A few years ago, someone asked me, “What’s the difference between being debt-free with a mortgage and being debt-free with rent? Isn’t it the same thing? Isn’t that still considered debt-free?”
Yes, it’s still considered being debt-free. You have no debt besides a mortgage, or you have no debt besides the rent. The difference is that your house is an asset and the rent is the landlord’s asset. Houses go up in value. The question was geared more toward their status.
But that’s NOT what being debt-free is about.
It’s also NOT about bragging to everyone that you have no debt so they can think you’re all that and a bag of chips. Last time I checked, a happy and content life isn’t a competition to see who can get the most attention.
I’ve also had people tell me that there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Meaning, it’s okay to have debt and still get ahead in life. Great, but that’s not what it’s about either.
First of all, it’s NOT something that happens on an accident. People don’t just stumble upon it, and if they did, they DID NOT learn much from it yet. For example, if someone came and miraculously paid off all of my debt, do you really think I would’ve learned anything from that? I wouldn’t have learned to sacrifice and wait for things, learned to live on less, learned to make better choices, and I surely wouldn’t have learned to never go in debt again. The process is golden.
Why do you think that people who win the lottery still end up broke later on?
It’s NOT about paying off your car or your student loans in the time period they give you, and then saying, “I’m debt free!” …only to go back into debt again later because you need a new car or a boat or a credit card.
It’s also NOT about the numbers. There could be someone else who has a mortgage, car payment, and credit card bills that are less than our mortgage alone. You might be thinking, well, isn’t that the same thing?
No, it’s not.
IT’S A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT LIFESTYLE AND MINDSET.
It’s usually a really big misunderstanding for those who have never been through the process and the changing of their lifestyle. So, I’m here to let you know what it’s really all about!
What it’s really about:
It’s literally living on less than you make so you’re not spending everything before the next payday. It’s being patient and waiting for purchases when you have enough money to buy the whole thing. You’ve learned self-control in the most difficult area of your life. You may not be perfect at it, but you can rest easy knowing you didn’t spend your entire paycheck before the next one.
It’s counter-cultural. Being in debt is normal. It’s used as a tool by most people to build up their credit score, not realizing it’s like a dog chasing its tail. In order to have a credit score, you need debt. But debt stinks. But you get it because you think you need a credit score. Huh? When is this any fun at all? We’ve always had a really good credit score, and guess what? We were always BROKE, too!
Having no debt is very different and very weird. You’re not concerned about everyone else and what they have, and you’re definitely not concerned with the surrounding viewpoints. You’re doing what’s best for you and your life no matter what.
People who use money wisely use a budget. Millionaires use a budget! You may think they make so much money that they don’t have to budget, but that’s not the case! It’s actually how they became wealthy! Simple as that. Trust me, a very small percentage of wealthy people inherited it – very, very small percentage.
Budgeting is organizing your money into groups and categories that YOU and your spouse together set ahead of time so that when the need arises, you have what you need.
You know what’s coming in and going out, and you plan every single dollar on paper before you actually spend it. You’re not always running out of money for the things that you NEED. I’m not talking about “wants” here. There’s nothing wrong with “wants” at all, but too many times, our wants get the best of us. Then, we’re stuck not being able to get our needs met because we just couldn’t control ourselves during the big SALE at the mall. No, you didn’t save money – you spent money.
“I saved $100 today!” Okay, great! But, what did you spend? Were you going to spend that much anyways? And what did you do with your savings? Use these cute little cash envelopes to help with that.
For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”
We can still get things we want and not be worried about paying the mortgage on time. We know it’s going to get paid because it’s in our budget!
You’re not tied down to your stuff. If something was to happen and we couldn’t make as much money for a few months or years even, no one is going to come take our stuff. They’re not taking our house, our cars, or anything. Because we’ve learned to live on less than we make and not spending everything we make, we can certainly survive on less without freaking out.
Believe me when I tell you – it hasn’t always been like that! I used to be stressed about it quite often.
Almost everything we owned was tied to debt at one time: motorcycle, truck, car, TV, computer, etc.
Then I realized that if I’m more concerned with buying more and more stuff because it makes me feel so good inside, and I’m constantly working extra hours to make extra money to buy the said stuff, mainly to impress myself and those around me – I probably value my stuff wayyyy too much.
