5.6. That’s the number of years until, according to my estimation, Amanda and I will be debt free. We’re using the snowball method, a cool little trick we picked up while attending a Financial Peace University class. If I’ve picked up anything from the class, it’s the understanding that debt doesn’t have to be a normal part of life. I’ve always been frugal when it comes to spending and using credit cards, but I always believed that little voice put in my head that it was important that I build up credit by using the credit card. Until now, it didn’t compute how much more I was actually spending on items when I used the credit card, even if I was able to pay them off relatively quickly. Unfortunately, many people today are using their credit cards or taking out loans without the capability of paying them off in relative time. Then the cycle begins…where debt is taken out in order to pay off more debt. People travel farther down the misty road in the hopes that they’ll find a way out, but in truth it only makes them more lost.
A New Jersey pastor decided to do something about this epidemic, challenging the common mindset that debt was normal…and OK. He calls it “slavery,” a provocative buzz word in his African-American congregation. Is that going too far? I think not. True, not every person swiping their card sends themselves into the swirling monsoon of creditor control. But there is a mind game being played of sorts. You see, every little piece of mail you receive and every little commercial you watch from a credit card company will send the message that they are doing you a favor. They’ll even sweeten the pot and create incentives, like points or cash back, which give you little in comparison to the interest you pay. Oh, and what about the “affinity” cards, where they put your football team’s logo on it to make it appeal to you more. They do all this…why? Because they make loads of money off of it! By July of 2008, Americans owed $962 billion in credit card debt alone, and the average U.S. college student coming out of college owed $2,000 in credit card debt. I recently had a friend tell me that credit cards weren’t bad, as long as you paid them off right away and only spent what you already had in the bank. Great…but he has a college degree in finance. There are 962 billion reasons why I think he’s in the minority.
THE NEW NORMAL
Proverbs 22:26-27 says: “Do not be a man who strikes hands in pledge or puts up security for debts; if you lack the means to pay, your very bed will be snatched from under you.” Strange that in our current credit crisis, which led to the housing crisis, that very thing is happening to us. Is debt slavery? I think so. Even if you are comfortable using your credit card as you pay it off regularly, perhaps it is still slavery of the mind; where we think it’s normal and common to be under the financial thumb of someone else. I don’t know about you, but I can smell the freedom that being debt-free will give me. I’ll be paying exactly what is advertised, and I’ll have full control over what I buy and own. Doesn’t that sound nice? Yeah. Doesn’t it sound a little weird? Yeah. But if you let it, it can be the new normal in your life.