Spring Forward 2013: Beginnings of Debt Free life

Lessons I learned about debt from my father. Now I just have to apply them in my life to remain debt free.

Wipe our Debt
Wipe our Debt (Photo credit: Images_of_Money)

So this is the spring of 2013. Yet when I go outside, it still feels like Winter of 2013. The temperature is still hovering in the mid 30’s and I’m cold.

To me this spring is always the start of something new. This year, it’s the end of a burden and the start of a fresh start for something that I’ve written about in many of my postings. This topic of course is the ugly head of debt.

For the first time in over 20 years, I can truly say that I have zero credit card debt. Unfortunately, I was able to achieve this success not due to my ability to save money and pay off debts but due to the passing of my elderly father and his ability to save money for his children, so they can have the fruits of his love. The art of being frugal and saving.

I tell you, to have this burden of debt lifted off my shoulders is like having this huge elephant (that has been following me around for so many years), disappear. Now the task that remains for me is to make sure that I NEVER EVER get into this situation.

Here are some of the things my dad taught me that I didn’t learn till after he left us:

  • Live below your means. This doesn’t mean you have to live like a miser, but if you have things that work, why discard them for the latest greatest thing? For so many years, he lived with a 25-year-old 19 inch tube TV which was not even cable ready. Not until, did the picture fade, did he allow me to get him a new television. Once I got him the new flat screen, he did realize what he was missing, but he still said, “I could have lived with the old TV”. This may sound crazy to most but it makes sense to me now: This is how he lived. He didn’t need the latest greatest gadgets. He lived in a very modest apartment and to him, he had everything he needed. A sofa, recliner and his TV. He was happy with this so he could watch his beloved Yankees. Till the day he passed on, he didn’t even own a cell phone!
  • Don’t incur debts you can’t pay off – My dad, lived debt free for all his life. He never, ever had a credit card debt. As a matter of fact, he didn’t even use an ATM. If he spent $1 on credit card, he immediately wrote a check for $1 to the credit card company. I remember when he got me my first credit card when I graduated from college. He said to me: “If you can’t pay off what you buy, don’t buy it”. Now I get it.
  • Live to save for tomorrow, for tomorrow you may not have anything to save: Savings and self-preservation were the two of the mantra’s my dad lived with every day of life. He felt he would lose everything and would not be able to live independent. He didn’t want to be a burden on his kids, so he saved, saved and saved every day. I was always on his case to live a little, but he would just shake his head and say “one day you will understand”.. Well Baba, I get it now.. Thank you. 
  • Live Frugally: My dad, was so frugal that he didn’t need to buy new clothes. Ask yourself, how often do you buy new clothes, when your clothes in your closet will do just fine? Every aspect of his life defined frugality. He owned a car that was over 10 years old, everything in his home was things he had acquired from people who left stuff behind when they left the complex he lived in. He lived with the bare necessities and didn’t need much more. 
  • Vacations – Are a luxury not a necessity. When we were growing up in NYC, my dad took us on vacations, yet he only took us to places that he could afford. It was not a democracy. He worked for the airlines and we traveled by air for free and stayed in budget motels. No 3 or 4 stars for us. To me, I love vacations, but vacations always added to my debt.. I was taking vacations that I could not afford! So basically my taking 2 vacations per year put me in a deeper and deeper hole.. 

Living in debt was part of my every day life and I was (am still) obsessive/compulsive about it. I wanted to defeat it.. on my own terms.. I failed miserably. To me debt was always a moving target that no matter what strategy I tried, I could not defeat.

Today, as I look forward, living debt free is not just my goal, it is my passion. The lessons I didn’t learn over the past 20+ years will be etched in my memories. I never ever want to go backwards into that hole of despair.

I guess that’s what spring time is for, as the seasons change, so must I and grow.

Delta Skymiles – Your Credit Report for Free

Free Credit Report for Delta SkyMiles Members

I was reading my latest copy of Bottom Line Secrets and came across this gem that wanted to share with the millions and millions of AmEx Delta Sky Miles Members:

  • Until April 30th 2009, you can get your current credit score for free by just asking for it.

Keep in mind this is for Delta Sky Miles Members.

I checked mine out and was pleasently surprised.  Remember in this tight credit market, in order to get any credit,  you should know your numerical Credit score (330 – 830) as well as your FICO score (a combined score from the 3 credit reporting companies.

Of course, as any company does, they try to sell you an ongoing “credit monitoring” service which you can purchase (approx $12/mo).  I of course declined at this time.

Of course if you don’t have the Delta Skymiles card you can get your free annual  credit report for free from each of the credit reporting companies (Experian, Equifax, Transunion):

If you don’t do anything in 2009, make sure you know what your credit score is. Good Luck!

AFTER you know what your credit score is, you have the advantage when you negotiate (yes you can, if you try), with your credit card company revised rates. Credit card companies “rank” you based on your credit score, so if you know your score, you can get the best rates.

I’ve mentioned Suze Orman in the past, but I recommend to everyone to look at her site on how you can take charge of your credit!