One of the things I’ve noticed about my debt free life is how much less distracted and stressed my mind seems to be than those with a lot of debt. I see many of my peers running around freaked out by bills, or chasing the latest “deal” on some doodad that they just have to have. They’re freaking out because the air conditioner broke and they can’t pay to have it fixed, or because a credit card cut their credit limit. They’re dodging calls from creditors and salespeople and planning elaborate avoidance strategies. They’re worried about making it to the mall before it closes, or making sure that they get in on some deal or offering before it expires. They worry over payment dates and calculate to the last second when they can send in their payment and not be considered late. They worry obsessively about what their neighbors and friends are doing – are they living in a big house, did they put in granite countertops, are their kids in the traveling sports league, and on and on. Every day is like a war inside their heads with debt, shopping, and keeping up with the Joneses making up the front lines. It must be almost painful to live like that and to not have the mental space left to deal with the really important things.
By comparison, I have little to worry about. Living debt free (and simplifying my life as part of that lifestyle) has freed me from many of these concerns. I don’t keep abreast of trends, so I’m not out at all hours trying to track down the latest game or gadget. I don’t shop recreationally, so I’m not exposed to a lot of impulse buys or things that suddenly I must have (but that I didn’t know existed five minutes beforehand). I don’t care what my neighbors are doing, so I don’t worry about keeping up or competing with them. My TV and Internet usage is minimal, so I’m not constantly bombarded with advertising that makes me want to spend, and bad news that makes me feel economically depressed. I never dread going to the mailbox or being called by a creditor and I don’t sweat payment dates as if they signal impending doom.
In return for this low-key lifestyle I am rewarded with an expanded and relaxed mind space. Where the minds of my peers are crowded with financial worries and shopping quests, mine is filled with things that matter to me. I have more time to think about and deal with family issues. I have more time to work on projects that are meaningful to me or contribute to causes I support. I have more mental energy to deal with the important things like elderly parents, health issues, and relationships. And I have more capacity to simply think of nothing. I can daydream or meditate without thinking about whether I need to buy this or that, or worrying about where the money for the credit card bill is going to come from. I have the mental energy and time to simply be or to enjoy a walk through the neighborhood, enjoying the flowers rather than crowding it all out with worry.
It’s not like I never suffer from stress. Dealing with aging parents, work challenges, or other life issues is stressful. Sometimes I need to go out and bash a tennis ball or something to get it out. But at least my stress is not compounded by money-related issues. I can’t imagine if I had to worry about daily life and worry about money and bills, or what I’m missing out on, or what my neighbors are doing at the same time. Even during my most stressful times I still have a little mental energy and space left to appreciate the sunset or enjoy just being close to the people I love. The important things are never crowded out by money, debt, or shopping. I can’t imagine losing so much mental real estate to money and debt concerns. It seems like much in life is missed when money concerns crowd out everything else.