12 Crucial Reasons You Need to Pay off Your Debt

If I could go back in time, these would be the reasons I would tell my younger self to start paying of my debt TODAY.

1. Get Rid of Anxiety About Money

Do you find yourself worrying about money a lot? Are you constantly thinking about “what if” or “some day”? 

Anxiety about money can cause major harm to your mental health, sleeping patterns, eating habits, and relationships. An article on CNBC in 2017 shared that 78% of US workers live paycheck to paycheck, with the breakdown being 81% of women and 75% of men. It doesn’t have to be this way.

You can’t imagine the freedom you will feel when you finally decide to pay off your debt and plan for your expenses.

Image Thanks to Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com

2. Shift Your Focus From Possessions to People

Right now, I bet you have at least one running list of things you want to buy – an Amazon wish list, links to products in your Evernote, a mental list of items that caught your eye. 

How about a list of people you want to keep in touch with, pray for, hang out with? I don’t mean social media. I mean a mental list of people or list in your journal that you intentionally remember and love. No?

Take a moment to think about that. Which of those categories will last beyond this life on into heaven? It certainly won’t be your Lululemon leggings or your Apple watch. 

But that conversation with one of your good friends, Karen? It could have eternal significance. Shift your priorities from expensive, unneeded STUFF to experiences with people.

3. Stop Being a Servant to Your Money

Every time you think about getting ahead of your bills, you find something else you want to buy and add another bill or two to the list. You’re basically an indentured servant with heckin’ stylish shoes (probably about 10 pairs too many) and an expensive apartment (or, God forbid, a house that you cannot afford).

Close your eyes and think for a moment about a life that may have significantly less shoes but NO DEBT. What would you do with all that extra money? Travel to Spain? Start investing? Start that business you’ve always wanted? Help out a friend when they fall on hard times?

That’s freedom. Set yourself free from your debt and start living the kind of life you want.

4. No Lump Sum Surprises

YNAB (You Need a Budget) is a budgeting program that has four rules for taking control of your money. The number one rule: Give every dollar a job. That means you take every dollar earned and assign a category or job to each dollar. 

When you start to follow this rule, two things happen. You have a wake-up call about the limited amount of money you have, and you plan better for the future.

When you think through every expense you may have to pay in the coming months and years, you can create long-term goals that help you slowly fund large expenses. With a budget, you will never be surprised by a lump sum expense again.

Image Thanks to Jane Lakosnyk, Unsplash.com

5. Become a Good Steward

Jesus told a parable about “talents”, which was a form of currency in his day. He said, “For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have more than enough. But from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him” (Matthew 25:29). 

This seems pretty harsh, until you stop and appreciate the wisdom behind it. When a person is entrusted with a lot of resources from God and that person responsibly pays off debt, tithes, saves, gives to those in need, and invests, it makes sense that God would honor that person with more. 

Maybe you need to take a leap of faith and start seeing every penny earned as a gift from God. Trust in his power to multiply your faith and your resources for his glory. The first step is paying off your debt. It may take a long time, but it will shift your focus from spending to saving, and that is the beginning of a blessed financial life.

6. Learn to Live Below Your Means (and Build Wealth)

Everyone wants to be rich. The truth is, most people don’t stay rich. They never learn the principles of building wealth wisely, so they tend to spend it all, even millions of dollars. 

This may seem insane to the average person who makes about $30,000 a year. But imagine getting a $100,000 raise. Wouldn’t you start to justify a bigger house, a nicer car, brand-name clothing, the best technology, bougie vacations, etc.?

This is called lifestyle creep. With every raise, we start to adjust our lives to it so that we continue to live paycheck to paycheck. 

If you don’t make very much money and are single and young, you are in a fantastic place. You have the unique opportunity to learn exactly how much money you need to survive. You may be shocked to find that you could live on $15,000-20,000 per year. With that extra $10,000-15,000, you can pay off debt quickly.

