I’m going to venture a guess that we’ve all borrowed money to buy something for ourselves: food, clothes, entertainment, cars, houses, etc. The list for some goes on and on….
Sure, debt can be great to purchase things like a house that might take quite a lifetime to save up for. But, there is an evil and dark side to debt when it is used without discipline and control. Debt can rule your life if you use it to purchase consumer products that aren’t really “needed” to survive.
I’d like to share a quick lesson with you that I learned at a young age about debt and why instant gratification isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
How I Learned About the Evil Side of Debt at a Young Age
When you’re a young kid, you scrape together savings any way that you can: birthday money, allowance, and odd jobs around the neighborhood. One day I had put together about $40, and headed off with my mom to the computer game store (Egghead Software back then). I think I was around 13 years old at the time, and playing computer games was one of my main hobbies. There was a game I had heard a little about called Relentless: Twisten’s Adventure. Egghead had the game, and the box art looked great! There was only one small little problem. The game was on sale for $50 and I only had $40 in my wallet.
What was a young 13 year-old to do? Why, I asked my mom to borrow the $10, of course! So I walked over and humbly asked the question: “mom, can I have $10 now and I’ll pay you back next week after I wash the cars?” In those days, I was paid $10 each week by washing and vacuuming out both of the family vehicles – this was basically my allowance.
Her response went something like this: sure you can borrow the $10 now, BUT as repayment for getting the money now you’ll have to wash and vacuum out the cars for two weeks. Hmm… “OK,” I responded without giving it that much thought.
Two Weeks Later
Playing the new computer game was great! I had tons of fun playing it for hours at a time on our old 486. Sweating outside in the hot humid Virginia sun vacuuming out the cars that second week, I realized I had made a pretty bad decision. If I only could have waited one more week, I would still have the computer game, and I could be $10 closer to having enough money for the next one.
I think it was at that moment in time that it really “clicked” for me that borrowing money to get something now is ALMOST ALWAYS a bad idea. Sure, it feels great to get that instant gratification, but the “debt hangover” can be an absolute bitch! Anyone who is in over their head with debt will eventually come to this realization – it’s not a matter of if, but when.
The only real exception that I can think of to this rule is buying a house. I think this is mostly because the US government subsidizes housing in order to keep most people under control as debt slaves, but I digress…
For me, learning that debt is not the answer to get what you want out of life came pretty early (thank god). If you are debt free now or on your journey there, when was your “ah ha” moment that you realized debt was not the answer to a happy life?