Are You a Slave to Debt? Land of the Free and Home of the Brave?
We Americans are proud of our freedom and our opposition to tyranny and slavery, but because of lack of self discipline, most of us are not free at all. We are enslaved by our emotions and our debt. Most of us would never consider agreeing to become indentured servants and yet, by our own lack of self discipline, many of us have sold ourselves into slavery. Have you ever thought about the fact that indentured servants usually had to work 7 years for their freedom and people who claim bankruptcy have black marks on their credit for 7 years? Are you a slave to debt?
By now all those well meaning New Year’s resolutions have flown out the window, but don’t despair: all is not completely lost. Here are a few money saving tips and ideas that will get you back on track, save you money and will actually work.
You say “I don’t want to be a slave to debt but I don’t know where to begin.” Just begin. Don’t over-think it. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that you have to stop spending more than you earn.
Have you ever told your child to go pick up the toys in their room only to have them start whining and crying, “But I don’t know what to do.” It’s frustrating to hear that in a child because you and I both know an eight year old knows he’s supposed to put his toys away and his dirty clothes in the hamper. He just doesn’t want to do it. That whining and excuse making in an adult is even harder to take. As in a child, it’s just an excuse to get out of doing something we don’t want to do. Stop spending more than you earn.
Stop living a life of fear. Remember if you’re an American you live in the land of the free and the home of the BRAVE. There are two things that always amaze me. The first is grown adults that cower before a child a quarter their size and who is throwing a fit while demanding to buy a toy. The second is to watch a grown adult cower when looking at a desk or table piled with papers and bills. It’s just a bunch of paper, not a snake that is going to reach out and bite you. Be brave and start dealing with the papers and bills. Get them in order. Yes you may have to face some mistakes and things you don’t want to think about, but do it anyway. Then get on with your life. You don’t have to be a slave to debt! Learn from your mistakes and don’t make them again.
Here are a few suggestions to get that overwhelming pile of papers under control:
Quickly look at each paper and lay it into one of these 4 categories:
- TRASH – Throw out and/or shred immediately.
- FILES – Put in a box and set by file cabinet to sort and put in order some other day.
BILLS – Sort them in order by the date that they are due. If things are really out of control write down a list of all your bills and how much you owe. This will help give you a reality check of where you stand with your bills. You need to be brave and honest with this.
Using some common sense, start paying those bills. Pay your bills first. For a while, that may mean you have no money left for fun and entertainment, but that is the sacrifice you make for freedom.
- CORRESPONDENCE – Put correspondence in a pile. Read and deal with it after you have your bill pile out of the way.
If you are a slave to debt, it’s time to get angry and say enough is enough. I will no longer be enslaved and start fighting for my freedom from debt, even if my biggest enemy is myself!
From: Dig Out Of Debt. For more easy and practical ways to save money and get out of debt, check out Dig out Of Debt and learn more about how to keep more of your money and free yourself from being a slave to debt!
Hi Jill! You’re advice is always spot on! We are currently enrolled in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. It is has opened our eyes after almost 30 years of marriage. We thought we understood budgeting! The best advice we have gleaned so far is the Four Walls principle – Pay housing costs (rent/mortgage, utilities, etc.), food, clothing and transportation costs first in your budget. This gives security from which to tackle everything else. I highly recommend the course! Blessings!
Thank you Jill, it’s not just your advice that helps me but it also helps me to get up every morning with a goal. Thanks.
You are welcome May. I know I have days where I need a little motivation to get up and get going, especially when my CFS is acting up.
Another thing we learned is when you get one bill paid off (like a mortgage, credit card, car, etc.) apply the amount you paid on that to another bill, and soon you’re pretty well debt free. You won’t miss the extra money, since you’ve been paying it out already.
You are oversimplifying people w/debt. If it were as simple as making a list and paying your bills first, then most of us wouldn’t be in debt.
The reality is that there isn’t emough money to pay bills and to eat.
It is simple. You only spend what you can afford to. Unless they have had a natural disaster or medical disaster happen to them most people can live within their means for the basic items. In our country people who even have a minimum wage are making almost double of what I live on and I manage. I have car repairs, house repairs and all of those things just like everyone else but I am not in debt. People on welfare live on way more then what I do. I know many people who make minimum wage and live on it. Now to do that you may have to move to a cheaper house or part of the country, eat differently, learn to make do but you can do it and we have many people on this site who do just fine.
Of course there are exceptions but not often. I can take most people and cut their spending way down on things they had never realized they were wasting their money on.
Thank you for your answer to dtl. Unless dtl is one of the exceptions, he/she needs to get a grip on needs versus wants…not always easy, but doable. Some sacrifice is likely, but the end result of being debt free is so worth it.
