It seems that a goodly chunk of people who read and write PF blogs have been in debt. Deep debt. They then concentrate on getting out as quickly as possible.
Now, I’m not going to sit here and defend debt. It’s horribly unpleasant. But what if we are throwing the baby out with the bathwater?
People become obsessed with debt reduction, so they throw themselves completely into the cause. They crack down on every unnecessary expense. They throw every cent into debt snowballs. Every action they take is devoted to getting rid of debt.
The dedication is admirable, but I worry when I see this kind of behavior. There are very few folks out there who can really pull this off. The rest of us just set ourselves up for failure.
Unless your income is pretty high, chances are that it will take at least a couple of years to pay off your accounts. How many of us could actually sustain a Spartan existence for two straight years? How about three? Four?
No, the average person is going to end up with financial bulimia: living in (self-imposed) penury until it’s absolutely untenable, then breaking the budget. And once the worst of the spending is over, we are angry and disappointed in ourselves. The recriminations begin, and we devote ourselves even more to the cause. Which just leads to burnout again.
As a bipolar person who lives with cyclic highs and lows, I can tell you it’s not an ideal existence. And I would really love to see more people try to be more realistic with their goals.
Of course, this won’t be the case for everyone. Some people can truly find success in buckling down in the short term to achieve such an important goal.
But being so single-minded has its own set of effects. When everything is postponed until the debt is paid off, the future can’t possibly live up to your expectations.
People get out of debt, only to realize that, somewhere along the way, they started believing things would be easy once this goal was met. Once the debt is gone, they find that one big stress factor is gone, but there are other things bucking for the new vacancy.
It’s just so easy to get caught up in the idea that things will be okay – will get easier, will slow down, will just be taken care of – once you finish a project. But there will always be another goal to meet, another length to run. So it’s important not to lose perspective.
Other people survive the debt repayment only to find themselves curiously paralyzed. Even though they have the money for things, now, they can’t bring themselves to spend. Sure, it sounds nice abstractly. After all, that just means for for savings. But there’s a difference between choosing not to spend – perhaps you’re outraged by the prices – and not being able to spend.
Of course, no method is going to be perfect. Each one will have its repercussions. But maybe, just maybe, we should concentrate a little more on finding a balance in our lives rather than careening from one end of the spectrum to the other?
Perhaps we should allow ourselves to be human.