Today, I had lunch with an old friend. We haven't had a decent, kid-free visit in at least 10 years, though we were inseparable in high school. She said something that really stuck with me. We were talking about the things that we teach our kids, and she said that it was important that her daughter learned to never get in debt because it is so hard to get out of debt.
Isn't that the truth?
Getting into debt is easy. Too easy. A car loan here, some credit cards there, maybe student loans, and suddenly you are up to your ears in minimum payments. And then even the minimum payments aren't small, and it seems like your balance is never going down.
Living with debt is awful. Debt limits your options, because you are always weighing your choices against your debt. It can suck the life out of you. If you don't face the problem, it will continue to grow until it takes over every part of your life. Don't think that's true? Have you ever had a friend who never answered their phone? Often, it is because they are avoiding debt collectors. I have a friend who is always receiving calls from collection agencies and it is uncomfortable being at her house because the phone rings and everyone just looks at each other, knowing. I can't imagine how it would be if they were calling for me!
Getting out of debt is hard, but completely worth it. It requires self-control, persistence, and patience. Debt usually takes a long time to pay off, and you have to be focused. It becomes a full-time job, keeping expenses down and tracking your payments and making everything work.
So, learn from my friend. Avoid debt, and if you must incur "good" debt (like a mortgage), make sure it is within your ability to pay. Don't become a slave to 20 minimum payments, because getting out of debt is no fun.