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When debt squeezes life out of us!



Bokang Moeko

While the social pages continue to feature tenderpreneurs flying friends to island wedding parties, and swigging champagne at polo matches, the rest of us are counting pennies in what feels like a perpetually petty grind to get out – or stay out – of debt.

Our lives are fraught with danger because of, I am somewhat ashamed to say it, debt. Categorically speaking, debt makes us passive: life happens to us not through us anymore.

Things are getting tighter and tougher and people are shorter of funds than before. We threw ourselves in a crocodile infested river and are now badly wounded. A colleague of mine moved back home, to his dysfunctional family – a deadly prescription, if you ask me – after taking a loan after another he is broke, miserable and a very toxic person to be around. That’s what debt does to a human being: it squeezes life out of a man.

Debt is boring. It has ability to limit what we can do, who we are and what we could become. It is a known fact that one of the central principles of the American dream, which is actually a Global Dream, is that each generation will do better than the generation that preceded it. That, in part, is how we measure success. And, as results have shown it, when that ceases to be true, self-worth takes a knock.

Maybe that is what is putting so much pressure on many people, sort of forces them to take one debt after another irrespective of having a fixed income. Because for most of us, money comes with a baggage. Money means success. Or, money means security. Or, money buys you acceptance.

Reality is, like someone said, money is nothing except a commodity. The emotions it produces – avarice, impotence, shame, exhalation, frustration, fear – are about something else. I remember, growing up, I was never part of the inner circle because I was very poor, skinny and tall. The rejection I suffered made me feel like a failure in life and believe affluence would wash away the pain and inferiority complex and elevate me into a position I never had. The pressure that put on me, literally, killed me.

But, up to this day, I still have to pick up some courage before I can boldly declare that I am flat broke. A “little girl” in me still associates that with failure.

Since we’re on such a tight budgets and can’t go spend on anything we might as well spend some time thinking: identify your baggage. And before you drift into danger zone, incur a debt you simply cannot afford to pay, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do I know what the current interest rate is on my mortgage?
  2. Do I know what interest rate I am paying on my credit cards?
  3. Do I know, without looking it up, to what amount my outstanding debts total?

If you don’t know, then you are not financially savvy. It is time you exercise control on your emotions, people with healthy, uncomplicated relationships with money are found to be less likely to dig themselves into financial trouble, and finances. Take control of your finances and vanquish debt. There are things you can do:

  • Find out where your money goes: record every expenditure you make, divide your spending into categories and record this on weekly or monthly basis. And begin to identify where the economies can be made.
  • Plan your spending: decide what is essential that is only how you can turn back on discretionary spending. Frankly, there are many areas in which you can save without sacrificing your lifestyle too much (be mindful of your cellphone usage, reduce the number of car trips you are making, and reduce your electricity usage).
  • Find ways you can increase your income. Spend time mulling over this before rejecting the idea: check newspapers for ideas; speak to friends; think about marketable skills you might have.

It is important to remember: small figures speak to a mindset of thoughtfulness. And that is a mindset we all need to develop to have financial freedom!

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