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On Debt Freedom and Being Weird

Written by Nickel - 22 Comments

The other night while driving my son to soccer practice, I passed by a local church. On the sign out front it said:

“Be weird. Live debt free.”

On Debt Freedom and Being WeirdThis message was part of a pitch for Dave Ramsey’sFinancial Peace University,” a Biblically-based personal finance course with a major focus on debt reduction.

This got me to thinking… While I realize that they were just trying to be cute and catchy (it worked), have we really gotten to a point where debt freedom is “weird”?

I was raised in a family that never carried consumer debt and, aside from our mortgage (now paid off), my wife and I have never been in debt ourselves. In other words, debt freedom has always been normal for us.

What about you? What’s your debt situation? Do you have a mortgage? Student loans? Credit card debt? One or more car loans? More importantly, do you have a plan for getting out of debt?

Published on August 25th, 2010
Modified on August 27th, 2010 - 22 Comments
Filed under: Debt Reduction

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

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22 Responses to “On Debt Freedom and Being Weird”

  1. 1
    Carol Says:

    I hated being in debt. When I graduated college 10 years ago, it was hard to find work. (Granted, not as hard as it would be today.) For several months, I lived on my credit cards. When I finally got a job, I lived the life of a hermit (didn’t have cable, never went out, ate a lot of ramen noodles) in order to squeeze every last cent I could, so that I could pay down the debt. Once I paid off my credit cards, I vowed to never again carry credit card debt. I don’t purchase anything I couldn’t outright pay for now. I simply use credit cards to my advantage, getting cashback, convenience, and never carry a balance. My husband and I bought a house 4.5 years ago, and we just recently paid off that mortgage by always living on just his salary and using my salary to pay down the principal (which meant we had to find a house that his salary could afford). Now we have zero debt. We don’t owe anyone a dime, and it’s a wonderful feeling! It’s never been tempting for us to live beyond our means. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for people who buy things they don’t need with money they don’t have.

  2. 2
    Cynthia Says:

    We had more debt than we do now. We’re working on it. We have a mortgage and we have a vehicle loan. The vehicle loan is at 0% so we’re not paying ahead on it. We’re currently working on our emergency fund instead. In the future it would be great if the house was paid off and we could pay for cars in full at purchase, whether we chose new or used. Our financial house is getting in order but we’re not quite there yet. At least the student loans, HELOC and credit card debt is gone FOREVER.

  3. 3
    Rosa Says:

    My parents never carried debt. I had a small college loan (one semester tuition – maybe $1800 then?) and I carried a continuous balance of about $400 in credit card debt for a couple years post-college.

    We do have a mortgage; we plan on having it paid off by the time we’re both 50. Both our parents had paid-off houses when they retired.

  4. 4
    Mike D. Says:

    Most people I went to college with (recently) had student loans. Most people I work with have a car payment.

    Also it depends on if you consider debt freedom to be living with no credit cards, regardless of paying them off every month. I know very few people that have no debt and have no credit cards.

  5. 5
    Red Says:

    I really think it has come to that! I tell my coworkers about my goals to live debt free (and to pay for a house with cash), and I get looked at like a Conehead! One coworker is always telling me to “spend money now” while I’m young. I don’t know many people – outside the PF world – who aspire to be debt free. Most just accept it as a part of their lives.

    As far as the church sign, “weird” just means “out of the ordinary.” And if you’re living debt free, you’re definitely not living like the ordinary person! :)

  6. 6
    Floridian Says:

    We have a mortgage and a small HELOC, which together amount to a whopping (sarcastic) 44% of the (conservative) value of the house. The HELOC, which we used to finance a part of an addition onto the house when construction slowed down and contractors worked for peanuts last year, will be paid off by 2011 and the mortgage will be paid off by the time I am 42 (just in time to pay for our daughter’s college – with CASH because we are also currently saving for that). We have ZERO other debt…and we are saving and planning to pay cash for EVERY thing from now on (even cars). My coworker can not believe the whole cash for cars bit – said “I don’t think we’ll EVER be able to do that.” See, to me, that’s just SAD!

