The other day, in a different context, I heard someone talking about “embracing a different way of life”. It got me to thinking about what that oft-repeated phrase really means in relation to a debt free life. When I think of embracing a different way of life, I think of going after something with so much enthusiasm and believing in something so strongly that what other people think doesn’t influence me. The only thing that influences me is the new lifestyle that I am creating for myself. That’s also what being debt free is about.
A debt free life is, for most people, a radically different life than what they are accustomed to. It’s certainly a different life that what society expects us to live. If you live debt free you have to fully embrace that way of life. You can’t approach it half-heartedly or without enthusiasm. To become and remain debt free you have to go after it with gusto and keep working at it, long after you could quit if you were chasing a lesser goal.
Living debt free is truly embracing a different way of life. Society tells us that we shouldn’t live debt free. We should spend. We should keep up with the Joneses. We should always have the latest and greatest of everything. From the time we wake up until we go to bed we are bombarded with messages that tell us we’re losers if we aren’t spending and having it all. The norm is to carry a mortgage, a couple of car payments, and some credit card debt. That’s the only way, we’re told, that we can even begin to be happy. We should just accept that debt is a way of life and get comfortable with that thought.
Those of us who are and want to remain debt free turn our backs on that sort of lifestyle. Instead we actively seek out a different way of life. We reach out for it and embrace being debt free rather than just accepting society’s standard of living. We seek out simplicity and shun over-consumption. We don’t worry about what the neighbors think of us. We don’t spend recklessly and we don’t accept debt as the norm. We refuse to believe that we are losers, instead finding fulfillment in avenues that aren’t tied to spending and following trends.
This isn’t easy. It’s gotten a little easier since the economic bust, now that others realize just how much of a problem an over-consumptive lifestyle can be. However, it’s never easy to buck societal norms and to be different. You have to fully embrace a debt free lifestyle to put up with the snide comments about your older car, the questions about why you’ve never bought a bigger house, and the looks from people who think your clothes aren’t good enough. If you don’t relish the idea of being debt free and if you don’t think that it’s just the best way to live, you’ll never make it. You’ll give in to peer pressure, buy a new car and a Prada handbag and go with the crowd. It takes a strong and determined person to become and remain debt free in a society where it’s not the norm.
Like any other lifestyle change, like anyone else who fully embraces a way of living different from what’s expected or normal, there are huge rewards. In exchange for your hard work and commitment you get peace and freedom, two things that are worth any number of snide remarks and crazy looks. When you pursue a different way of life, some people won’t understand you. That’s okay. All that matters is that you can see the value in the life you are creating for yourself and that you reach out and embrace it wholeheartedly.