7. Multiply Your Possibilities Instead of Your Debt

There’s a secular term for the type of money I want to talk about here: F.U. Money. I’m not particularly fond of that phrase, so we’ll call it Freedom Money. 

The idea behind Freedom Money is that you live below your means, pay off all your debt, and then work really hard to build wealth through different revenue streams. Once you reach a certain amount (typically a lump sum that you could live 4% on so that it continues to grow), you can start living the kind of life you want.  

The point is that the possibilities start to multiply (as opposed to your debt) when you have Freedom Money, such as being able to work from home doing something you love, quitting your job to backpack around Europe, going back to school for more education, or starting your own business. When you put your money to work, your possibilities grow, and that is huge motivation to take control of your money NOW.

8. Vote With Your Dollars

I personally haven’t seen the benefit of voting in elections for a President I will never meet (I still vote, but whatever). I believe change starts from the ground up and that individuals have more power to change things than they may believe.

One of these ways is by how you spend your money. If you live paycheck to paycheck, you probably are too anxious to even see beyond your bills and your debt. You probably buy the cheapest food possible or else charge it and forget about it until your credit card bill comes. (Don’t worry, you can stop this cycle!)

When you stop living paycheck to paycheck, pay off your debt, and start saving, you stumble upon the unique opportunity of voting with your dollars. You have the power to research companies and invest in their stock because you believe in their mission and values. 

Image Thanks to Jonathan Borba, Unsplash.com

9. Build Your Self-Control

When you start to pay off your debt and practice self-control in your spending, you will be shocked to see how the other parts of your life follow suit.

A few months after we started paying off our debt, we joined our friend’s CrossFit gym (we paid for our memberships by cleaning it once/week…a pretty sweet deal) and started working out 4-6 times per week. We also drank less alcohol, stopped eating so much fast food, and stopped watching so much television.

10. Think About Cost vs. Value

Paying off debt gives perspective on the value of things. 

My education was expensive as heck. Was it worth it? I truly don’t know. My parents paid payments to the school, I worked three jobs, and even then I had a chunk of student loan debt after I graduated. I make an average amount of money and I’m not working in the field of my major. 

Stop and think through every purchase you make, especially the big ones that have lasting impact. Think about its value to you in proportion to its cost.

11.  Value the Possessions You Own

Paying off your debt instills a thankfulness for your current possessions. 

You will do things like:

Start to take care of your clothing with a steamer and stain remover.
Savor your home-cooked meals.
Opt for plants you can grow instead of the millionth decoration piece you will hate in 6 weeks.
Hang pictures of your family and friends instead of generic inspirational quotes like, “believe in yourself” or “live laugh love.”
Organize your closet space and throw away those 10-year-old tubes of acrylic paint you bought when you were feeling artistic. 

12. Find Joy Apart from Money

I think about my joy in terms of my purpose now. Before, when we had debt and I struggled with my spending, I was searching for joy in my money. It’s weird how when you have less money, you think that all joy lies in the ability to spend more money. This is why so many people opt for credit cards and justify going in debt. 

When you pay off your debt and you practice self-control, you start to find joy in simple things. You can breathe a little easier and smile a little more. That ache to spend money sort of quiets to a still, and you can pray to God with a thankful heart. 

Life as a Highly-Sensitive, Introverted Enneagram Four

When I was in the 1st grade, we went on a field trip to see the Nutcracker. Watching those beautiful ballerinas dance around the stage in shiny costumes filled my eyes with tears. Looking from the corner of my eyes, I realized I was the only one of my classmates experiencing such a strange emotional response, especially since most of them laughed or didn’t pay attention at all.

For some reason I felt a profound sense of shame for wanting to cry at something so beautiful to me. That shame extended to other facets of my life and caused me to ask a lot of questions.

