A Life Without Debt: A Debt Free Life Is a Creative Life

I hear many people complain that they aren’t creative. “I can’t paint or write,” they say. They assume that creativity is only relevant if you are creating some piece of art, music, or design. But creativity isn’t limited only to the arts. Plenty of creativity is required in everything from manufacturing to accounting to the medical field. You’re probably being creative most of the time without realizing it. Every time you do something a little differently than others, or take an existing idea and tweak it to your advantage, you are being creative. Every time you solve a problem, whatever it may be, chances are you are being creative.

Creativity plays a big role in frugality and personal finance. And it is practically required in order to become and remain debt free. I know it doesn’t seem that way. Budgets are often dry and boring, reading the stock section of the paper rarely lights a fire in your belly, and living within your means feels restrictive and not at all joyful or passionate. But as someone who has lived debt free for years, let me tell you that this is about as creative as it gets.

I used to think I wasn’t creative. I never create great works of art, I don’t sing, I don’t make anything, and the most creative decisions I ever made were what colors to paint the walls in my house. I never felt like I was inspired or like I was creating much of anything. I was just living my life and doing my job and none of it was creative. Or so I thought. But then one day I looked around me and I realized that I was extremely creative and none of it had to do with the arts. It had to do with the way I managed money.

Being debt free requires a lot of creativity, largely because there aren’t that many blueprints available for how to live such a lifestyle. Since many people aren’t debt free and free spending is somewhat encouraged, we debt free people are sort of the oddballs. We have to find our own way in the financial world and make things work for us. There are few books or other resources out there that tell you what it takes to live a debt free life. You have to go with trial and error and that takes creativity.

I get creative everyday when I go out to my garage and look for ways to repair or otherwise extend the life of my things. I’m being creative when I repurpose an object for a new use. It takes creativity to find less expensive alternatives to overpriced commercial products. I have to be creative to find ways to bring in extra money when I need it. I am creative when I find new, less expensive ways to do things that I thought had to be expensive. I get creative to find alternatives when there is something I want to do but I can’t afford it. I have to be creative in order to find cheap/free sources of entertainment. I am creative when I figure out novel ways to save up the money for a purchase or tweak the budget to get just a little more out of it. I am being creative when I find new ways to reduce the costs of my everyday life. Even planning and planting a garden requires creativity.

Every decision that I make that does not involve taking on debt requires some level of creativity. It requires no creativity to whip out the credit card and buy things. However, it takes a great deal of creativity to find ways to reduce spending, avoid debt, save money, budget, and generally find ways to do things that allow you to keep more of your money. Turns out, I was creative all along.

If you’re interested in learning more about creativity and jump starting your own creative juices, here’s a list of my favorite books on the subject. None of these relate directly to finance, but once you see how the creative process works, you’re likely to see how you can use it to become and remain debt free.

  • Creativity Workout: 62 Exercises to Unlock Your Most Creative Ideas by Edward De Bono
  • Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques (2nd Edition) by Michael Michalko
  • The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life by Twyla Tharp
  • The Spark: Igniting the Creative Fire That Lives Within Us All by John U. Bacon
  • Boost your creativity by Robert Allen
  • The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
  • Caffeine for the Creative Mind: 250 Exercises to Wake Up Your Brain by Stefan Mumaw and Wendy Lee Oldfield
  • Make Your Creative Dreams Real: A Plan for Procrastinators, Perfectionists, Busy People, Avoiders, and People Who Would Really Rather Sleep All Day by Sark
  • Aha!: 10 Ways to Free Your Creative Spirit and Find Your Great Ideas by Jordan E. Ayan; with Rick Benzel
  • A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative by Roger von Oech

Finally, I’ll throw one more book out for you. It’s not a book about creativity, but it is the most creative finance book I’ve ever read. It’s called The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn. That book has some of the most creative, frugal solutions to everyday problems that I have ever encountered. It makes a great jumping off point for creating your own solutions. I’ve used my own creativity to adapt many of her ideas to work better for me.

Creativity allows you to see ways to save and make money that others miss. It opens you up to see how old things can be made new again, or used for other purposes to keep you from spending more money. Creativity helps you budget and reduce your expenses so that you don’t have to take on debt. Everything you do to reduce your expenses and your need for “stuff” is creative. A debt free life is a very creative life.

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6 Responses to A Life Without Debt: A Debt Free Life Is a Creative Life

  1. Jackie says:

    the Tightwad Gazette is, if nothing else, one of the most entertaining reads. Amy Dyczcyn makes it clear at the beginning of each bound issue that the point of the book is to cultivate a creative way of thinking, not to necessarily follow each idea to the letter.

    Encouraging people to think creatively about their finances has been some of the most useful advice I’ve ever gotten. Sometimes it takes more effort to reuse or recondition items, but it can also be fun and very fulfilling. There is satisfaction in buying new, but I never have as great a sense of accomplishment buying a new item as I do finding creative ways to avoid that purchase.

  2. Justin says:

    Frugal living definitely requires creativity. It’s amazing some of the crazy fun and useful things yo can come up with when you open your mind.

  3. Ann says:

    Nothing feels better than knowing you don’t owe anybody anything…well I should not say that because the thrill of driving a brand new car feels great, but when you remember the monthly payments and the high cost of auto insurance, I rather drive my old clunker, which still rides great.

  4. Gail says:

    Your post is completely right! It does take great skill and creativity to ‘make it do or do without’. Most people can’t be bothered to think up a creative solution to any problem.

    I’m appalled as I look at ebay auctions for sewing machines that start out with, “I bought this machine a year or two ago and have never used it as I have a baby” what does having a baby in the house have to do with not being able to sew? So instead they take a machine that they paid thousands of dollars for and resell it for 1/2-1/3 of what they paid. I sewed when I had small children in the house and they sure didn’t suffer for it and it was part of being frugal. The machines being resold are some of those great top of the line machines where creativity is hardly needed to make clothes and soft furnishings for the house. I just find it amazing.

    I created my own way of keeping track of due bills about 15 years ago and it has been so helpful to see the broader picture yet when I tried to explain the simple program like I use to someone who was about to declare backruptcy, they couldn’t be bothered to listen. They weren’t interested even at that point with saving, they still wanted to spend.

  5. You are most definitely right. There are so many times people are being creative when they figure out a fundamental solution to an ever growing problem such as personal finance…but don’t quite realize it. I know I’ve gotten creative and opted to drive my old jeep since it’s paid off instead of buying a new car. I’ve also started using only prepaid debit cards. Credit cards get people in this mind set of “buy now, pay later” and I don’t want to be paying later for the rest of my days. It’s kept me on track and on budget, a minor financial success as I move to bigger and better parts of my life!

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