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Debt is NOT inevitable!

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Yesterday, I substitute taught in a personal finance class at the local high school.  The activity the students were assigned by their teacher gave them this scenario:  You are a new member of the workforce.  You luckily have no college debt.  You are about to get married and start a new life with your spouse.  Your task is this:  Find two credit cards for you and your spouse (one for personal use and one for your spouse’s business use, which his/her company will reimburse; the latter should have benefits like airline miles, etc.); find an auto loan for the new car you need for work; find a mortgage for the home you will buy.

I have so many problems with this assignment.  First of all, it’s probably not luck that you have no school loans.  Either you or your parents saved up a lot of money to pay for it, or you made sure you got lots of scholarships and grants, or you worked your way through school, paying as you went.  Secondly, I would NEVER use a credit card in my name for business expenses unless I owned the business.  If my employer wants me to use a credit card, they’ll have to issue me a company card.  Third, you don’t NEED a credit card at all!  And you don’t need a NEW car for your job.  Find a good used car that you can afford without financing it.  Or — gasp — find a place to live where you can use public transportation!  And lastly, if you are just out of college and just getting married, what the heck are you doing buying a house?  There’s nothing wrong with renting and saving up for a house.

But as a substitute teacher, there wasn’t much I could do.  I wanted to shout to the students, “Don’t buy into this nonsense!  You don’t have to go into debt to live your life!”  Instead, I did my job, which was to make sure they stayed on task and didn’t set the classroom on fire.

Today, a friend of mine posted a Facebook status that said, “We WILL get out of debt… if it kills me… we WILL.”  And I totally applaud her!  But then one of her friends replied, “Unfortunately there will always be some kind of debt; especially if you have kids (school, clothes, dance lessons, braces, saving for college, etc.) and also if you own a home! BUT, there is hope… Practice self-discipline, talk to someone who is really good with their money, learn to save & invest and you will be FINE, I promise 🙂 I wish somebody would’ve given us that advice when I was in my 20’s!”

No, no, no!  If I can’t afford dance lessons for my child, she won’t take dance lessons.  If my child needs braces, I will find an orthodontist who will work with me on payments.  I will do my best to save for my child’s college expenses, but if I can’t pay for it, my child can work and pay for it himself!  And WHY on earth would I go into debt for clothes?!

I am fighting hard against the notion that debt is inevitable.  It isn’t.  You can be debt-free and stay that way.  We’re planning to prove it, as soon as we pay off two credit cards and the house.


About Karen Koch

I like the old-fashioned lifestyle. All this new-fangled stuff baffles me sometimes. I cherish living out in the country, raising chickens and rabbits, planting fruit trees, and enjoying a slow life filled with beautiful words and ideas. I don't always achieve a slow life. I teach middle school English and manage a little burgeoning farm with my husband, and somewhere in the midst of that, I try to find time for writing, running, knitting, reading, and playing the ukulele. And sometimes, I actually succeed.

3 responses »

  1. We can always hope the next day the teacher was going to make those exact points.

  2. Amen!
    It has never made sense to go into debt for things like clothes, vacations, or (for us) even cars. But it’s completely acceptable to most in our society.
    And if you know your child will need orthodontic care ahead of time, save for it! We got a nice discount when we paid cash up front for braces.
    That said, we do use our credit card a LOT, but that’s because it’s SAVING us money. To get cash we have to use an ATM machine and it ends up costing us about $17 for each $230 we take out (in banking and international exchange fees). Whereas using a specific credit card here (Capital One) allows us to bypass all those fees, and we just pay the bill off each month from our account in the U.S. We’re able to use it for groceries and some bills.
    Unfortunately there are other bills we cannot pay with the credit card, and for those we have to bite the bullet and use the ATM. One of the not-so-good things about living overseas.

    • In your particular situation, I can completely understand using a credit card. Those fees are CRAZY! I’m guessing, based on your other comments about bureaucracy (which I first typed as bureaucrazy, which might be more accurate) in Argentina, that there’s not a simpler way to do it all — with transferring your US funds to a bank there, or withdrawing directly from the bank rather than the ATM?


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