Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Paying off Debt

Rhonda Jean
Down to Earth

This is a post from my archives written in August of this year.

I wish it wasn’t like this but money has a lot to do with simple living. I guess it’s naive to think that money, and the power attached to it, would be an innocent bystander in any kind of life. When you’re living simply, it seems too pure and wholesome to have any real connection to money or debt, and yet debt is the biggest obstacle to living this kind of life successfully over a long period of time. If there is one thing I want to encourage you to do it is to stop non-essential spending, find ways to save money and to pay off your debts.

I have written before about the constant need to change attitudes towards things we might previously have thought of as 'normal'. It's worth repeating though - changing your attitude towards spending will help you live the life you want. Back in my spending days, credit card debt and a mortgage were normal parts of my life. I didn’t realise it at the time, because shopping gave me other priorities, but I was working to pay off those debts and while I did it, I was building more debt. I thought it was 'normal' to have everything I wanted. We are encouraged to think that way. The average Western lifestyle always gives you new things to covet, it keeps creating more wants that you must have, it keeps you in debt. That will never change.

You have to change instead.

When I started living as I am now I changed my attitude to spending. I realised that I had everything I needed and most of what I wanted. I knew I should start being grateful for what I had. Shopping had lost its appeal, I was beginning to see how destructive it could be. I stopped shopping for comfort and recreation, I started thinking about what I needed and ignored what I wanted. Like many things in this simple life, one thing leads seamlessly to another. When I stopped buying, I started creating. I made the things I needed in my home instead of buying them. I regained my independence by reskilling myself, I took back the power to look after myself.

When I was a spender I was stupid enough to throw away good clothing simply because it was ripped or needed a button sewn on. I would rather work a few hours to pay for a new dress or new shoes rather than repair them. Now I value my time, and myself, a lot more than I did then. Now, let me tell you, I repair clothing, sheets, towels, shoes and anything else I can, just so I can continue using them. I have regained the strength to do things for myself. I am no longer seduced by convenience, I have taken responsibility for myself. I am an independent force.

I barely recognise that stranger in my past. No doubt there are millions who would think I’m strange now to save and conserve as I do. But here’s the rub. Living this simple life, being frugal, debt-free and environmentally aware has made me happier than I have ever been. When I was working, I earned quite a bit of money but it only served to keep me in debt because I believed I had the capacity, and the right, to own whatever I wanted. Now I know that no one has the right to continuously buy, just because they can. There is no law against it, but I believe it is morally wrong. I want to conserve rather than consume now. Now I know that if I want something of quality, beauty and uniqueness I make it myself, or barter.

I have written before about the seasons of our lives and I know that many of you are still in the season of nurturing children, building a home and a life. What I hope for you is that you still do and buy what you need, but always be mindful of how you shop, make a budget and don't be seduced by the flashing lights and those little messages that tell you: 'it's okay, you deserve it'. Make a plan to pay off your debt while you build your life, and don't keep adding to the debt. Learning how to sew, knit, cook, bake, garden and keep a frugal, natural home, will stand you in good stead because it will help you give your family the necessities of life, plus a few frills. Going back to basics and living a greener life is a much cheaper alternative than the 'normal' way.

There is no doubt about it, if you are carrying a lot of debt, or even a little, saying no to non-essential shopping will be difficult, but it will free you. Try to change your attitude towards spending, because that will help you not notice or care about what is in the shops. As with many things, the first step is the most difficult but as you settle into it you will gain a better perspective on your own life, and if you take the opportunity, it will give you back your independence and lead you to a new life.

Dollar sign: by Andy Warhol from All Posters