The Joker, in Tim Burton’s Batman movie loved asking, “Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?” What does that mean and why did he say it? “I ask that of all my prey. I just like the sound of it.” Alright, I’ll admit that’s a really cool response. But today I ask you, have you ever danced with debt? My guess is that if you have a pulse, then you’re sure to answer yes. We’ve all heard the music and taken debt’s hand to be ushered onto the dance floor from time-to-time. But did we make it out alive?
Debt is a funny thing. Like most tools, it can be used for great benefit and can also cause great harm. Debt is often categorized as ‘good debt’ or ‘bad debt’ depending on what it’s used for. For example, a home mortgage or college student loans generally find favor in the ‘good debt’ category while credit cards and car loans are often maligned as ‘bad debt’. Says who? Well, I’m not one to be the judge of such things; I’ll leave the judgment to others. What I want to consider though, is what makes debt so seductive. That is, why is it so very difficult to avoid using debt in its many forms, good or bad?
The reason we so easily get into debt is easy to figure out. We want stuff and we don’t want to wait for it. When we use debt to buy the stuff, we’ve generally convinced ourselves that it will be easier to pay off later than it really is. The optimist in each of us decides that things will get better in the future, therefore we’ll pay this item off later when things are better than they are now. Makes sense. However, what really happens is we accumulate this new debt – and other debts on top of it – which makes the future even more difficult than the present. In other words, debts pile up on top of one another while we’re off doing other things. The result is often a mountain of debts rather than the proverbial molehill.
Some ways to manage this ever-so-common debt experience may be to:
- Try to not presume upon the future. Rather than assume the future will be better and more flush with cash, assume it’ll be the same as now or even less prosperous.
- Take a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University course and allow him to convince you that all debt is bad and should be treated as the enemy. In other words, Dave will not let you convince yourself that debt can be a useful tool. No, debt is plain bad, no matter what.
- Begin the work of reducing your physical clutter. I firmly believe that more physical stuff in your life can lead to ever more dependence on debt. Therefore, by working to reduce clutter, you’re naturally inclined to look to reduce debt as well. Here’s an article that speaks to this: click here.
- Take a spending vacation in order to save up some cash. By declaring a halt on spending, just temporarily, you create space and margin in your life so you can at least stop adding to debt and clutter, and maybe become inspired to reduce those things.
- Find a way to increase your income. If you freeze your debts to stop them from growing, a bigger income allows you to have more resources to pay down debt faster. If you don’t have debt, more income certainly helps to keep you from dancing with debt in the future.
Let’s face it, debt is a very sneaky dance partner. You were just minding your own business one minute, then you’re suddenly line dancing with a growing credit card balance, a new car loan, and a home equity line of credit on your home. And while I’ve been known to enjoy a dance or two in my time, every now and then we need to sneak off the dance floor and get some work done on our financial obligations. “Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?” Maybe, but I’d like to avoid doing it again, thanks.
All the best,
Adam Cufr, RICP®