A Life Without Debt: Getting Past Being Appalled

One of the things I’ve learned living a debt free life is never to dismiss anything out of hand. Whenever I see a money saving tip, investment strategy, or other money management idea I don’t automatically pooh-pooh it as something I can’t do. I’m always willing to try something new — or at least investigate it further — before deciding whether it will work for me or not.

Contrast this with many of the people I deal with who not only dismiss many money management ideas, they are actively appalled by them. Suggest to some people that they bring their own coffee to work, line dry their clothes, give up cable, make their own cleaning supplies, or stop eating out to save money and they will look at you like you’re from another planet. Then they’ll say something like, “Oh, I could never do that. It’s too… [gross, icky, hard, inconvenient, degrading, humbling, messy, insert reason why it’s impossible here].” They act completely appalled that you would even suggest such things to them. They dismiss anything that requires them to work, change their ways, or act differently from others.

But I’ve found that being debt free means that I can literally not afford to dismiss anything. Sure, some things don’t work out for me. I tried making my own laundry detergent once and I don’t know whether I had a bad recipe or what, but I could never get it to work. But I tried. And if presented with a new recipe, I’d try it again.

There have been other money saving ideas that haven’t worked for me, or at least not saved me any money compared to the effort they required. Some investment and savings strategies have run aground, too. Some things have worked in the short term, but then later I’ve decided that I’d really rather go back to the old way of doing things. But I’ve tried many things or at least put them to further scrutiny.

Being willing to try almost anything in order to cut costs enables me to avoid debt. I’m willing to try to repair something before buying new. If it comes to that, I’m willing to check out the used market before buying completely new. I’m willing to drive a car for fifteen years or more and I’m not at all worried about what others might think. I’m willing to take the time to use coupons and shop sales to save 40-50% on my food bill. I’m willing to cook at home rather than eat out five times a week. I’m willing to line dry my clothes to cut my energy bill. I’m willing to do a fair amount of labor on my home and property myself rather than paying someone else to do it for me. I don’t dismiss anything as beneath me and I don’t get bent out of shape when something requires me to try a different pattern of behavior.

There are some things I won’t do, although I’ve tried them, simply because they don’t yield the results I need or the effort required doesn’t really end up saving me money. Making laundry detergent was one of those. Another one was my failed envelope making experience. I tried making my own envelopes, but discovered I could buy a box much cheaper than I could make my own (and the store bought ones were sturdier). But I tried and never said, “Make my own envelopes? What a stupid idea.”

The willingness to try (and fail) and learn is one huge step on the path to debt free living. If you want to be debt free and stay that way, you have to cut costs (or make a fortune, but we’re assuming you don’t have a fortune). In order to find new ways to save money, sometimes you have to entertain ideas that seem foreign or hard, inconvenient or icky. But sometimes those strange ideas yield big savings that allow you to sock away money and avoid debt. Sometimes it won’t work out and sometimes you’ll need to tweak the idea to make it work for you. But getting appalled at savings suggestions and always saying, “I can’t,” or, “I won’t,” is a sure fire way to stay mired in debt.

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9 Responses to A Life Without Debt: Getting Past Being Appalled

  1. Jean says:

    I like your attitude!

    I wasn’t sure I could cut my own short layered hair, but I decided to try. If it turned out a mess, I could go to the beauty shop and have them “correct” it.

    It was messy and awkward, but I did it. And it looks better now than when I was paying someone else to do it.

    Saves me money and time.

  2. Maismom says:

    I can totally relate to this. Some of my friends are deep in debt, but they don’t want to adopt changes that are necessary to be financially healthy. And, all the excuses they have!! One friend was complaining about her overdraft fee by her bank. I asked her if she checked the balance in her account. She said she “no”.
    Me: Why don’t you check it online?
    Friend: I don’t have online account.
    Me: You can set it up really easy.
    Friend: My connection is not working very well.
    Me: Go to Panera. They have free Wifi.
    Friend: I don’t have time.
    And she was hanging out with us for few hours while she doesn’t have time to take care of her finances……sigh….

  3. baselle says:

    I like your attitude, too. Sadie!

    All of the reasons people give for not trying new, cheaper ways of doing something boil down to:

    “I can never do that. Its not cool.”

    Most people live fiscally in high school.

  4. nmboone says:

    There are things I refuse to even try though. I would never layer my own hair because I lack coordination. I know for a fact it would be awful. I have heard things on the internet like to save money on toilet paper women can use one rag. There’s no way I would even consider something like that, lol!

  5. minny says:

    Agree completely. I use a very cheap laundry powder and cleaning products. I have actually been asked if it gets clothes really clean! No, I like walking around looking filthy! We are brainwashed into thinking that only expensive cleaning products work well – and it isn’t true.

    I don’t get on with vinegar as a cleaning product. I buy a cheap cleaning liquid which I dilute to make a spray cleaner – works just as well as the expensive spray cleaners – I tested it. (the expensive cleaner was on offer!)

    We give everything regarding thrifty living a good look and try many different ways to spend less or make money go further. I agree on the home made laundry stuff and for me home made shampoo doesn’t work. After my home made shampoo failure I experimented with using less and less shampoo when washing my hair. I have it down to half a teaspoonful – makes shampoo go a loooong way!

    I use plain soap for the shower it lasts much longer than shower creme, gel or whatever and costs a lot less.

    In the UK we don’t have much in the way of coupons, but we have several different ‘layers’ of goods from branded through to supermarket premium, then supermarket ordinary and then supermarket value. Most supermarket chains here do this. The value products can come in VERY cheaply and after trying many of them we have many prducts we buy only in value.

    Ask many people and they would never touch value products with a bargepole – however far fewer now than a year ago!!!!
    I use cheap dishwasher detergent – just as good.

  6. It’s still worth it to listen to every mone-saving or money-making idea, no matter what it first sounds like.

    John DeFlumeri Jr

  7. Gail says:

    I like your attitude! My 26 year old son and I were talking about this on our way to grocery shop today. He helps me as I have trouble physically doing all the carrying and he gets a free meal and time with his mom–lucky kid! We were talking about people living beyond their means and how they won’t give up cable, cell phones (or extra cell phones), etc. he piped up with I have satellite TV with a baseball package and a cell phone. I then reminded him that he had budgeted for these items. They weren’t putting him into debt. He was saving money and lives very frugally otherwise. Baseball is important to him so this is something he splurges on–Incidently the satellite TV came about after an unexpected Christmas bonus he got last Christmas, so this is literally his way of spreading it out over the year. For a single guy living at home with no one to talk to in the evenings and it is in budget no problem.

    He has read all my Tightwad Gazette books, and other frugal living books and articles and I’m very proud of him.

    I has found another use for vinegar. A tiny dab of dish detergent in about 1/2 c of cider vinegar makes for a nice fruit fly trap. We live in a rural area with lots of fruit growing and we get fruit flies really bad at this time of year. Setting this concoction out and changing it every couple days, really helps.

  8. It’s funny that you mention how appalled people are when given ideas how to save money.

    Me being a financial analyst, I sit down with people and tell them they need to Sell their cars and buy used ones, cut down to basic cable and even downsize their homes.

    They also look at me like I am on another planet. And this is of course because I AM on another planet!

    It’s called… “Easy Retirement”

  9. Stacy Adcock says:

    Great article. Appalled is exactly the response I get from friends when I suggest ways to cut spending and pay down debt. So those of us who have been thru it and are now debt free must let our actions speak for us and live our lives as an example…’cause words sure do go in one ear and out the other.

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