I’ve offered an answer to that question in another blog post, On The Debt Crises. That post begs the question of how Americans can avoid debt.
I grew up in an upper middle-class family. There were families who had more and those who had less.
Since then I’ve had periods in my life when I didn’t have a lot of money and times when I have.
When I was in law school, I didn’t manage what little money I had very well and as a result brought a lot of credit card debt into our marriage. My wife and I decided to deal with it and our other debts early on.
We put our credit cards in a ziplock storage bag in the freezer and didn’t touch them for two years. Slowly we paid of the credit cards, then the cars, and then our house. We did this in 6 years and during that time we never made more than $125,000 in a year, and most of those years we made significantly less than $100,000.
Our secret? Actually, the Apostle Paul revealed it nearly 2,000 years ago:
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength”
Philippians 4:12-13. The key is being content in your circumstances, and the secret to contentment is drawing on the strength of the Holy Spirit who lives in you (assuming of course you are a Christian in whom the Spirit dwells).
I drove a Nissan 300ZX until it was 11 years old when I could have afforded the payments on a Porsche. We lived in a $90,000 house when we could have afforded the mortgage payments on a $250,000 house. We didn’t wear the most expensive clothes or go out to eat as much as our neighbors. As a result, we didn’t appear to have as much money as some of our friends, but we learned how to be content with what we had.
We were able to be content because we are Christians. That is the truth, but do you know how ridiculous that sounds? “God gave me the strength to be content with a 11 year-old Nissan when I really wanted a Porsche.” But if it sounds ridiculous and materialistic, why is that so many Christians are unable to exercise the self-discipline to even make that choice?
The financial problems of most Christians, like most Americans, are self-inflicted. They want something now and are unable to wait, so they borrow money to buy it. Their decision is pregnant with the presumption they will have money tomorrow to pay for what they cannot afford today. See James 4:13-15. I’ve been there, and I’ve not been there, and I can tell you it is much better to not be there.
If going into 2013 you are trying to get out of debt, start with working on contentment. Jesus has given the power to be content, so draw on that and you will see your debt begin to decrease. GS