If you’re like me, you want to accomplish big things in your life — and you want to do it with something you’re passionate about. My passion is lettering. But lettering, like most things, won’t pay the bills until I’ve properly established myself. 

Between now and whenever you can pay the bills by doing what you love, you’ll need to be able to support yourself financially. This can be a big struggle. And that struggle is only multiplied when you owe money.

Let’s Talk About debt.

Debt isn’t a particularly fun topic for most people. Obviously, no one wants to owe money. And as someone who is neck-deep in student loans, I can relate to the frustrations.

But as much as no one likes debt, many people continue to sink further into negative numbers.

Some people think that if they can buy something with a credit card or loan, that means they can afford it. Some people think that going into debt now is the only way for them to be successful later on. But borrowing money is simply a dangerous tool that enables people to live outside of their means. Debt is a choice — not an obligation.

Disclaimer: I’m not here to tell you how to get out of debt. Instead, I want to share with you the new mentality I’m adopting to avoid going into debt from this point forward.

Unlearning the Necessity of Debt

We live in a society where banks and loan providers want to loan you money. It’s actually quite genius; by loaning you money, they make money off of the interest that accrues on the money you pay back.

While transitioning from childhood into your teenage and adult years, you are forced to take on important financial responsibilities. You need to make money to support yourself. This burden of the real-world is often overwhelming and unfortunately, it never ends.

And as we go through our lives, we are conditioned to adopt certain “normalities” that result in debt.

  • When you buy a car, you take out a loan.
  • When you go to college, you take out student loans.
  • When you buy a house, you take out a mortgage.

We think this is okay because it’s just what people do, right? You borrow money because how else are you going to buy the things that you want? You’ve been conditioned you entire life to think that it’s the only way to get ahead.

This is what is considered living outside of your means.

If you owe $10,000 in debt and have $3,000 dollars in the bank, you have -$7,000. It’s simple math. You’re actually worse off than someone who has no money at all.

So do you own your life, or do you owe your life?

Going into debt is a choice

It doesn’t have to be this way. No one is forcing you to go into debt. You make a conscious decision to owe money when you sign the dotted line on that loan.

Whether it’s material or not, we all want new and better things in life. But whether or not we buy them should depend on whether or not we can afford them.

If you have no-debt values, how you can approach this situation while staying true to them? The responsible approach is to live within your means.

Investments or liabilities?

Many people will argue that going into debt can be an investment. Let’s clear something up:

You can’t invest money that isn’t yours.

When you “invest” borrowed money into something, it’s technically a liability. Even when you buy a house. Yes. Even when you buy a house — which is the worst thing you can do.

“Buying” a house is a terrible investment because it’s illiquid.

In order to make good investments, you must diversify. This requires allocating your capital into multiple assets to reduce the risk of loss if one of those assets becomes a bad investment.

When you “buy” a house with someone else’s money, you’re putting all of your eggs into one basket. Therefore, it’s not an investment, let alone a good one — it’s a liability.

The only time buying a house would be a good investment is if you were able to afford it in liquid cash and if that cash was only a small portion of your overall capital.

Planning for a Debt-Free life

You should already know that being in debt is a bad thing and I hope I don’t need to convince you further. Hopefully this topic has made you think about your lifestyle. It’s okay if you’ve made some bad choices. We all have at some point. But it’s never too late to adopt debt-free values.

Pay off the debt you have

The first step to living debt-free is to get out of debt.

Sit down and spend some time looking over your finances. Consider what you owe and the rate in which you’re paying it off. Then look at the rate in which you spend and see if you can identify careless spending. Finally, come up with a budgeted plan that involves saving as much money as possible.

Paying off debt doesn’t happen overnight, but if you put a deliberate plan in place to get out of the red, you’ll thank yourself later.

Don’t compromise on your values

If you’re planning to live your life free of debt, then don’t even humor the thought of borrowing money. If you want something, you must save for it and buy it with your own money — not someone else’s.

This might mean having less. But at least the things you have are yours. You own them.

Own your entire life.