We have debts. Two car loans and students loans.
Compared to some of my friends, my student loans are minuscule but nonetheless, it’s debt. And in the Personal Finance world, debt is as bad of a four-letter word as most cuss words.
Like most of us in this realm, getting rid of these debts was a main focus of mine for such a long time. It was an unhealthy obsession. I used to know exactly how much more we had left to pay. I used to know exactly how much we’ve paid in interest and I used to know that if we’d pay a little extra, exactly how much quicker we could become loan-free.
Those things were pointless.
Knowing those things isn’t fun. It isn’t going to help us get out of debt any quicker if I just knew the numbers but didn’t do anything about them. I know it was annoying to my wife because I wasn’t looking at the big picture.
It wasn’t helping anything.
All what it did was make me feel helplessly stuck and make me think that it wouldn’t be possible to enjoy life as long as we had these debts.
That’s complete and utter nonsense.
So I got to thinking recently and asked myself a couple of questions:
- Would I be any happier if I was debt-free?
- Would our quality of life improve?
- What would my wife and I even do with the money that we save?
So would I be any happier if I was debt-free? That’s a difficult question because happiness is a complex concept. I used to be very money driven. I chased promotions that I didn’t even want and I stayed in an industry that I hated for way too long because “that’s where the money was at.” Literally.
My wife hit the nail on it’s head when I was thinking about being a life insurance salesman when she said that “all that I see is the money and not what I’d have to do get it.” It was true.
I don’t think that debt was my problem. My job was.
I had this mindset that these debts were forcing me to stay at my job…that if I finally got rid of these debts once and for all, that I could finally leave my job. That’s probably why I was so obsessed with our debts in the first place.
I hated our brand new cars. I hated that I got into student loan debt to get a degree that I didn’t even want anymore.
I was full of hate and it was easy to place the blame on our debts and that’s what caused this obsession.
If you asked me if I’d be happier if I was debt-free about a year ago, I would, without hesitation, say most definitely, yes.
But if you ask me that same question today, I’m not so sure because that’s not what I’m so focused on these days.
At this point, it is what it is when it comes to our debts. They’re something that we’ve dealt with for a couple of years now so it’s just something that we go through each month. We made the decision to get new cars and get a loan for them so we’re dealing with it. They aren’t making or breaking us but it would certainly be nice to have at least one car paid off but we have other things that we need to figure out first.
I’m happier than I was a year ago with all the other major aspects of my life that these debts have taken a backseat to the more important things; mainly just enjoying life and being content with all that I have.
I didn’t want to change jobs because I didn’t want to make less money.
I didn’t want to get a dog because all I could see was the dollar signs.
I didn’t want to go on vacation because it would cost money.
What’s the point of working so hard if you can’t even enjoy it?
Back to the original question at hand….would I be happier if I was debt-free?
Yes. I would be a little happier but not as happy as I already am from no longer obsessing over debt.
Onto Question #2:
Would our quality of life improve if we were debt-free?
To a certain extent, yes. But I don’t think it would be such a drastic change. We’d still live in the same place, drive the same cars, work at the same job, and live the same lifestyle.
The only difference is that we’d be saving more.
Maybe we wouldn’t feel as guilty treating ourselves to eating out after a crazy day at work? Maybe I wouldn’t feel as bad spending so much money to go on vacation to Germany to see family so we’d go more often? Maybe life could be more spontaneous since we’d have a little more wiggle room when it came to disposable income? Maybe we’d buy a vacation home?
But if you aren’t having fun while you’re in debt, you probably won’t have much fun once you’re out of debt too. You’ll probably splurge on things you don’t really need because you “deserve” them for working so hard and depriving yourself for so long, that you’ll get right back into debt.
Last question: What would we even do with the money that we save?
Most likely, we’d save it.
Maybe we’d go crazy and invest it in Vanguard or put more into an IRA. Maybe we’d save up for a house out in Washington state. Maybe we’d take more vacations. We’d definitely rescue more pugs.
Whatever we’d decide to do with it, we’d enjoy the fact that we have more possibilities to make life more exciting and fun.
If you find yourself in debt, remember this:
You aren’t your debt. Stop obsessing over it. Life won’t magically get better once you become debt-free. Life doesn’t start once you’re out of debt. It started a long time ago.
Enjoy the little things. Create something. Do something you’ve always wanted to do. Stop focusing on debt. There’s so many more better things to do.
Besides, isn’t that what life is about?
Take some time to stop and smell those damn roses.
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On another note, my Experiments page has been updated to include August’s results. It was a good month!