We were pretty much working and gone from our family for 12 hours a day so we can have all these material things that brought what? – a big fat headache with no money leftover. We couldn’t even take off of work when we wanted to because we needed to make sure we got those long work days to pay for all this stuff we financed.
I was longing to do better things with our money, to use it on things that mattered so much more than all this stuff we accumulated.
It’s okay to have nice stuff, but don’t let your stuff have you!
You work when you want to. What?? Yes. Most people work a lot because they need to. The best feeling in the world though, is when you work because you want to. You love your job, and you have the OPTION to leave it and get another one if you feel like it. You don’t lose any sleep over it, and you can easily do something else without feeling the loss of an income and freaking out about it. It makes the transition much easier. Heck, you can even start your own business without debt if you want to!
If your life consists of hating Mondays and longing for Fridays every single week, you may need to find something you enjoy more when you get the chance. But most of us never get that chance… Why?
Because we’re spending too much money!
Why would you go to work every day to a job you don’t really like? Why else would you go to a job every day or away from your family for long periods of time and hate it? Why do you do those things if you don’t like it? Because you need that money! Even if it compromises your health and your family life, you will do it for the money! If you love it and it works for you, great! But most people think that a J-O-B is forever excruciating until the day you get to retire and leave that place! Is there really a such thing as liking your job? Yes! There is!
Since you’re not constantly scrambling to pay on debts, you use a budget with your spouse every month, you live on less than you make, and you could care less about keeping up with everyone else around you, you literally have the freedom to make better choices for you and your family so you can be happier! You can do what you need to do so that you can all benefit!
You can take vacation when you want, PTOs when you want (of course as long as it’s okay with your company), and visit out-of-town when you want. The POINT is though, you won’t be stressed about losing money last week on vacation because it doesn’t even MATTER!!!
Ernie was able to take on a job that allows him to be off work every other Friday. If we were still in debt up to our eyeballs and also have not learned to live on less than we make, he would not have been able to take that job a few years ago. Seriously.
This didn’t just happen. Yes, we were blessed with the opportunity, but like I said, we wouldn’t have been able to take that opportunity if we hadn’t gotten to the point where we were at the time. See how that works? Most people can’t take those opportunities because they’re just not able to because of financial reasons, and that’s such a sad thing.
I know, because I was once there before – I remember telling Ernie that there’s no way he could take a certain job because it’s just not enough hours. Knowing that he really wanted that job and couldn’t take it and be home with us more, it was a very hard time. Now, he’s here for everything, and it’s truly a gift.
We’re all different and have different needs and wants in our lives, but for us, this was a really big deal.
This is truly what it’s all about for us. And it can be for you too!
This is the freedom I talk about when I talk about debt-freedom. It’s not just freedom from debt. It’s freedom from the WEIGHTS, the STRESS, the BUSYNESS, and the CHAOS that surrounded our life when we were tied down by our stuff and our want to have more.
It’s more boat rides, more traveling, more family time, more giving, and less stress overall. If you have kids, they’re growing fast. You usually only have about 18 years with them under your roof. And the last time I heard, no one was ever on their death bed crying, “I wish I worked more and made more money.”
No. It’s more like, I wish I had more time.
So, no, it’s not all about being debt-free. It’s about living a lifestyle that’s NOT TIED DOWN to this world system of debt (which involves spending more than you make, never having enough, and never satisfying that desire to have any more than you have now.
Life isn’t all about money, but it does play a really big part – so when you don’t have debt, you actually WORRY LESS about money!
It’s contentment in what we have now, whether we get more or we don’t, it doesn’t really matter.
It’s being able to help others because now we can. When you’re not required to make $700 in payments every month on something going down in value that you don’t even really need, you can use that extra money to help someone else out when it’s tugging your heart to do so… and when God Himself is telling you to do so.
In the past, we couldn’t let our money follow our calling because it just wasn’t possible. Now, we can plan ahead and use our finances to do what God is putting on our hearts! We can travel two hours to go to church often because we’re not so tied down to work and debt.
Bottom line, it’s really what we’re called to do. The Father gives seed to the sower for us to sow, and then multiplies our seed for what? To spend it all on ourselves? No! For more sowing!
He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.
2 Corinthians 9:10-11