Radioactive Happiness

Can You Be Content While In Debt

by Jeffrey Kosola on March 4, 2010

Working to get out of debt is a difficult task. It requires sacrifice and dedication. It requires a person or family to stop spending on wants and focus entirely on needs. It requires the family to live on a budget and continually work to reduce the amount of expenditures to increase the amount of money available for debt repayment. It is the most difficult undertaking in my life. Not even college was as difficult as this. As I progress through the process, I’m finding out more about the internal workings of myself and my family.

Stuff

Acquiring stuff is what leads most people into debt. We are marketed to on a daily basis to believe that “stuff” will bring happiness into our lives. The marketing is also great at telling us that along with happiness the “stuff” will help to show off our status – the Jones’ syndrome. Stuff can include; a large house, a new car, new hockey equipment, new gadgets, lawn equipment, power tools, plasma TVs, Xbox 360, PSP3, Wii, shoes, clothes, and the list will go on forever. The problem with most of this stuff is that is brings happiness and enjoyment for a period of time. The new car will become old, the plasma TV will be replaced with an LED TV, and the clothes will go out of style. These things will then “need” to be replaced because who wants to watch a plasma TV when the LED has a much better picture? It’s situations like this take keep people in the cycle of debt. The plasma TV might not even be paid for before the LED arrives on the wall to replace it.

How can we break this terrible cycle? Once you are living on a budget and only have X amount of dollars to spend, the choices become clear. With only X amount to spend for the month on entertainment, a new TV cannot be afforded. You have to settle for what you have and enjoy it. It’s amazing how great the old TV looks when you know you can’t do anything about. The movies start to look better, and you start to see that what you have works just fine. Multiply that thinking with all the stuff you currently have and you begin to understand that you can survive without having to purchase more stuff. Having a budget forces you to stop spending and to learn to accept the things you have. The first few months are hard, but as the time goes by, you learn to be content with your “stuff”. Once that contentment settles in, you realize that new stuff isn’t what brings happiness. The happiness comes from within yourself and your family working toward the debt freedom goal. Being content with what you have is the most important state of being for breaking spending habits and breaking the debt cycle. Stuff isn’t what makes you great, you are what makes you great. Learn to be content with what you have, focus only on your needs and not your wants.

Activities

Activities are another expense that broke people spend a lot of money on. The movies, dinners out, concerts, bar nights, sporting events, and so on. These can break a budget in a heartbeat. Most budgets include a category for entertainment. If you only have $40-$80 in the fund then you can only spend $40-$80. Having a spending limit makes families take a different view on activates. With only a little money, people want to get the biggest bang for the buck. Instead of eating out, the family may plan a picnic lunch at the zoo. Instead of going to the movies, a family may rent a couple videos and have a family movies night once or twice a month. You’d be amazed at how content you can be without spending a lot.

Goals

With focus and direction comes piece of mind. On paper on purpose takes the guess work out of getting out of debt. Setting the monthly debt goal at the beginning of the month gives the family a goal to shoot for, and removes daily stress from worrying about it. If you don’t set a goal, you will probably spend the money to maintain your current lifestyle and continue to add debt stress into your life. Knowing the goal will help bring contentment into your life again. That’s not to say you should just figure out the goal and let it ride. You still need to bust your butt to improve your income and blast away the debt. The goal takes the negative emotion out of the picture. Understanding your debt position and working a plan to eliminate is an empowering feeling.

Getting out of debt does not have to be a life sentence. It can be a rewarding experience that you will use to make positive changes in your life. I believe that finding contentment as you progress toward debt freedom is the best way to remain sane. It’s ok to be happy with the stuff you have. Expensive activities will not bring as much enjoyment as spending time with your family. Setting goals is the only way to take the guess work out of eliminating debt. While working your way out of debt, understanding your inner self and your family is the way to bring contentment into your life.

Post image by: Netsrot

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Mrs. Money March 4, 2010 at 7:30 am

I hate Stuff. I have been working on decluttering my house. I think it’s an ongoing effort.

I think it’s really important to be content while in debt, but not too much. You have to be happy, but you can’t be complacent with having debt. Does that make sense?
.-= Mrs. Money´s last blog ..How Much Money are we Spending? =-.

