I’ve heard about the perils of debt since I was a child, my parents made it sound like a big ugly mythical monster. Then as I got older I realized that debt was big and ugly, it just wasn’t mythical. Falling into the trappings of debt is such an easy thing to do. My first credit card had a limit of $200 on it, so little that I would’t have even bothered having one but my parent thought it would be good for me to establish credit at an early age. I must have had that thing for 4 or 5 months before I even touched it. I remember driving home one evening and blowing out a tire, and shattering the wheel of my car to boot. The cost was $300 to repair it all. I was young, and sadly I was still living paycheck to paycheck. For the first time in my life I had a necessary bill that I couldn’t afford to pay…and so went my debt spiral. I dug myself into a deeper debt hole with each passing year, with one balance transfer to the next, but never making any progress on paying the balances down. I simply incurred additional fees, had rising minimums that became more difficult to meet, and watched the interest accumulate before my very eyes. I would remain in debt for the next ten years, telling myself it was only temporary until I made more money and was able to pay it off.
The moral of the story, don’t get into debt to begin with! Yes, I eventually made more money, and instead of paying down the debt I would just buy more stuff. I was young and soothed my worries of debt by telling myself that “you only live once”. Now I’m not saying I regret the fun I had in my youth, I just wish I had taken a little more financial responsibility before it cost me years worth of money. That is money that could’ve been saved, invested, and seen compounded interest returns that would leave me smiling today. All is well in the world now, I do well at my primary job, and I have a side gig that brings in a healthy bit of income. However, the real progress came because I started to save more and spend less. I began to contribute to a 401k for my retirement, and diversify other investments in a brokerage account. I used coupons when necessary, and bought off the sale rack when money was low. Quite simply, when I couldn’t afford the item, the trip, the car, the house, I simply started telling myself no.