Spring Forward 2013: Beginnings of Debt Free life

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.

Gas Money

Updated on 02/13/12: I figured that I’d go back to this topic since we had another implosion on this issue at my home today. Of course the conversation ended the same way as always.. Everybody stomping off in their respective spaces and being furious.

What is the right balance? Should a Dad just bite the bullet and accept the fact that his almost 20-year-old just doesn’t get it?

Maybe I am wrong. I should just accept the fact that until the “circle of life” comes around and bites someone in the a*%, they just will not get it. Getting a part-time job for a few hours a week is pretty un-reasonable (As working at McDonalds, is a step down in the social status).  Yes even as I sit here in front of my computer screen, I realize that me being a staunch supporter of the work ethic and responsibility is truly unreasonable.

For now, I’ll just continue to provide full and absolute maintenance and caring of the car and P will continue to use it to her benefit.. of course until it breaks down and Dad has to get it fixed.

When I sit back, I think I am being pretty logical to expect today’s x/y generation child to behave in this manner  Things just are given without actually earning it.

The words still reverberate in my mind when she was 13 and I first bought my “New Car”: “Dad, thanks for buying the car. Of course you know,  this car will be mine when I turn 18”. Hmm. I should have seen things for what they were at that time. Almost a sense of deja vu, but into the future. I even offered my “other car” my Oddessy but no way, that care was way “uncool” for a teenager to drive. Gosh, when I was growing up, if my dad would have offered me his Dodge Dart for Free, I’d have done the happy song.  But as the kids say today: “That was then, this is now. We just cannot be seen in an un-cool car Dad!”.

Oh well, tomorrow the brakes, then soon after the tires… After all Dad’s Taxi (My old Highlander” is no longer my tax)i, but something that I watch coming in and out of the driveway.

Am I being unreasonable? Let me know what you think..

 

*****Original post is below.

Last night I had an extensive and animated conversation with my older daughter about gas money. Specifically whose responsibility is it to pay for Gas for the car SHE drives to and from college and to drive her BFF’s around in. Needless to say.. Dad was the bad cop because he insisted on that his daughter pay for gas since he paid all the other expenses related to the car..

What do you think? If Dad pays for everything (maintenance, insurance, registration) isn’t it fair to ask the her of the car to pay for Gas? Especially when the driver does have a job which can pay for gas? Yes she doesn’t make a lot of money.. but as I remember, when I was growing up (in the ancient 70’s), I financed my car including all maintenance! Yes that 1972 Plymouth Duster should could eat up gas!

Of course many people can say “That was then, this is now Dad”, but as part of a parents responsibility is to teach their children fiscal responsibility and being able to properly determine which are fixed expenses (gas, utilities, RENT) and which are discretionary (Gifts and entertainment).

Don’t get me wrong.. my daughter is a great kid, but when it comes to money..the buck stops there. Literally!

See when she was unemployed, I paid all the expenses for my car which she uses. Now that she has some income coming in, I felt it’s time we had some equality with expense sharing.. Again, Dad is the bad cop for even asking for this!

What do you think? Am I being unreasonable? I won’t ask this question in my household in near future as my daughter now has gotten her gas funding from her… Mom..