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Jeffrey Kosola March 4, 2010 at 8:08 am

Yeah stuff just sucks.

I total agree, being complacent just breeds lazyness. Lazyness will NOT get you out of debt. When I use the term content or contentment I mean people need to accept the stuff and activites that go along with reducing debt. If people are just going to whin, cry, and worry about NOT having stuff and NOT keeping up with the Jones’ nextdoor then they will fail. By not being able to find contentment in living a new life a relapse is just around the corner and those credit card are ready to fill the void. Does that make sence?

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Ted March 4, 2010 at 11:18 am

Awesome post.

For me, it is not about the big screen tv. It is the candy bar at the gas station, the mcdonalds or chipotle for lunch, the starbucks, etc. Its the extra small stuff that seems minuscule but adds up FAST. I am working hard to reduce my desire for those things and to be content making food at home, staying away from junk food, etc. Thanks for the post!
.-= Ted´s last blog ..The Car Buying Experience =-.

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Jeffrey Kosola March 4, 2010 at 12:06 pm

It’s amazing how those little things add up over time. It takes the term “nickel and dime” to a new level. As long as you focus on beating the temptation you’ll win the battle. Add up the amount you spend each day, then add it up over a week. Pick which debt you want to focus on an apply that amount to the debt EVERY week. Your focus will change from the short term thrill to long term gains. Good luck.

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Financial Samurai March 4, 2010 at 11:37 am

It’s amazing Jeff. My one bedroom was stuffed when we left with stuff. When we moved into a 2 bedroom 50% larger, it was filled with stuff when we left. Now that we’ved moved into a house that’s 100% larger than the 2bedroom (house ain’t that large), it’s still filled with STUFF!!!!!!

I am the minimalist, and the wife is the one who likes to accumulate lots of small (inexpensive things at least).

Thanks for reminding me to declutter this weekend! I have two bedrooms I deem as clutter free at least. Everywhere else is kinda a disaster.

BTW, I am salivating over the latest LED TV’s! SO amazing!

Best, Sam
.-= Financial Samurai´s last blog ..Treat Your Job As If You Won The Lottery =-.

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Jeffrey Kosola March 4, 2010 at 12:18 pm

I hate stuff. Although with two little ones at home, I can never get away from it. At least my wife and I are not pack rats and we are able to reduce crap from the system. Good luck cleaning house “spring cleaning”.

I love movies and love TV, although I never get to watch much of either anymore. I have a 65″ monster box TV from way back in 2003. It takes up an entire wall in my basement. I love that TV, the picture is still great and DVD (not BluRay) look awesome. Would I like to have an LED TV, hell yes. Am I content with a TV that will have to be sold with my house? Yes I am. Looking at the wealth of things I have has completely stopped me from purchasing new items.

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Forest March 4, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Jeff, we need to read stuff like this to keep us on track (I write this as I head out for a meal… oops!)….

Great post.

Forest.
.-= Forest´s last blog ..Get Over The Fear Of Cooking At Home… =-.

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Jeffrey Kosola March 4, 2010 at 12:19 pm

Stop Forest, put that Happy Meal down and get your butt in the kitchen!!!

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Forest March 4, 2010 at 12:21 pm

I’m not paying luckily ;), How COULD I say no!!!
.-= Forest´s last blog ..Get Over The Fear Of Cooking At Home… =-.

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Jeffrey Kosola March 4, 2010 at 12:44 pm

I thought the same thing. Sorry Forest 🙂

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Forest March 4, 2010 at 12:45 pm

He he, it’s ok, Forest is a nick name based on a running incident…. My real name is Ian :)… Also I spell Forest (not Forrest)
.-= Forest´s last blog ..Get Over The Fear Of Cooking At Home… =-.

