A Life Without Debt: A Different Kind of Judgement

I’m a huge Star Wars nerd and many of my favorite quotes come from the Jedi Master, Yoda. My personal favorite is the following:

“Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not.”

When I think about my debt free life, I often change that quote to read: “Spending matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my spending, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not.” While I’m not a huge fan of judging people in any form, I am not naive enough to believe that we don’t judge each other. The usual yardstick that we use to judge someone is their spending. We look at their cars, their clothes, their Rolexes, their homes and their “stuff.” I am well aware that, if I were to be judged solely by spending measures I would be found wanting in every department. My clothes are not designer, my car is old. My home is small by many standards, my watch is my grandfathers’ old Timex. If you judge me by my spending, I am no one.

But look a little deeper and you’ll see a whole different person. You’ll see someone who has lived a life full of incredible experiences. You’ll see someone who gives to charity and accomplishes much in her life. You’ll see someone who wins awards and who is making great progress in her career. You’ll see someone who is almost at a point in her life where she can choose to retire or keep working. I may not spend on outward signs of accomplishment, but in terms of quality of life I would argue that I am better off than many people who prefer to be judged by their stuff.

But successful people spend, right? They own things that show how successful they are, right? The saying, “If you’ve got it, flaunt it” was coined because we expect people to outwardly demonstrate their level of success by wearing and owning expensive stuff. Those of us to choose to forego that type of consumption are often judged harshly and, many times, incorrectly. Even though I can now afford some of those status symbols, I choose to focus my spending on experiences like travel. Rather than spending time shopping for the latest fashion, I choose to spend my time working on new projects and searching out new opportunities. Does this make me less successful than someone who wears a Rolex? I doubt it. In fact, if that Rolex created debt for that person then I likely am far more successful, in strict terms of money, than that person.

So please, just as you would not judge Yoda’s power by his size, don’t judge my (or anyone else’s) level of success by my spending. In terms of monetary “power” I have much more than my outward spending would indicate. Don’t look at my Timex watch and my older car and decide that I’m not worth anything. Don’t look at my smaller house and decide that there’s no point in getting to know me. Look beyond the spending and see the person inside. I may not show outward signs of success, but that’s also a big reason why I’m debt free which is a level of success that not many attain.

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8 Responses to A Life Without Debt: A Different Kind of Judgement

  1. I like your philosophy. By choosing to avoid debt, no matter the application, you are working to create a simpler and more stress free future, one with more freedom and less obligation, one filled with more opportunities to experience and give. Thank you for sharing this, keep it up.

  2. Broken Arrow says:

    You know, I’m never going to understand why anyone would judge another person’s possible level of financial wealth solely on their spending habits. To me, that only tells me how much they no longer have.

    People do the darnest things sometimes.

  3. Michelle says:

    Any time a person can incorporate some of Yoda’s homespun wisdom into a post, it’s a winner to me. :) Very, very cool.

  4. ceejay74 says:

    It’s all true, but I also think the wheel is turning right now. People are starting to brag about their frugality, and if we’re not careful, are going to start judging people negatively who do spend on conspicuous items.

    I know I tend to do it a bit, privately wondering whether people can really afford what they’re buying or if they’re just being totally stupid and irresponsible. But I try not to do that, because until I know someone’s story, for all I know they saved up really diligently for a special luxury for themselves.

  5. Gail says:

    I don’t even wear a watch any more but have heard for years how a Rolex is THE watch to show your wealth. Somewhere along the line I picked up a Watch magazine for about a dime (that I later sold for $10) and was amazed while looking through it that Rolex is the the ‘Timex’ of the high grade watch world. There are watches out there whose cost puts Rolex at the level only a ‘very poor’ rich person would be buying it. Some watches go for quarter of a million or more. Amazing! Just a little nugget if you ever bump in to someone boasting about their Rolex!!!

    Anyhow very good words. Talked to my hubby last night about what we would want/need if finances became very plentiful and my wants would be as much money as I want for groceries (pretty much spend that now), as much as I want for books and magazines (I’d like a couple Australian subscriptions that are $100 or more a year due to shipping costs), and any sewing gadget/item that I want, maybe a couple hundred or more a year. If I got really wealthy, someone to come in to dust/clean and a gardener to take care of the yard and keep lots of flowers growing for me to look at. His large wants were maybe a bit bigger than mine, but what it tells me is even though we don’t have lots by the world’s standards, we are very content and basically have what we need and want. How much more does one need out of life than to be content?

  6. Nancy says:

    I absolutely agree with you. Bravo!
    You certainly know how to live.

  7. Tim says:

    I agree with what Sadie has to say. Once you become debt free you change as a person and become more light hearted and easy going.

  8. Andrew says:

    People that judge others by their spending habits probably aren’t worth knowing. How someone could justify spending $10k on a watch worries me unless they are filthy rich. I’d suggest a lot of rolex buyers have self worth issues.

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