Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Debt Free or Debt Free Lifestyle?

Did you know there's a difference between being debt free and living the debt free lifestyle?

Now, I would love to be both and that would be best, but there's a simple and profound difference. Debt Free is a place you hit one day like reaching the peak of Mt. Everest. You reached it, you're there and wow how awesome it feels!! You don't owe anyone any money at all--FREEDOM. We aren't even there yet guys. We still have a mortgage and recently a short term small loan to fix our house to sell. The Debt Free Lifestyle however is much more long-term but you can reach it tomorrow! Let me explain each in a little more detail.

Debt Free:

Every single one of us have been here at some point(s) in our lives, even if you can hardly remember it! You were born debt free. You didn't owe a penny when you went from 5th grade to that new Junior High across the street. You probably even graduated from High School without any debt--maybe a few of you owed your parents gas money. You do know how it feels. It's not really a feeling at all if you've never been in debt. Like a person who's skinny all their lives wouldn't be jumping all over the bathroom crying and screaming "I'm finally thin!". Nope. It's just a state of being. You are free at that very moment.

Now fastforward, and most of us have been on a rollar coaster ride. We owe and then we hit that place called debt free again, then we borrow more money and get stressed out again. Then we sell our first house and decide an apartment will do and all at once we're at that point on the map again called Debtfreeville.

Here's the thing. A person can be a total fool and still pass through Debtfreeville by accident or luck. A college student hasn't ever had a credit card and their parents pay for their car and they just stumble upon Debt Free. A person wins the lottery, pays off everything, stops and stays in hotel Debtfreeville before continuing on to his normal way of living in shackles. A normal family works super duper hard to pay off debt, reaches debt free and then relaxes and goes right back into debt--this time with a little stricter set of rules.

You see, being debt free is great, but it really doesn't say too much about the person who's there. It just means they don't owe anyone anything. Great location--seriously, but most people just stop in for the occasional vacation from the "real" world.

Debt Free Lifestyle:

The Debt Free Lifestyle is a way you live. It's not a destination, it's the road that you take that happens in this time and age to be very different from what roads others are taking. It's a bumpy, sometimes uncomfortable, dusty road and people will look at you from the freeway and snear. That's because they don't see the gold mine on the other side of that far hill. The debt free lifestyle is a choice you make every single day and the deeper down that road you go, the easier you'll learn to navigate the bumps and the closer you'll come to the mine with pure very pretty gold.

Let me ask you something. Did you notice the broken blinds in the background or the sweet kids climbing all over a happy mommy? Yeah, me too.

Did you even see the concrete floor and no trim left by Hurricane Ike? I don't know about you, but what caught my eye was a delighted little girl at Christmas. Did you know that Christmas still happens even on a bunch of sheets and blankets to hide the concrete floor? I think this was the year I found this out.

The road is a choice you take, but here's the good news--you can turn off onto this road right now!! This is not an unattainable goal and IS worth it even if you don't think you have any hope at all for paying off your debt. When we first started this journey we stood in a line to see Dave Ramsey and we got to speak to him. We told him our situation and he said we needed to make more money. LOL!! I love Dave Ramsey, but do you know how dire it feels to hear a siminar with that much hope of being debt free and the guy tells you, "I don't know guys. You really just need to make more money." (Not exact quote--it's been far too long ago for that.). We could have given up and had an excuss!!! Twelve years later and the majority of those years we haven't owed for cars, loans, credit cards, bills being behind, or anything but the mortgage.

But how???

Well, we decided to follow God. We love Dave Ramsey...he has wonderful lessons and information...but God can walk on water and make a little boy's basket of bread and fish feed 5000 people!! We decided that it didn't matter if we ever reached There, we were going to do what was right and let God take care of the rest. (I'm crying from the memories). Do you know that we now have less than 90K in debt INCLUDING our mortgage??? No car loans, no credit cards, no medical bills or college loans--just house. Isn't God incredible?!

We chose to live the debt free lifestyle. We weren't going to borrow money for anything but dire emergencies and only then when we had to. And dire emergencies came and went and we rarely borrowed for them. One month I couldn't even afford to grocery shop, but we had already cut up all the credit cards. I determined that I would keep digging in my freezer and pantry until there was nothing there before I told Josh. I'm sure he thought I was trying some new really weird recipes, but he never said a word. Our last meal was a couple of Romen, fixed and drained, put in a casserole dish, mixed with frozen veggies and leftover chicken, topped with cheese and baked. Yep--Eew. The next day we got paid. I think we had Whataburger that night, lol.

The Debt Free Lifestyle is a series of choices you make, day after day, week after week, month after month, and finally year after year. These are some of the choices we've actually made over the years because we refused to go into debt.

