Addie from Life and My Debts recently posted that her friends are completely unsupportive of her desire to become debt free. Their lack of support had her questioning her intentions and left her wondering if she’s bizarre for wanting to eliminate her debt. She started to think that she should just accept her debt and not worry about it for the next 14 years. The whole post made me quite sad. Why? Because, 10 years ago, Addie could have been me.
When I was 25, like Addie is, I didn’t understand the first thing about finances. I didn’t care that I had debt because everyone had debt! I didn’t think twice about using a credit card for things I couldn’t afford in cash and I certainly didn’t care about getting my then-fiancé’s (now husband) student loans paid off (after all, they were his. Not mine). I figured my credit card debt would take care of itself one day and living paycheck to paycheck with no real budget was the way to go. I had a full-time job with benefits, a car, a nice apartment…the works. My friends were all the same way and none of us at anytime ever discussed what it would be like to not have debt.
Come to think of it, we never really discussed money at all. Not in any sort of productive way anyway. When we would talk about money, it was which beers were on tap and what the cover charge was at our favorite bars and how much that really cute shirt cost. In my 20s, I never sat around with my friends discussing the importance of saving for a down payment or investing in our retirement funds or just using cash. For me and my friends, finances weren’t important. As long as we were doing what we wanted, it didn’t matter how we funded it.
Then I got married a year later. And we bought a house. And got a dog. And everything changed. All that extra money we had for debt we suddenly needed for a house (lesson: don’t buy a house on a whim because your apartment is too small. Thoroughly research and evaluate everything before making that decision). Our debt payments, which we were in a stellar position to pay down BH (before house), suddenly became a crushing weight. Here we were, two college educated adults with full-time jobs and a house but couldn’t afford to eat. Or do anything except sit on our couch and watch movies borrowed from the library or bought from On Demand (that’s a whole different story). All because of debt (which, I should point out, kept growing at this because credit cards are really pursuasive and we were apparently incapable of saying no regardless of a terrible situation).
Then our debt became really umanageable (as in, “I don’t know how we’re going to make the payments this month” unmanageable). And then I got pregant. Everything changed, and we had to get serious about paying off our debt. Unfortunately, once we got serious about paying off our debt, we lost a lot of friends. People don’t like to be told no. If you say no enough, friends disappear. If you decline enough invitations, the invitations stop coming. The phone stops ringing. Emails stop coming. It got to the point where we had to accept that we were freaks. We were no longer fun. And no one wants to hang out with “those people” (I should point out that, in our former circle of friends, “those people” are the financially responsible ones).
But it was fine. I couldn’t spend my time with people who didn’t understand or support the financial position we were in. I’d rather be alone. I believe that the friends who drop you during this time are the ones who can’t face their own debt demons. Watching you pay down debt makes them feel guilty that they’re not doing the same so it’s easier to avoid you then to “lower” their standards. Real friends will stick by you and support your decision to take charge of your finances. They will come over for a barbeque and game night instead of insisting you go to the trendiest restaurant and bar. They will swap clothes with you instead of suggesting a trip to the mall. They will even ask you about your progress. The ones that put you down and make you feel bad? Screw them.
Addie, and anyone else in Addie’s position: There is nothing wrong or freakish about wanting to get rid of your debt, even if you are “only” 25. It is a responsible and mature, not to mention practical, decision to make. Use your 20s to build skills to protect your 30s. Be smart. Practice conscious spending. Learn to budget. Save your money. Start investing. Pay off your debt rather than accrue more. Now is the time to start securing your future so you’re not like me, playing catch up, 10 years later.
It’s hard to say no to your friends and it’s even more difficult to not let their opinions bother you. But don’t let it. They might be putting you down because secretly, they wish they had the willpower and drive to get rid of their debt rather than just accept it. Taking control of your finances at a young age is an admirable quality. You should be commended for it, not ridiculed. So, regardless of what they may say to you, do not quit. Keep going. Because when you’re my age and debt free and have all the choices in the world, and they’re still complaining about credit card and student loan debt, you can sit back and laugh at them (secretly or out loud. Your choice).