I love your advice, I have used it for years. I don’t think you are oversimplifying people/debt. I think people confuse needs and wants, then try to justify their debt. I know when my husband and I struggle it is because we tried to justify why we were not being smart and frugal with our money. I think mindset is a big part of being in debt. When my husband and I decided we didn’t “deserve” the right to charge that new T.V. or laptop we found we were much happier.
Grizzly Bear Mom
You are right about debt. When I was poor in the Air Force or now when I make a good living, others make just as much money as I do but can’t save any.
Love the discussion about debt-we have been dealing with debt for 20 years-paying it off; getting out of debt; and then creeping back up again. We make more money now than we ever have and have been through all the books; Dave Ramsey, Larry Burkett, Mary Hunt etc…
What has finally worked is continuing to write down all spending; each day, having a simple written budget and having at least 1000 in the bank for those unknowns always! Sometimes I think people like myself that can always pay there bills and never hit rock bottom can have the hardest time. I just have to keep my big girls pants on and be honest about what is truly and need and what is just a want.
Jill, I would be interested to know how much you do live on, just on a general basis. Your comment about living on much less than Welfare is really interesting. So far, my experience has been that everything I have cut out had made me feel better and calmer. I have yet to feel deprived! You have done some amazing things, and they are even more amazing due to your medical condition.
Courtney at the time this was written I was living off of $650 plus medical. I now live off of $725 plus medical. The thing is most families on welfare get about $500 a month in cash(this is different with each family and state but is about the minimum). They also get a big rent or housing deduction, utility deduction, free dental for kids, medical and a large amount of food stamps. 25 years ago a family of 3 could get $500 cash, $350 food stamps, medical and dental etc. and it is much more now. Now they also have extra things and perks like free cell phones and too many for me to list.
Up until about 5 years ago my income was about $350 to $500 for most of my life and that was with kids living at home and no medical. Jill(Iknow it is Tawra’s picture but I am writing this from her house :)
My beloved and I prayed long and hard whether or not to go into Debt management for our medical! We have only foodbank food once a week. That is only enough for 3 days for the 2 of us. However, God provides for our needs in the most unusuaol ways. For us it was the best decision made after prayer!
My Beloved and His Bride
Jill, thank you for responding. Wow! $725 a month, not including your medical expenses! That is amazing! Can you break it down a bit and say how much for housing, how much for food, personal care, etc.? I find this very interesting! I have read that Vicki Robin( Your Money Or Your Life) lives on $700 a month, but I have been unable to find out exactly HOW, and where that money goes. Thank you for taking the time to respond.
Courtney I will try to give you an idea of where I spend my money and how it is that I live off that amount. I only hesitate because my budget doesn’t make sense on paper and that is why I don’t usually use the usual methods of budgeting. Let me explain. For all of my life I have depended on God to supply my needs. I have had so many things out of the norm happen to me and my needs supplied in very unusual ways. The best way to explain is to give you some examples and please forgive the lengthiness but I know of no other way to do this.
Years ago I and my kids were living off of what I could make at a minimum wage paying job. I had so little money that if I had $20 a week for groceries I would get excited. I also had a very leaky roof. Really bad. So bad at one point I had to put a child’s swimming pool in the attic to catch the water which I then would have to dip out and empty one coffee can at a time after a storm. After one particularly bad storm I was outside looking at more shingles laying in my drive way and telling God I didn’t know how much longer before I would have no roof at all (as if He didn’t know that all ready :) and I needed help. Out of the blue a man who owned some rental homes down the street walked by and saw my problem. He told me to put in an insurance claim. He said there was only a 10% chance they would take care of it but I should at least try.
I did. The agent came out and did some muttering and shaking of his head and then said “I will file you claim but if it goes through you will have to pay us $1000 deductible.” I was going to have to come up with $1000. I couldn’t come up with $10 at the time let alone $1000. I told him I couldn’t come up with the money so there was no use for me to do the claim. Now he was a very sober and unsmiling man and for some reason God brought to mind the story in Nehemiah where Nehemiah prayed for God to soften the kings heart. I thought it was crazy but I started praying for God to soften this insurance agent’s heart and to help me find a way to get my rood done. The agent said “Well let me take this info with me and see what I find and I will call you but it doesn’t look promising.”
The next day he called and said he had spent the evening figuring my numbers and had it worked out that if I didn’t mind doing a little painting myself everything would be covered including my deductible. I ended up not only getting new shingles but new decking under them, sheet rock in a couple of rooms, carpet, paint and several other things I hadn’t even planned on. I got it all and it didn’t cost me anything but of course my monthly insurance premium.