    We get made fun of and hear comments like “why save so much? It’s not like you can take it with you when you die!” And I cringe every time I hear friends/family comment “as long as I can afford the payment, then I can afford the *insert the item they really CAN’T afford here*”!!!! Yet some of these same friends have had to decline a night out because they didn’t have any cash “until payday.” uhh…DOH!

    From what I gather, Dave Ramsey’s definition of “debt free” is to have all debt except the mortgage paid off (but then get to work on the mortgage!).

    We ARE weird – and others can tease all they want because we know the truth…it feels GREAT to be weird! And those teasing will never know that feeling!

  7. 7
    The Biz of Life Says:

    Guess I’m about as weird as they come– no debt of any kind.

  8. 8
    Heather Says:

    We have a mortgage and I have a student loan, but that’s all. I would love for both of them to disappear, but I just started a business and dropped my day job to half time; cash flow is pretty tight right now, so no extra payments or even paying a little extra on the regular payment. But waiting until the house was paid off to open a business seemed like a silly decision.

  9. 9
    B Smith Says:

    Heard Dave Ramsey speak at our church this past weekend.
    His quote – ” Live like nobody else; so that you can live like nobody else.”

  10. 10
    NCN Says:

    We have a mortgage, which we are working hard to pay off. Other than that, debt free!

    I think it’s “weird” to be debt free, only in the context that “most” people borrow for cars, college, furniture, etc. Paying off debt might not be “weird” – but NOT going into it in the first place, well, at the least, that’s “unusual”.

  11. 11
    Floridian Says:

    Yes, I love that one #9 – “Live like nobody else now, so you can live like nobody else later!” And we are following it! We are living within (and even below) our means now (something it seems nobody else even knows HOW to do!), so that we can be completely debt free (even mortgage) before 45 and retired by 55. We will be enjoying “early” retirement while others our age will be working hard for at least another decade to pay off their McMansions and “toys” (bikes, boats, campers, even big screens) that they bought on credit ;)

    It’s really sad that people have come to think that it’s “normal” to have a mortgage and a car payment (or two!) for their entire lives :(

    Congrats to all those here who are debt free or working towards it! Here’s to being Weird!! ;)

  12. 12
    Curtis Says:

    I always love these kinds of threads.

    Well, we’re paying off 5 mortgages super aggressively!

    Our personal residence is 7% of our gross income. We live on 35% of our income and the rest goes to mortgage paydown. I have laid out a plan that is bascially a snowball payoff: Personal residence in 20 months (because that will feel super!). Next, we add the payment and interest saved to the next house (the rest are rentals). By continuing the plan, we will pay off 255,000 of morgage debt in 5 years 5 months (or 65 months if you will).

    Aside from this, we have NO other debt. My small business is debt free as well.

    The rental real estate pays its own bills (mortgage payments, rental management, maintenance, vacancies)and throws of some cash besides. (I was thinking of submitting an article on how rental real estate can actually be a relatively painless way to build wealth despite many strong feelings to the contrary here).

    This will be the bulk of our retirement income. Once paid off, we will divert those resources to other income building assets. (I have options here, but haven’t yet decided exactly what I’ll do).

    By being weird, we should be able to retire (in the sense of being financially independant) by the time I’m 54 years old.

    We’re gonna take a weird debt-free Italian vacation next year for our 30th anniversary. We drive a weird paid off 2009 Nissan Altima that I see owning for at least the next 10 years.

    Come to think of it…I thrive on being wierd! Yet I know this comes as no shock to those that know me. They’ve always thought I was a littl weird anyway.

  13. 13
    Leigh Says:

    Today I pay my final car payment and as of this moment I vow not to borrow another penny from any source for any purpose. Yes, that includes home buying. If I can’t pay cash, I’ll continue as an apartment dweller.

    What turned me off are the tricks I feel are played on consumers with all forms of lending. The rules change moment by moment and the lenders do all they can to squeeze you. If that’s the game they are setting up, I choose not to play.

