two hundred square foot kitchen to be happy. I promise.
And what’s with the master bedrooms the size of a small living room? All you need in a bedroom is a place to sleep and a place to store your clothes!
Getting out of debt is one thing. Staying out of debt is another. But if you find your level of “enough”, it becomes a piece of proverbial cake.
To your success!