  • We made simple homemade Christmas gifts for extended family even though they were still buying real gifts for everyone. They ended up loving them even though I was shaking in my boots giving them away.
  • We didn't go to college.
  • We tiled our own concrete floor after the hurricane because the insurance company wouldn't pay us until AFTER the work was complete--we did borrow money but minimized it as much as possible by doing most of the work ourselves.
  • We lived with bland, unpainted walls.
  • We took ugly furniture hand-me-downs because they were better than what we had.
  • We bought a 2' tall Christmas tree and actually had Christmas around it.
  • We used hand-me-down everything--including shoes. I actually walked for excercize in already broken in tennis shoes and had to re-brake them in.
  • I babysat to earn Christmas money.
  • We missed out on LOTS of friend/family gatherings. (We found out that people always think their gatherings are cheap. They say, "It only costs $8 to get in." We found out it was $8, plus no time to cook and no packed lunch allowed, so that's another $25, plus a half tank of gas there and back, another $15, everyone gets thirsty and needs a drink, another $10...etc.)
  • We shopped at the thrift stores for Christmas and birthday gifts and never went back! They were awesome!! (This is seriously something you need to try before blowing it off. I found a really gently used $100 purse for $7!)
  • We bought used everything--except school workbooks.
  • We bought all of our party stuff for birthdays at the dollar stores.
  • We kept going on dates--hey, it's cheaper than eventually needing a marraige counselor.
  • We rarely went out to places where there was a waite staff. We refused to pay a waiter less than what is right, so we just found places that were buffet or whatever.
  • We stocked up on vitamin C and purposed to keep everyone healthy.
  • I rearranged, organized and cleaned instead of buying decor. When I really wanted something, I prayed.
  • I wrapped things like cereal that the kids weren't usually allowed to bulk up the presents under the tree at Christmas.
  • When we were in need...we prayed instead of freaking out. We were given a car to use as long as we needed it without telling a soul we needed one. We were also given a truck and later turned around and gave it away. Prayer is seriously powerful, and I never realized this when I didn't have to wait. We even waited on a house and ended up sort of trading ours for another.
I hope this encourages some of you out there that think being debt free is an impossible goal. The truth is, for some it is impossible--but with God ALL things are possible. If you are in that situation where being debt free is an impossible goal, than it's not your responsibility to reach it. It is only your responsibility to put into play the life habits that lead on that same road. It's obedience to God that counts, not obtaining the end result. You may never attain the goal, but you can, if you will, obtain obedience to God in finances. This IS the primary goal.


  1. I am with you! The lifestyle is what really matters...and being content with what we have.

  2. Great distinction! Our only debt right now is our mortgage and we are working extra hard to pay that off as well. However, even though we have extra cash at the end of the month, we avoid frivilous spending. There are still a lot of empty rooms and hand-me-downs in our new home even though by today's "standards" we could "afford" to fill our home with lots of new things.

    1. I'm glad to see people just starting out already using wisdom in their finances! Those things will come...and faster than you imagine they will. You're doing great!! -Tabitha

  3. I am debt free (no mortgage, no car loans, no business loans, no nothing), am married, with 3 young kids. My wife and I have worked very hard and our family business allows us to reinvest in our business, and live an excellent lifestyle.For example, we have our 3 kids in a private school, we take 2 vacations per year...anyways, we are not millionaires, but we adopted a a pretty disciplined financial strategy that allowed us to reach this point. My question is that I am now in a position to expand my business, however I would have to incur a high amount of debt, and my concern is not being able to pay it off, but instead once again go back into a tighter monetary policy in our household. I would really appreciate it if you can give me your input?

    1. First of all--wow--I never expected to be asked this kind of opinion. I am, after all a humble housewife and not a financial expert. So, having said that, hear my advice with that in mind. You are in a much better financial situation than we've ever been in and seem from what you've said to have handled your money with wisdom. You probably already know what you should do. Here's my 2cents:
      Deuteronomy 28--"The Lord shall open unto thee his treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow."

      This is my opinion only, but I don't believe God would say to lend to others if it were sinful or "evil" to borrow. But it clearly shows here which is the greater of the two. It is better to lend than to borrow.

      Proverbs 22: 7--"The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender."

      This is not a judgement against people who borrow but simply a truth of position. The rich are above the poor. The lender is above the borrower. The borrower is subject to the lender. This is plain truth, not a judgement of good or bad.

      Personally, I believe from what you've said, that you are in a unique situation. Dave Ramsey would say to never borrow for a business, but he would say that the one exception is a mortgage. But you do not have that. Others would say to weigh it based on financial gain. My opinion--I would decide based on if and how long you are willing to be subject to another. If you borrow, you are putting yourself under anothers authority in this matter and making yourself their servant for as long as you have the debt. Do you want this? How long would you be a servant? Are you okay being subject to another after years of being free? This is what would determine my answer in your situation.
      Thanks, and I hope that helps. -Tabitha


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