A life without debt

The important mindset shift you might need to make

I was terrible at managing my day to day spending in my 20s. I had an overdraft, various maxed out credit cards and I was 6 months behind on my mortgage.

I seemed to have a Jekyll and Hyde personality when it came to my money. I would oscillate between spending like there was no tomorrow and then going on a spending fast, but each time I went back to excessive spending, it was even worse than before.

One day I finally I decided that this was not the way I wanted to live my life and I resolved to make several changes to the way I managed my money. 

I started by deciding that I didn’t want debt in my life.

By debt I mean any form of borrowing that wasn’t used to help fund the purchase of an appreciating asset or to improve my skills and ability to earn money. This type of debt is usually referred to as ‘bad’ debt, in that it’s a drain on your ability to build financial resilience and freedom.

In my mind I had this ‘conversation’ with debt:

“Look debt, it’s not working out.

It’s not you, it’s me.

We’ve had some fun but now it’s over.

We just aren’t right for each other.

I’m moving on from mindless and unproductive borrowing, and my future doesn’t include you.”

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I consciously decided that there was no place in my future for bad debt. That was a big moment for me and a pivotal point in my life.

But thinking about a life without bad debt was scary at the time.

It meant that I had to face up to my mindless spending and devise some rules to help me control it on a daily basis.

I had to think about what was important to me and why.

I had to decide what I wanted to spend on for fun and, more importantly, what I could afford to spend on fun.

Imagining a life without bad debt means you must take responsibility for and be intentional about your money habits, decisions and behaviours.

It wasn’t easy and it didn’t happen overnight, but I did get debt out of my life, and I don’t miss it in the slightest.

But debt is always looking to get back into your life, and if you aren’t careful, before you know it, it will be once again calling the shots. You need to be ever vigilant and firm, so whenever debt comes knocking, you can keep it at bay.

For example, I’m currently looking to buy a car. Various car dealers have been trying to get me to take interest free credit to buy a brand-new car. Apart from the fact that I don’t want a brand-new car (I’ll let someone else suffer the massive first-year depreciation) I don’t want the monthly repayments.

And buying the car with my own cash means I both feel the pain of the purchase price more than with finance (causing me to look for the best value deal), and it incentivises me to earn the money to replace the cash spent on the car.

If you have any form of debt, even mortgage debt, imagine how you’ll feel when you owe no one anything. At the very least imagine what difference it would make if the only debt you had was your mortgage, and that that was a very modest amount.

You can get free of debt if you really want to be. It all boils down to working out what’s important and developing sustainable daily spending habits that are aligned with your values.

Do let me know how you or anyone else you know, get on.

Warm regards

Jason

Jason Butler