How Much Time Do You Have?
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Last week, just in time for Black Friday, I received an email urging me to act soon in order to secure a low-interest loan for, potentially, thousands of dollars. The text screamed, “Big purchase. Small monthly payments.”
… as if being strapped with a monthly payment is a good thing! But the part that really caught my eye was the promise that a loan would help my wallet avoid a holiday hangover.
Now, I don’t want to seem like the Grinch, but buying things on credit when I don’t have the cash budgeted to cover them is pretty much the recipe, verbatim, for giving my wallet a holiday hangover. The “deal” might seem intoxicating, at checkout, but then there’s that queasy feeling of buyer’s remorse when you face your bloated monthly obligations in January—now including payments towards the new debt!
Still, even though I know better, I’m embarrassed to admit that the offer was tempting. And that’s why it’s important to keep your eyes on the real prize (a budget helps!), and to remember …
When we think of debt, we tend to focus on student loans, mortgages and auto loans—the big stuff. It’s a lot easier to dismiss the smaller purchases that we put on our credit cards or the minimal extra monthly payment we agree to when we sign up for financing.
… and that’s exactly where the danger is! You pull out your card to cover lunch with a friend, pick up the dry-cleaning or order a book from Amazon. Nothing major, right? But then your statement arrives. It might be next month’s statement, or next July’s statement, but eventually all of those little purchases add up to a sum that’s simply too much.
Your debt habit has caught up with you, and it’s stressful.
While there’s no instant fix, countless YNABers are living proof that you can pay it off. That means adjusting your spending to live below your means—freeing up every extra penny to pay off the debt—so that, when you’re debt-free, you can live within your means.
You don’t see many advertisements that encourage you to save your cash and budget your paychecks wisely. It’s not the glamorous way to go. We’re supposed to want the latest model, the chicest clothing and perfectly manicured everything. But perfection is pricey, and it costs a lot more than the number next to the dollar sign—even on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
When we become overly enamored with stuff and status, it doesn’t just drain our bank accounts and inflate our debt. It surrounds us in a cloud of stress and anxiety. We’re left worrying about how to pay off the card and how to pay for even more stuff! Debt is a magnet—once you’re already in it, it can become even harder to say no.
And, worst of all, it dulls our sense of true joy. I’m not saying that material things can’t enhance your life and bring you happiness, not at all. But what I am suggesting is that, when you’re using credit, it’s a lot easier to get caught up in the excitement of spending. But that kind of thrill is often fleeting.
Paying with real money, on the other hand, forces you to prioritize and scrutinize before you buy. When debt isn’t an option, the scarcity of your dollars helps you more precisely calibrate how badly you want something. So, not only will you appreciate your purchases more, you can make the transaction guilt-free! And, that’s a deal worth signing up for.
Now, back to that email that I received. It urged me to “Hurry!’” because the offer ends soon. But, a wise man (or possibly meme) once advised me to never be rushed when making important decisions. It rarely works out in your interest. Instead, take your time.
Buy anything you want, but only after you’ve saved up for it, first. Sure, it might take longer, but the amount of stress and money you save will be more than worth it! And if you need help, drop into our free, 20-minute class, Pay for Big Expenses without Borrowing. Our teachers are the friendliest people around, and they’d be thrilled to answer your questions.
Remember, budgeting is not restrictive. You won’t be spending less, you’ll be spending right. You can do this! Today. Right now. What do you have to lose? Except all that debt and stress. (Ok, so kind of a lot.)
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