  14. 14
    Mark Says:

    The best thing I ever did for myself was to pay off all my debts. Thanks to a modest inheritance, I paid off my mortgage in 2004. I also bought a new car for cash. Ever since, I have been completely debt-free (I do use credit cards, but never carry balances). I have been able to retire early, and pay cash for another house. I live on much less than my peers with similar lifestyles, because I don’t have “payments” to make each month.

  15. 15
    Donna Says:

    We paid off our mortgage last Dec but drew money out of an IRA to pay it off. The taxes were killer to the point that with a few unexpected car and house repairs we are running a substantial balance on our credit cards for the 1st time in our adult lives. Perhaps we dove too far into the debt free pool but given that the tax rates look like they will rise high and fast starting this January … we decided this year and last year were probably the best tax treatment our IRA money could expect… maybe even in our years off retirement.

    By the end of the year we should be caught up. Next year I would consider getting rid of credit cards. It just seems like a mind thing and I’m tired about worrying about money. I’m ready to rack up some savings, pay cash for everything and forget about it.

  16. 16
    Skeemer118 Says:

    DH & I paid down $10,000 in debt last year not including our house payment. We both make average salaries. I drive a (paid for) Grand Prix with 160,000 miles on it & he drives a PT Cruiser which we owe about $2,000 on. We hope to be completely debt free, including my small-ish student loan, by the end of 2011. I’ll be holding my new degree & not owing a dime. God is so good!

    I get gawked at also for trying to live w/o credit cards. But those people that tell me that…their financial plan isn’t working (says Dave) so why should I pay attention to them?!

  17. 17
    Dana Says:

    We have been paying down debt as aggressively as possible for a single income family. Just took advantage of the low interest mortgages and now have knocked 1.45% off my mortgage and car and paid off all the credit cards (and canceled and cut ‘em up!) and shaved 5 years off the mortgage. I was absolutely nailed in Feb 2008 with the credit card laws and have been scraping everything I had since then. Now, I can pay the house off an additional 5 years early with the extra cash and have savings as college is coming up fast!

  18. 18
    Cricket Says:

    We carry a mortgage and car (used) payment. The mortgage has been paid down 45% in the 7 years we’ve had it. I’m starting to make extra payments on the van now also. We are living at 2/3 our usual income while also paying rent on an apartment (at 2x our mortgage) due to a job change/move. I don’t have a job here so shopping wisely is the only way we’ve been able to do this. The van should be paid off a couple of years early.

  19. 19
    Olivia Says:

    We entered into marriage with my husband’s seminary loan. His first call was a really small one and the pay was tiny. During that time we incurred medical debt for our first born and car debt to replace our vehicle that died. It was a killer. The medical people allowed us to pay $10 a month, but the seminary would not make adjustments without increasing the overall debt, and of course the car was a bank loan. As a result we currently avoid debt like the plague. It doesn’t make sense.

  20. 20
    Michael Says:

    During the inflationary 1970s, being in debt was advantageous — you could pay off your debt in smaller dollars later. This helped people buy houses. In the 1990s we had the same expectations but not the same inflation.

  21. 21
    Laundry Lady Says:

    I hardly know anyone who is debt free, except maybe my parents. That being said, I also know many people who are technically debt free but work so hard and long to maintain a certain lifestyle that they don’t have much time to enjoy life. My dream is to be debt free, maybe even pay off our mortgage early. We have a sizable chunk of student loan debt that we’re trying to tackle. Getting into debt is easy, especially with student loans. For a while we didn’t even look at the statements, it was too depressing. But now the reality has set in and there are days that it feels like it would take a miracle.

  22. 22
    tommy Says:

    3 years ago i divorsed was left with 20,000 in credit card debt from my ex wife. i got a roommate to lower my bills and paid it off in 2 years of just living frugal not being crazy about it but buying in bulk quit smoking and drinking for the most part.. hard not to have a beer during a good college football game.. now i bought a house pay extra every month still live frugal to pay the extra but i am content

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