Thursday, May 5, 2005

Breaking Free From Debt

by Donna L. Watkins

Debt-free living is such a key area of our lives that needs to be changed in America. The focus needs to be taken off of THINGS and put on PEOPLE ... the time we spend shopping for stuff to fill our closets and cabinets could be and should be, spent on building relationships and helping others.

We need a Global Focus to understand that we don't have to have a Pity Party for ourselves to give up the stuff. You don't have to look very far to realize how blessed we are. There are people dying on streets that don't have any food to eat. There are people eating out of trash cans daily and sleeping on concrete. It's time for us to be grateful for what we have and to share with others who do not have. God told us to do so.

Here's a few of our tips for debt-free living. You have to find and make your own. Borrow some books from the library on debt-free living and on simplicity. You don't have to buy them ... just borrow them. People generally read a book only once and then stick it on the shelf as another possession. Use the library system or check with friends and begin to trade books.

We have been living debt-free now for many years...and it's brought tremendous blessings of peace and contentment to our lives. To get out of debt, we had to change bad habits of impulse buying. I believe that's how most people get in debt and stay there forever.

We made a commitment to God and ourselves that we would do three things:

#1) Anytime we intended to purchase something, we would grab our note pad (instead of our credit card) and write down what we wanted to purchase and the price. We would have to discuss it with each other. If we still thought we wanted to buy it, we would wait 24 hours to make the final decision to purchase ... that eliminated 90% of our purchases.

#2) When something was a necessity and over $20, we would get three prices on it to be sure we got the best deal for our money. Use the telephone and internet to research! Don't waste gas money shopping. Sometimes the shipping is less than the gas to buy something. According to the AAA, the average cost is 56 cents a mile for the year 2004 in America and that's rising.

#3) We set up a grocery budget that was reasonable, but not excessive, and we lived off of it. No exceptions! That budget included "eating out," which, by the way, we just decided to give up. There's very little nutrition in eating out, so we figured we'd be gaining in health and wealth. We "ate out" by serving meals in different place ... like on a tablecloth in a bedroom, or eating at the coffee table in the living room, or picnicking outside the back door.

Get creative and make getting out of debt a fun project, not a drudgery!

We had a variable income and it appeared to be an impossible task to set up a budget (although there are ways to do it), so we decided to set up boundaries instead. Those mile-high boundaries allowed us to have plenty of money each month to pay off the debts we had. After many years of doing this, it just became a "new habit" and we now consider it a lifestyle. It has simplified what I have to dust and clean and maintain ... because anything you own costs you to maintain it ... and what you own, owns you in some form or fashion.

This method takes a lot of self-control. Not everybody is ready for that, so a budget would be a necessary thing to make it work for you.

It's amazing how much time we have since we rarely go shopping. We purchase our food supplies in bulk and shop for produce twice a month. Staying out of grocery stores on a regular basis makes a huge difference in health and wealth also.

When you've earned the contentment that comes with the discipline of getting out of debt, and you've changed your mindset to wanting time and peace, instead of wanting things, life becomes a whole new adventure!

We were warned in the Bible about the pressures of debt in Proverbs 22:7, "The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender's slave." Carrying a load of debt around is definitely a form of slavery/bondage.

Have fun! Live simply! Life is not in who owns the most stuff!

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