Why did I have to bite my tongue to keep from crying when I heard a meloncholy melody playing in an insurance commercial from the other room? What kind of person crawls underneath the yellow azaela bush and marvels at the brightest shade of yellow illuminating around them? Who drives around listening to Faure’s requiem as loud as possible, while contemplating the way the sun turns the mountains purple when the sun descends behind them? Is there something wrong with me? Why can’t I be normal?

Image Thanks to Sasha Freemind, Unsplash.com

Though the “face pushed up against the glass” metaphor is cliche, it perfectly describes how much of my life feels. It feels like I’m watching everyone around me figure out how to live their lives normally, while I struggle to even wear matching clothes and keep the same level mood throughout a single day.

My mood may change based on the nauseating smell coming from the garbarge that needs to be taken out in the kitchen, the too-loud country music at an over-crowded bar, or a fresh breeze sliding through the cracked passenger-side window in the car at night. In a single day, I may feel groggy, inspired, awed, envious, angry, enamored, hysterical, wishful, confident, accomplished, and/or sincere.

Because I’m so in tune with my own feelings, reading people is my science. I notice when my friend walks into a gathering with her husband and know that she wishes she could have stayed home alone. Subtle tone shifts and phrases can be monumental in the course of a conversation, like the half-interested “uh huh” from a friend. Or the half-turn of someone’s head to look over my shoulder at a different coversation happening across the room when I’m trying to answer their disingenuine questions.

Most of all though, I know myself. I know when I’m going to hate a certain social gathering, when I need to go for a walk in the sunshine, or when I’m just hungry for some tacos.

Even with all of that insight from a young age, learning I was an enneagram 4 was like swallowing a very large, bitter pill.

For anyone who may not know, the enneagram is an ancient tool that could have derived from any number of cultures or religions. Recently it’s weirdly been highly embraced by modern-day protestant and Catholic Christians. The idea is that all people fit into a number category between 1-9, and each category can help you find your deepest motivations, worst childhood hangups, and greatest strengths.

The 4 is known as the Romantic/Individualist. Unconvential, independent, creative, and emotional may be some power words used to describe them. Romantics tend to chase after beauty to a fault. Since they feel estranged from normal society from a young age, they embrace their unique weirdness and wear it like a badge of honor. Or like a rhinestone belt with a pair of too-short bell-bottoms.

Image Thanks to Artem Labunsky, Unsplash.com

They feel a push to be part of the crowd, to be accepted. Simultaneously, they feel a pull away from the norm and closer to a weird, fully-expressed existence. They’re self-proclaimed freaks and outcasts. The other numbers tend to see 4s as “too much,” “dramatic,” and “self-involved.”

At first, I felt pigeon-holed by this information of being a four. No one can tell me who I am and what I tend to do based on some cookie-cutter personality tool. Then it occured to me that according to this tool, that’s exactly how I would react based on my need to be different and undefinable.

When I came to grips with being a 4, I found immense comfort in knowing that others exist, just like me, who feel isolated from society, as if broken somehow. Others feel like they’re missing something, too. This revelation alone provided a feeling of belonging, at least to a small rag-tag group of like-minded, yet still distinctively different, individuals.

According to the enneagram, individualists feel driven by envy. They look at other people and envy their ease of belonging in the world. Envy leads to self-hatred. Self-hatred leads to pretty destructive behaviors and habits.

4s long for something real or authentic. In order to find what’s real, they often embrace melancholy aspects of life, like sad music, depressing movies, and deeply thoughtful novels. If they’re not careful, they can get caught in a loop of feeling sorry for themselves.

Apparently, the path out of this loop is paved with a weird word called equanimity.

Equanimity means that a person can feel all emotions equally and give them all the same amount of weight in their life. A four who needs to break their self-destructive cycle should start opening themselves up to happiness, thankfulness, appreciation, and humor just as much as the other emotions. They should allow themselves to feel it all in order to create a balanced inner-life.

Honestly, I don’t like that I’m a four. But I’ve found ways to capitalize on my strengths, like my love for beauty. I know a Romantic can help a person stop and see beauty all around them instead of achieving themselves to death through life.

