Debt Free: Poor or Fabulous?

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.

Here is one of the easiest ways that we stay debt free and still enjoy an awesome life!

Is the awesome life you always dreamed of
still somewhere over the rainbow?

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Comment List

  • I must be so entranced in the save money to pay for things camp that I would never even think of the questions people asked you. It is still so amazing to me that no one ever plans ahead but instead needs instant gratification and debt to do or buy anything. It is sort of sad. But that is why we are trying to educate people, right?

    • John Schneider 09 / 10 / 2015 Reply

      Thias, the instant gratification trap is a tough one. We fell into it so many times. It’s still a lure today that at time is hard to fight off. David wants his Audi and we would love to get new bathrooms, but we are putting Debt Free Guys first because we love helping others. I mean, really, what do you do in a bathroom any way. 😛

  • Jillian 07 / 10 / 2015 Reply

    AMEN! Guys, this is great. It’s not like having debt means someone is rich. Not having debt clearly doesn’t mean someone is poor either.

    • John Schneider 09 / 10 / 2015 Reply

      So true Jillian. We mistake wealth and being rich for having lots of things or doing lots of stuff. Hidden behind those experiences and possessions can be stress, anxiety and anger. We are very lucky to have pulled that monkey off our backs.

  • Emily @ JohnJaneDoe 07 / 10 / 2015 Reply

    I think it’s strange that the assumption would be that Debt Free would equal struggling financially instead of liberated. Debt free means you aren’t spending your money on interest. You’ve freed up more money to spend on fun stuff like your trip to Malta!

    • John Schneider 09 / 10 / 2015 Reply

      You are exactly right Emily. Financial freedom is just that. Although people don’t always realize what freedom really means. They exchange things for freedom and pretend that they are happy. Honestly we both did that for a long time, we cannot fault them completely. We just hope they can learn from our mistakes.

  • Wow! I’m amazed at this oxymoronic attitude. Also, Scrapple the Pig is hilarious! *fist bump for PA*

    • John Schneider 09 / 10 / 2015 Reply

      Oh the things we do as college students. Oy! Or this case oink oink! 😉

  • FF @ Femme Frugality 08 / 10 / 2015 Reply

    Wow…. It’s amazing how backwards this is! I get it to a certain extent; I went to college debt free, but for a long time that meant putting off my education because I didn’t want student loans. So that impacted my income opportunities. But for things like vacation? It’s hard for me to fathom financing that. I think that’s got to be a large problem; people who finance every aspect of their life don’t realize that they are actually the poor ones.

    • John Schneider 09 / 10 / 2015 Reply

      That is awesome that you went through college debt free. Congrats on that! You are right that those that finance their lifestyle are poorer. They are actually spending more on something than they have to. Why pay $2400 for vacation that should really only cost $1500. Years of paying for it while servicing your debt just means you cannot use that money for other things you enjoy.

  • Amy 14 / 10 / 2015 Reply

    This blew me away: “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?” It’s so true! People think we can’t have ANY fun if we are on a set budget. And sadly, they are missing it. The freedom that comes with this lifestyle is incredible. People think budget means: we’ve given up normal life and are moving into a convent. Uh, nope. Also, where’s the pic of Scrapple?

  • Chris Peach 19 / 10 / 2015 Reply

    John,
    I’ll be honest- I once believed that in order to have “fun”, you needed to go into debt (unless you were a millionaire). I think when I figured out I could invest early in my 20s and literally save up millions for retirement, that my mind (and money philosophy) completely changed. Like this post a lot John!

    • David Auten 20 / 10 / 2015 Reply

      Peach, you are lucky you learned it early. So many learn it too late to have time in the market enough to get what they want. We know we have to work a little bit harder now, but we will be right there with ya.

  • Amanda 10 / 01 / 2016 Reply

    Lol people are funny. Remember people still give me weird looks when I tell them I’ve never a) carried over a balance on a credit card and b) never owned a car. Then again, they complain about their office jobs to pay for said things and I run a business from a laptop and can travel whenever I want because I’ve saved enough money for it. It’s all a matter of perspective.

    • John Schneider 20 / 01 / 2016 Reply

      You are livin’ the life! 🙂 Another reason we love you and your content too!

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