By the tender age of 26 I had accumulated a small mountain of debt. Credit cards were my gateway drug and student loans were the monsters under the bed.
Every book, podcast and fucking webinar I read, heard and watched told me basically the same thing: keep your mind positive and positive things will flow to you. While that is all well and good there is something they don’t tell you that is fundamentally key: pragmatism. I can envision myself debt-free, live as if I have no debt and repeat all of the financially free mantras until my lungs are screaming for air. What all of these things have in common, however, is that whilst doing them I WAS STILL IN DEBT.
Though I must give credit where credit is due. There are a rare few who let you know that massive action is also required to ensure the manifestation of your ultimate destiny. “Massive action” is any step in the direction towards realizing your vision. What I have learned from all of these self-help gurus, though, is that they like to leave the key to living a debt free life to themselves. As I said before, pragmatism is paramount. Now, I have never been to business school, I don’t have a PhD, nor am I well versed in why the economy collapsed in 2008. But, what I can tell you is that you will get nowhere without a plan. Create a budget, save an emergency fund and attack your debt as if your life depended on it.
I read a book that ultimately changed the entire money game: The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. Now, I know what you’re thinking — who is this random fucking girl and why should I listen to what she has to say? Well, for starters, you shouldn’t. Do your own research, read the book yourself, listen to his podcasts, locate any number of people who have completed his program and are now financially free. More specifically: seek out facts, engage with the information, become an avid consumer of knowledge.
In 2016 the credit card industry made over $ 160 billion in profit. That’s billion — with a b. According to studentloanhero.com, “Americans owe over $1.48 trillion in student loan debt, spread out among about 44 million borrowers. That’s about $620 billion more than the total U.S. credit card debt.” If that doesn’t make your stomach turn, you’re lying to yourself. We are incessantly inundated with advertising to consume more and more. “It doesn’t matter that you don’t have actual cash to buy that fancy new (insert bougie bullshit here), just put it on this credit card.” Welcome to America, land of the debtor; where you can live a moderately happy life in a home you can’t afford, at a job you probably hate to support your consumption addictions.
Now, I know this paints a pretty fucking pessimistic view of the current climate, but that’s just it. It has to be dramatic and piss people off if we are to fully grasp the enormity of what is happening. If you are shocked by the current statistics, you can still be saved. Yes, behaviors will have to undergo drastic changes, attitudes about consumption and “emergency credit cards” will have to be dismantled, but there is hope for us yet. IT CAN BE DONE. Dave says that “the enemy of ‘the best’ is ‘just fine.’” As a culture, we are just getting by, barely making ends meet, living paycheck to paycheck, whatever cliché best suits you. The problem is, THAT IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH.
To be content with complacency is dangerous. It is a precarious position to be in because there is no striving for more, no desire for growth. To live your best life you must be willing to make certain sacrifices: saying no to dinner with your soul sister, skipping that trip to Portland, or picking up another job to pay your debt off more quickly. The beauty behind practical implementation of a plan is that, not only is it achievable, but you will get to a point of financial freedom. With laser-like focus and unwavering determination, we can all cut the puppet strings the credit card industries have so carefully woven into our society. Consume with awareness: keep that car just three years longer and wait until that sweater goes on sale in a few months. Delaying instant gratification in the place of a bigger goal is a true marker of maturity.
You can’t wish yourself financially independent any more than you can wish yourself thin. There has to be clear, actionable steps taken every goddamn day to achieve the desired result. I do believe that like attracts like, water rises to its own level or your vibe attracts your tribe. We shouldn’t, however, use the LOA as an excuse for laziness. Take back control of your finances, pay what you owe, create an emergency fund, spend only real money. It can be done on less than you think.