Romantics can also be a solid shoulder to cry on in times of mourning and loss. In other words, they won’t be the obnoxious person telling you everything is going to be okay or that all things happen for a reason. They’re just going to grab your hand and cry with you.

Most of all, Romantics bring a level of authenticity that’s often difficult to find in a shallow world.

So next time you’re in need of some soul-sharing over a glass of aged wine in a beautiful setting, call up a four. They’re the perfect person to reach out to in times of trouble or when you just need a break from the duldrums.

Are you interested in knowing your enneagram number? Check out these sites:

https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/
https://assessment.yourenneagramcoach.com/

How Kazuo Ishiguro Used a Butler to Critique Socialism

Typically stories follow one of two patterns: psychological or sociological.

In a psychological story, the reader gets to look inside the mind of a central character or two. The reader becomes engrossed in the thoughts and feelings of these characters and the narrative is driven by their own character development and decisions.

In a sociological story, the reader may not be able to focus on any one character, because they are constantly looking at the big picture. Themes of a political nature emerge and all of the characters are fighting for the same outcome.

In Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro somehow tells both a psychological and sociological story.

Image Thanks to Alev Takil, Unsplash.com

From the beginning, the protagonist named Stevens lets the reader into his mind through a series of journal entries. These first-person entries depict a tirelessly devoted Butler who lived to please the great man of his house named Mr. Darlington. Now that he serves a young American man who bought the house after Mr. Darlington died, he has only memories. He feels his greatest work lies in the past.

The journal entries, while personal, still maintain a certain decorum. Even in his private life and thoughts, he fears losing the “dignity” that he strived to attain throughout his career.

Through a series of heartbreaking revelations, both the reader and Stevens find out together that maybe his life wasn’t as great as he once thought. Regret whispers in the back of his mind, but he pushes it away with reprimands of only fulfilling his duty. He grasps so tighlty to the lie that he lived for a great man, when in reality Mr. Darlington was a Nazi-loving socialist with no respect for democracy or the common man or woman.

In comes the sociological view. It creeps in like a mouse but grows to become the elephant in the room.

Stephens is the metaphor for the commonfolk who keep their eyes shut to the world around them. He represents anyone who trusts richer, more powerful people to make decisions about war, foreign policy, economics, and finance.

By the end of his life, Mr. Darlington might as well have addressed him as Comrade Stephens. In every way, he avoids living his life to its fullest so that he may serve Mr. Darlington and his every whim. He dismisses his father’s last words, stroke, and death. He offends the one woman who may have loved him and wanted to marry him. Worst of all, he believes himself to be dignified while he stands idly by as rich and powerful men mock him to his face.

Like the true socialist, Stephens forsakes his own life for the sake of other great men and women. In the process, he forfeits his own feelings and beliefs. When villagers ask him about his life, he pretends he is Mr. Darlington. At first, it seems like he’s lying on purpose to fool these people. Upon looking closer, it becomes apparent that Mr. Darlington’s life mattered more to Stephens than his own life. In that way, he never lied. He lived as if a simple appendage of Mr. Darlington’s body that he may wave about at any moment for no reason.

Image Thanks to Ciel Cheng, Unsplash.com

At the end of his life, he sits on a lonely beach like an empty shell and realizes he doesn’t even know how to joke with his friends. The people all around him on the beach banter, as he calls it, and he marvels at their ease with one another. Their creativity to think their own thoughts and their freedom to make human connections reveals his own isolation.

Democracy manifests itself through the light-hearted American, the villagers who take him in when his car runs out of gas, Miss Kenton who argues with him and loves him, and the people who banter on the beach. Though it seems rude and uncouth, Stephens longs for the freedom to be himself. He longs for democracy.

Ishiguro was brilliant to use a psychological metaphor to portray much larger sociological ideals. By making complex matters seem simple from the perspective of a Butler, he reveals the holes in socialist ideals and promotes a freer way of life through democracy.