(Friends-I’m working on some really good posts, I promise! Instead of throwing them out there without any editing, I want to take the time to do them right. So in the meantime, here’s a quick post that was shamelessly inspired by Smart Passive Income.)
I don’t live in regret. It’s no way to live! But at the same time, I can’t pretend that I’ve done nothing but stellar decision-making in my first 28 years. I’ve definitely made some mistakes, most of them related to my finances. So if I were to go back and do it all over again, I would avoid some of my money-sucking traps, listed below for your analysis and/or derision.
9 Ways I Could Have Avoided Debt
9. Not bought a new outfit for every ‘occasion’ that seemed to warrant it. Every year, there are weddings, holiday parties, important work functions, family celebrations and other big to-do’s where one needs to look good. Even if I didn’t buy a new outfit for every event, I bought one for at least a few events each year. At the last minute. Not on sale. Tsk, tsk!
8. Not gone food shopping hungry. This one makes me laugh. I can see myself at the grocery store over the years loading up on Hershey’s Bliss chocolates, salt and vinegar potato chips, three different types of melons and every other craving known to man. I was always impulsive and I’ve never felt the need to cut back in my diet. But now I see how an extra $25 in fun foods every time I go to the grocery store can add up.
7. Not bought a brand new car. Car payments take a chunk of money away from you every month for 2-6 years, and you pay interest on a depreciating asset. I’m happy that I have a very reliable car that’s nearly paid off, but it took four long years to get there.
6. Not carried my credit cards with me every time I left the house. If you don’t have a way to buy stuff, you can’t buy stuff you can’t afford!
5. Not felt compelled to travel. Experiences are once in a lifetime but I also don’t want a lifetime of debt. I’m staying grounded as much as possible until everything is paid off. Once I learned to have fun at home I didn’t feel the need to escape anymore.
4. Not worshipped designer brands. I used to think I had some special talent for identifying which brands were hot and which were on their way out. But couldn’t anyone do that with a few quick reads of Vogue and Lucky and some fashion blogs? I’m not Bryanboy nor do I want to be and I just feel a lot more relaxed about the whole “what are you wearing” question.
3. Not eaten as much fast food and ‘fast casual’ food. Mediocre chains. Friday’s, Ruby Tuesday’s, Cheesecake Factory or horror of horrors, Olive Garden (my apologies to people who live in places where these restaurants are the only dining options, like my college town). I still love an excellent meal out. I wouldn’t trade the amazing meals I’ve had at little spots like Cafe Aletta on Long Beach Island or Bay Park Fish Company in San Diego. And those spots end up being at the same price point as the middle-priced chains like Friday’s. I’ve spent so much money at these places over the years and it’s not like I’ve ever walked out thinking,”That was the finest, freshest meal I could have had tonight.” It’s more like “I just ate some gigantic portions of totally average food and now I feel so full I’d like to take a nap or puke or possibly both.” (That was one friend’s description of Claim Jumper).
2. Cared about saving. I just never cared. Who needs savings? Savings for what? I’ll just make more money! Over the years, I’ve tried saving a few times, but eventually raided the account for some reason or another. Savings accounts are an endangered species in my world and I’m a completely unscrupulous poacher who’d like to get my hands on that very last specimen (or dollar). Now I really want to have savings that just sit there. Maybe I’ll invest part of it, but some of it is just going to sit there and look pretty like Dayana on Celebrity Apprentice.
1. Made a plan. A real, serious, honest-to-goodness plan to pay off debt and spend less. I’ve had some amount of debt since 2004/5. Instead of just letting the balances slowly creep up, I could have sat down weekly and figured out how much I could pay. I always let other things get in the way. Since I’ve gotten serious with my plan in June of last year, I’ve seen my debt go down. Even when I’ve made mistakes or thought I was doing badly, I’ve continued to make progress. It’s been the commitment that’s made a difference.
Have you always avoided debt? What’s your secret? Let me know how you would or have avoided debt!