Staying Consumer Debt Free for One Year

The following is an opinion and experience piece and NOT financial advice.

It took a long time to climb out of a deep canyon, but this week I celebrated one year of being free of consumer credit card debt.  The debt burden saddled me for close to a decade and prevented me from doing many of the things that I wanted to.  It is also kept dragging down my moods.
 Our financial wealth and our weight often reflect our mindsets.  Though I wasn’t overweight and I was undervaluing myself. 
It took several years of shifting my own thought patterns, disciplined debt re-payments, support from friends and famiyl and financial education to free myself from the shackles of consumer debt.  Thankfully, my interest rates weren’t too bad, however every month I  was paying the credit card companies annual interest of over 8%, instead of having this money invested and paying myself.
Have you ever watched shows like “Till Debt do Us Part”?  It is actually pretty scary how much consumer debt these participants have. This is money owed that is outside of their mortgage.  My fiancée and I have agreed that we want to start our marriage with zero debt that is not building our wealth (such as a mortgage).  We have been judiciously putting money aside on a monthly basis so that we are able to pay for a wedding that is within our means to pay by cash.  I can’t imagine paying for an extravagant party that means that we spend the next 5-10 years paying it off. What a way to start, eh? 
  I got into trouble because I was living outside of means and because the credit card company hounded me to take on a line credit of that I originally said no to.  They also continually increased my limits to beyond my ability to pay it back; lining their pockets with the interest payments. 
 My self-esteem during these years was low, so was my earning power. I found it difficult to find work as a Kinesiologist after graduating in 1999. I also started a previous business because I couldn’t find work. To increase my long-term earnings I did use my credit card to pay for various educational investments which have definitely paid off. However, now I make sure that I have the cash before paying for continuing education.
A few of my fears are being homeless (though I know there are many reasons that people end up on the street) as well as not having enough income to support a moderate lifestyle in retirement.  Much of the financial advice seems to be all very similar and all makes sense.  My goal is to reach retirement debt and mortgage free.
All I can say is live BELOWyour means so that there is always cash left at the end of the month. Money is an object, it only has what value we attach to it.  What is enough? Enough is to know that I can pay my bills on time, have a roof securely over my head, feed myself and my family and have the freedom to enjoy a moderate lifestyle.  Next steps for me are to slowly add to my retirement fund, while building a 6-month cash based emergency fund. 
Being an entrepreneur means that I will have income as long as I am able to build and run a business where others can  perform work and clients are willing to pay for our services.  Our health and wellness is not discretionary, so health care businesses will do well as long as we provide value to our clients.
There is a great piece in the Financial Post on why it is important to pay off your debt NOW.  Have compounding interest work for you instead of for the credit card companies. Another good resource for entrepreneurs who are not financial gurus is “Finance and Accounting for Non-Financial Managers,” which among other things explains how to calculate the value of money invested today. 
The above is based on the author’s experience and opinion it is NOT considered NOT financial advice.

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