Does Debt Free Equal Poor?
A new trending topic seems to be how is it that we can be debt free and still have a life. A few months ago, David and I hosted a pre-cocktail party at our place with friends before we hit some clubs. It was one of the few times we relaxed last summer. While pre-cocktailing, we shared that we’re planning a trip to Malta within the next year or two. Someone said, “How can you do that when you’re debt free?” My response was, “Being debt free and poor are not the same thing.”
In fact, the very reason that we’re planning a trip so far in advance is because we want to travel and stay debt free. If we decided to go to Malta this weekend, most of the cost would go on credit cards. Of course, we could use our emergency savings. We’ve chosen to do neither.
Similarly, I recently posted on Facebook that I want a dog and tagged David. It was my passive aggressive way to say publicly to David that I want a dog. Someone responded, “How will you manage the unexpected expenses of a dog with your espoused frugal lifestyle?” Aside from the fact that we don’t advocate a “frugal” lifestyle, I was again perplexed. Does everyone who has a dog have debt? How about kids? Kids are expensive and suck Mom and Dad’s money. Can’t parents be debt free?
Uh, Hell to the NO!
David and I espouse a money conscious (a.k.a., #MoneyConscious) and debt free lifestyle. Neither are synonymous with being “poor” or “frugal”. Being money conscious means you know where your money comes from and where it goes. It means planning for what you want and need and not letting surprises, unexpected expenses or unexpected desires ruin your financial plan life. This means planning ahead for what you want. This is how we stay debt free.
So, we can go to Malta or Greece, another vacation we’re considering, or anywhere else in the world. It means we must pick a location, save the money, research what we want to see and do. It means we must research hotels and flights and buy what’s appropriate for our budget. This is how we stay debt free.
The same holds true if we get a pet, whether a dog, cat, turtle or pig. (Full-disclosure: I had a pet pig, named Scrapple, in college. I got her after my iguana died in a freak accident.) We’d have to work the added expenses into our budget and increase our emergency savings accordingly. To be honest, a dog is a dog. Our dog won’t go to doggy daycare and won’t get more than $1,000 or so of healthcare beyond regular/annual care such as shots, grooming, etc.
It makes me wonder if debt is so engrained into our psyche that we assume debt’s necessary to have a good quality of life. Can’t people fathom the idea of traveling without piling up debt? Do the majority of us assume everyone has debt, unless they live like hermits?
I find these questions curious and am even more curious what they say about the questioner and our society.