A Life Without Debt: Where Did It Come From?

People often ask me some version of the following question: “Where did you get this idea that you should live a debt free life? How did you, in a world where credit cards are ubiquitous and debt is the norm, decide that you were going to go against the norm?” People are curious about my lifestyle choice because it seems so foreign to most of them. The simple answer is: It came from my parents.

My parents paid cash for everything, except their home. New cars, Christmas gifts, furniture, you name it, it was all bought with cash. And they saved, both for the short term and the long term, setting themselves up nicely for their elder years. My parents were not wealthy, either, nor di


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8 Responses to A Life Without Debt: Where Did It Come From?

  1. skydivingchic says:

    I agree completely with this article. I remember my parents telling me about their lean years – the clunker car and the crappy apartments. One Christmas when my brother and I were very young, Mom had $5 to spend on both of us and the decorating the tree. By the time I was old enough to remember things we were living a comfortable middle class lifestyle. I have always been extremely grateful to my parents for instilling a sense of fiscal responsibility in me. I’ll admit to having made some minor mistakes, but by and large their lessons stuck and I’ve been able to establish a solid and comfortable foundation without the pain of massive debt. Thanks Mom and Dad!

  2. Monkey Mama says:

    I was raised the same way and live the same lifestyle. My parents took it one step further. My dad grew up in poverty, and was rather convinced not taking on any debt kept him out of poverty (the only thing worse than poverty was debt – his parents lived through the depression after all). So I never found it particularly hard to scrounge in the early years. Sometimes you just need a little perspective. I have always been grateful for a roof over my head and food, as I always understand these weren’t always a given. That perspective makes the rest easy. So you drive an old car and live with roommates for a few years. Eh.

  3. anonymous says:

    In my generation people seemed to feel like getting that crappy first apartment was fun and part of an adventure! We were proud of being resourceful. We had furniture consisting of a mattress on the floor, tables of wood fruit boxes or electrical wire spools, milk crates to sit on, shelves made of boards and concrete blocks. We kept our clothes in cardboard boxes or a bag hanging on a door or the wall. Yeah, we had a radio, and most prioritized a stereo, but many did not have a tv in those early years. We enjoyed ourselves that way. We would have thought ourselves babied and sissy to be carted to Target by parents to buy everything we needed and in coordinated styles the month before moving out on our own.

  4. Kelly Stone says:

    We were raised with this same “only buy what you can pay for” (at the time of the purchase). I can not thank my parents enough for instilling this wise concept. My hope now, is that I can pass it along to mu children.

  5. uni-girl says:

    I am twenty-two years old, and have been living a life without debt–thus far. I have worked part-time during high school to save money for university (because I do not have a RESP). I have always held a strong mind set that I should only “buy what I can pay for”. Hence, I hardly buy anything that I want for myself; I only buy things I need. I have paid for all of my tuition for the past three years. However, as I approach this upcoming school year, I will not have enough money for tuition. I do not want to ask my parents (they have worked in the manufacturing industry for 20 years) for money because I know they are pinching pennies as well.

    I’m afraid my life without debt is going to end soon. =(

  6. I’m thankful too for my frugal parents who lived in fear of debt. They paid off their house by age 35 and never financed ANYTHING else. They were able to pay cash for my college, and I’m grateful for that too….I’m in my mid-30s and some of my close friends are STILL paying college loans, and I”m thankful its not me!

  7. Gail says:

    Also grew up with the lean stories. At one point my family of two parents, 4 children lived in a TWO room apartment, where in the winter you put the milk on the window sill to keep it cold as they didn’t have a fridge. My dad was going to college at the time and this was what they could afford.

    Currently we are in debt and I hate it, but because we are being careful and planning what we are doing, those balances are going down every month. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

  8. Heibi says:

    I admire my parents’ frugality too. Before I was born they rented a mobile home and then a small dank cabin in the woods before they bought a house for themselves. They still continue their saving ways. In the winter they heat primarily with wood that they get off their own land and hang their clothes out on line to dry. They have passed some of their saving nature on to me, however I’m not nearly as disciplined, but am doing rather well…no debt (but a small mortgage) and have savings.

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