We often think of debt as an unpleasant necessity, but is there more to the debt mindset than we realize?
Publishing and Cubicles
I remember sitting in a half cubicle in a small publishing company in southeastern Tennessee. The cube was one of about twelve in a mid-sized room at the end of a long building with large printing machines in the basement and offices on the ground floor.
The cubicles were situated in two rows, so half of the people could turn around and talk with one another. It was a nice way to take a few minutes from the job and enjoy a good conversation.
The Debt Mindset
On one particular day my boss came over and there were a few of us having a conversation about our cars and their cost.
Having grown up in a house where debt was always a concern and listening to a lot of Dave Ramsey – a talk radio host and advocate for debt-free living, I was always focused on when I would pay things off. So I was excited to interject and declare when I would have this car paid off.
To my surprise, my boss thought the idea was ludicrous. Why would I pay off my debt? A car payment, he said, was just a part of life.
The Normal Effects of Debt
We know that the effects of debt can range from annoying to disastrous. For so many it is a source of stress, tension in relationships, sleeplessness, and more. Studies have shown that debt can lead to poorer health, depression, headaches and anxiety, and stress in relationships.
Sadly there are many who have cultivated a debt mindset. Debt is just a part of life. Unfortunately, this has a much bigger impact than just with money. A debt mindset can affect our lives in unexpected ways.
Drinking and Debt
Not too long ago I came across a quote on a humor website that’s probably more true than it is humorous: drinking is borrowing happiness from tomorrow.
Unfortunately, when we cultivate a debt mindset we become used to borrowing something from our future to improve our present. Procrastination is borrowing relaxation from later when you could really enjoy it to avoid being productive now.* Staying up late is borrowing sleep from tomorrow. **
A debt mindset doesn’t mind borrowing happiness, productivity, alertness, or money from tomorrow. It’s okay if we lose some interest on those things as long as we have them now! Unfortunately it doesn’t stop there.
In a debt mindset one area bleeds into the others. Financial debt can lead to sleeplessness. Staying up late borrows productivity from work. A poor day at work makes it easier to want a drink which causes you to spend money and stay up late. It becomes challenging to fix one area because two more keep you on the merry-go-round.
Break the Cycle
Instead of staying on the debt merry-go-round, it’s time to take charge of your life and your future. Spend based on what you have, not what you need.
Find ways to be happy regardless of your situation instead of needing to borrow against your happiness tomorrow. Find the right way to recharge at work with positive breaks so that when it comes time to get things done you can move forward.
When it’s time to go to bed, go to bed. If you find you can’t sleep when it’s time to go to bed, get up early. Stay awake all day. You’d be surprised how easy it is to get to bed on time the next time you try. With money, spend only what you make and save 15% of your income before buying anything. If you’re getting out of debt and need help, try Dave Ramsey’s baby steps. It worked for me.
There is more to the debt mindset than just money. Breaking the cycle of debt will free you in so many ways. It will improve your level of happiness, give you better relationships, and grant you peace of mind. It will focus your mind on being satisfied with what you have instead of always wanting more. Break the debt mindset cycle today. Focus instead on being happy with what you have and growing it to make your future even brighter.
* It’s worth noting that procrastination is often a sign that the work you’re doing isn’t well suited for you. The two ways to combat this are to build your discipline and find out what really drives you. That way you can better understand if you’re procrastinating because you’re doing necessary work you don’t like or if it’s because you’re doing work work you shouldn’t be doing in the first place. If it’s the first, find ways to motivate yourself and get to work. If it’s the second, you still need to move forward, but it’s time to find work that challenges you and excites you.
** Late, relatively speaking; if you have a schedule where you stay up until 2:00 am that gives you 8 hours sleep and lets you function normally, then staying up until 2:00 is not late. For you, staying up until 4:00 is staying up late.