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Trina March 4, 2010 at 12:48 pm

I think this post is excellent!
I just wanted to share example from a sentence in your last paragraph. “Getting out of debt does not have to be a life sentence”. My husband and I do not have cc debt, but a member of our family does. They are unemployed, 23, and have $2,500 in cc debt. They shared their cc statement with us this week and the cc company had made a little grid of the bill saying ‘if you make only the minimum payment on this card, you will be paid in full in 17 years’. 17 years! He will be 40 by then! I hope he gets his priorities straight and pays it off before then. Otherwise, it almost is a life sentence…all to pay back McDonalds and X-box games.
Trina

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Jeffrey Kosola March 4, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Thanks Trina, send that family member over to see me. Or send them to this blog. I started my debt career with a little bit of debt that ballooned into what I have now. That new statement should also include a box that show the amount of extra money you can pay to eliminate the debt in 3 years. Have the family member at least pay the minimum plus the extra. 3 years is much better than 17!!

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Jason @ MyMoneyMinute March 4, 2010 at 1:13 pm

Debt is often a symptom of discontentment, thus the cycle of spend, acquire, accumulate, repeat. De-cluttering is a nice way to get out of this cycle by realizing what’s truly important, and it ain’t the crap in my house 🙂
.-= Jason @ MyMoneyMinute´s last blog ..Wine On A Budget: Oak Creek =-.

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Jeffrey Kosola March 4, 2010 at 2:31 pm

“Debt is often a symptom” sounds like debt is a sickness. IT IS!!!! Thanks for reminding me that I’m a very very sick man. And I completely agree, the crap isn’t important it’s the relationships with your family that is.

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Jeffrey Kosola March 4, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Sounds like another blog post is born. Sounds like you have some experience with this. I agree that you need to talk with your partner and reach common goals. Our debt repayment didn’t gain traction until my wife got on board. Since then it’s been easy.

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Ken March 5, 2010 at 6:23 pm

Very true what you say about having limits and living by them. Contentment can be attained but it must be learned. You are right about our culture encouraging the opposite. We just tried a No Spend Weekend…it wasn’t that bad….we may extend it a couple days next time….just say no to stuff (especially stuff that blocks or delays the road to debt freedom).
.-= Ken´s last blog ..Weekend Roundup =-.

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Jeffrey Kosola March 6, 2010 at 9:22 am

I like it “Contentment can be attained but it must be learned” That is so true. Unless you work at it, the media and everyone else will continue to make you feel that you need more stuff to be happy. I’m glad the No Spend Weekend went so well, great job.

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LeanLifeCoach March 6, 2010 at 7:36 am

For me getting started was difficult. But the more progress I made the more fun I had knocking out the debt. Getting out of debt is not a life sentence… staying out of debt is life style! And one that I completely enjoy! Keep your monster TV and your iPhone Mr. Credit Card, I have cash!
.-= LeanLifeCoach´s last blog ..Combating the Closing Techniques – The Assumptive Close =-.

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Jeffrey Kosola March 6, 2010 at 9:25 am

Yep, the more debt I pay down the easier everything gets. I’m very happy with the place I’m at right now and I know it will continue to get better. “..staying out of debt is a life style” well said my friend. It all comes down to our behaviors and how we handle them. People willing to accept their current situation will be sooo much further head then those who just whine and complain about it.

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Ryan @ Planting Dollars March 6, 2010 at 6:18 pm

I think there’s definitely different areas of our lives that we experience being content in. Holding debt doesn’t make me feel content in regards to my finances, but doesn’t really have anything to do with my fitness or health goals… So I think we can be content, kinda, but realize there are areas in our lives that need improvement.
.-= Ryan @ Planting Dollars´s last blog ..Waikiki Site – Adding Wordpress and Thesis Theme via FTP to Bluehost =-.

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Jeffrey Kosola March 7, 2010 at 12:06 pm

Very true Ryan, content can be different in different parts of our lives. There will always be room for improvement in live. I’m not say that once you are content you should stop improving yourself. I saying that learning to be content with the stuff you have will improve one’s chances of getting out of debt. I’m content with what I have, I don’t require any more stuff in life right now. I’m not content with my job, I’m bored so I continue to look for way to improve that part of my life.

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cityville January 5, 2011 at 5:39 am

lol some of the commentary people post make me giggle, time after time i ask myself if they actually read the documents and items before writing or whether they mearly read over the title of the post and compose the very first idea that pops into their heads. anyways, it is actually relaxing to browse smart commentary occasionally instead of the same exact, traditional blog vomit that i mostly discover on the internet have a pleasant day

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