Another time I needed insulation really bad in my house. There was so much cold air coming through my walls it would blow my curtains out. I got a flyer in the door which said the city had picked our area to winterize homes that needed it. I ended up getting the whole house insulated, everything caulked, new storm windows and doors and much more for nothing. I could go on and on listing things like this. Once I longed for some tomatoes so bad but they were a luxury item at that time. A few hours later I received a free box of home grown tomatoes. How do I explain this in a budget? I will try to give a few basics of my monthly things and let me say up front that I everyday am very very careful of everything I do that will cost me money.
First the main reason I can live on so little is I have no debt at all. No house payment, car payment or credit card debit. This is why I keep telling everyone to stop spending on anything but your basic needs and get out of debt. A family of 4 can survive on a minimum wage job if you have to if you have no debts.
Here are some of the places I spend money:
$75 -$100 a month on groceries
$100 plus on tithe
$125 car and house insurance
Average out throughout the year about $70 a month for gas and electric sometimes it is less
$40 for phone and water
$50 for misc. at Wal Mart like toilet paper, meds, personal needs things, lawn care things etc.
I spend about $50 a year or less on clothes
When I can afford it I pay for a little cable because that is all I do for entertainment at all with me being sick
I then have $200 about of what I call my floating money. I use it for things like car tags when they are due ($50), gas money, gifts, savings and unexpected things.
This all changes from month to month. For example I was out of town for a week and half so I didn’t have to buy groceries and when I got home I only spent $15 for this week’s groceries. My utilities will probably be less too. Some of my numbers may seem low and it isn’t because things are so much cheaper here it is just I practice what I preach and am very careful with everything. I don’t have things like expensive cell phones, go out to eat and buy as much as I can for gifts and clothes at thrift stores. I hope this helps or gives you a general idea.
Thank you, Jill. That does clarify things a lot more. I wonder how you keep your utilities so low. Thank you. That really helps me. God bless.
I cover in detail how I keep my utilities so low in https://www.livingonadime.com/store/penny-pinching-mama/ as a matter of fact I cover everything of how I can live on so little. I really hate pitching my books but when we have a sale most people find the info in them saves them many times over what the cost of the book was and then some. It is just takes up to much to space to write everything I do in a comment like this but here are a couple of the the things I do and mention in the book.
I of course take very short showers – about 5 mins. sometimes 7 if I shave my legs. I shower 2-3 times a week in the winter but more often in the summer if I get hot or sweaty. Dermatologists say we shouldn’t shower everyday that it is bad for our skin. I have never been able to figure this out – people wouldn’t dream of not wearing sun screen to protect their skin but bulk at the idea of not showering everyday to protect their skin. Not to mention they then have to buy extra creams and lotions because their skin is then too dry.
I would never dream of starting the water in the shower and letting it run before I get in.
I don’t run the water when I brush my teeth. Sometimes I will wash my hair in the sink. If I do I wet it, turn the water off, soap down and then turn the water back on to rinse.
If I don’t have the money I won’t water my yard. If it dies it dies but oddly enough my yard seems to survive anyway.
If I am sitting for awhile say in the evening watching tv I don’t turn on the a/c but have a fan blowing on me. I have been in so many homes where it would start getting warm and everyone runs to turn on the a/c where if they just turned on a couple of fans it would help. In the winter I wear layers and other things to help with the heat.
These are just the tip of the ice berg but I hope that helps get you started.
Getting out of debt, and staying out of debt is indeed as simple as learning to live within your means. We had our years of struggling while in debt, like everyone else, and are now debt free, and have been for some time. The hard part is to tell yourself the truth, (and then believe it), about what you can actually afford. People who don’t agree, need to consider what they would do if there was no such thing as credit of any kind. What would you do then? Extras would simply not be available to them, if they could not pay the basics. If you could not pay the basics, and there was no credit, you would have to find creative ways to do with less, or make do, or do without. Solutions would include moving, looking for extra work, bartering, a little creative self denial, etc. There was a time in history when using credit had a stigma, and was not readily available, at any interest rate. Jill is right in saying that there are exceptions, but when we used credit, it seemed like everything was an exception, and an emergency. One day we realized that the credit cards we used ‘for emergencies only’ were always maxed out, and unavailable for true emergencies anyway, so who were we fooling, besides ourselves, about how we were using them? The other really important point that Jill raises is that of remembering Who our Provider really is. When we have no resources of our own, we are given the very real privilege of relying on God, and it has been our experience as well, that He has always provided in more amazing and abundant ways than we could have asked for. Credit can become a façade for an inflated view of the wrong kind of human independence, that sets itself up against God.