When my husband and I got married in 2003, we had over $25,000 in debt between us (student loan debt, car loans, etc.).
Less than 6 years later, we had paid it all off.
Now, thanks to the frugal choices we’ve made, our only debt is our mortgage.
Life isn’t easy, but our experiences have taught us what a burden debt can be on your life.
Here are five characteristics that have helped my family keep debt to a minimum in our lives:
“Embrace your inner…”
1. Marine Corps Drill Instructor.
When it comes to your debt, you need a tough attitude toward it – drill instructor tough. Maybe I think this way because my husband is a Marine Corps veteran and he’s a fan of R. Lee Ermey, famous for playing Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in the movie Full Metal Jacket and for doing the voice of Sarge in Toy Story films.
Actually, I recommend going further than this and looking at your debt with hate. That’s right. HATE your debt. HATE your credit cards. Debt is a 4-letter word. I think of debt like a disease and do everything to avoid having it. This has worked for me and makes me sick to my stomach if I even think of using my credit card for something unnecessary.
Speaking of necessity – We do use our credit cards regularly, but we pay them off in full each month. If it’s a big amount, we adjust our budget around it. Sometimes using credit cards is necessary, and can help you take care of a car repair bill or the like without tapping into savings as long as you do everything possible to pay your credit card bill in full when it’s due.
2. Culinary Artist.
A culinary artist is an individual whose job entails preparing foods and menus. You may already be doing this (most moms have multiple “jobs!”), but if you have been eating out a lot, STOP.
You have a kitchen in your home. Learn to love being in there – trying new recipes, experimenting with your own. I’ve learned that I can make a meal at home that’s better tasting and more satisfying than any restaurant meal – and it’s free of taste enhancers engineered in a lab (seriously – read the book The End of Overeating by David Kessler, M.D. It’s amazing what the food industry does to get us hooked on their food products and spend big money in restaurants.).
Need help? I recommend going to the library and checking out cookbooks like The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook, The $5 Dinner Mom Breakfast and Lunch Cookbook, and The $5 Dinner Mom One-Dish Dinner Cookbook, all by Erin Chase. Also, check out Healthy Meals for Less by Jonni McCoy. Also, check out the Frugal Recipes here on my site.
Think of all the ways you can make extra money, such as dog sitting, teaching music, photography, selling things on Ebay. Maybe you already are doing these things, but the more you apply yourself, or the more things you try, the more chances you could turn your hobbies into a business, or at the very least, a regular source of income to help manage your monthly expenses and pay off debt.
I work as a church organist, but years ago, before I found steady weekday employment, I taught piano lessons. I had as many as 10 students for a while. I enjoyed it, but eventually I found daytime employment that I preferred and that provides better income so I cut back to having only one student. It’s great having something I can fall back on or do on the side if needed.
No, I’m not talking about the servant you probably already feel like to your busy schedule, your money and of course, your family!
I’m talking about a servant to all people you encounter – through little acts of kindness as well as acts of time as a volunteer in your church or for a specific cause. Thinking of the needs of those less fortunate than yourself helps you see what really matters in life. You appreciate what you have instead of wanting more.
Giving of your time (as you are able!) and your resources (donating items & money to charity or food shelves) gives you a lot in return. I believe in the whole “what comes around goes around” theory. When you give, even in small ways, it benefits you as well, though maybe not in many ways until sometime later on. You never know!
5. Zen Master.
Okay, I say Zen Master because I can’t think of a better term. Ascetic or monk came to mind, but I DON’T suggest denying yourself any pleasure in life, so maybe I’ll invent a term.
Be happy that you wake up every day in a free country that offers every opportunity imaginable. Enjoy driving down maintained streets (despite annoying construction delays) and seeing beautiful life everywhere. Learn to be grateful. Every day. Appreciate non-material things in life.
When my husband served with his military unit in Iraq in 2006, one thing he missed greatly was the green trees and grass everywhere. In the Middle East where lush green scenery is lacking, he said that the fine, dry sand of the desert gets into everything including electronics no matter where you are. When he came back, he appreciated what so many of us take for granted over here – the beauty that’s around us.
You don’t need more stuff to have enough. If you embrace an attitude of gratitude in every moment, you’ll have less desire to accumulate things and rack up your debt even further.
When I was a kid and a teenager, I spent a long time making up my Christmas want list each year. Now, it’s difficult for me to make a list because I already have so much and can’t keep up with it all! Not that I don’t want a lot – there are a TON of CDs and books I’d love to have and enjoy. I just don’t want more stuff taking up the limited space we have in our house, keeping me from doing the things I’m passionate about (composing music, writing, spending time with my family).
I make mistakes with money still. But I think I’ve grown a lot and my husband has grown with me toward being frugal wise.
These are five identities/characteristics/qualities that we’ve embraced and have helped us get and stay out of debt, and I recommend them to anyone wanting to be free of debt as well!