This is the last in a series of 10 posts I’ve written on modern conveniences that we avoid. The others were: cellphones, dishwashers, cable TV, subscriptions, a second car, air travel, new clothes, air conditioner/clothes dryer and factory farms.
Betsy and I don’t owe any money to anyone. We paid off the mortgage on our house several years ago, pay cash for our cars and, although we have credit cards, we recognize them as hazardous instruments and try to pay them off monthly. Although we have never had a high income, we have been able to be debt-free through a combination of good fortune and extreme thriftiness (or what I called in a previous post radical frugality).
The average amount of credit card debt in the U.S. is $7,281 per household, and the average mortgage debt is $153,500, according to the Federal Reserve. The total American consumer debt is $11.6 trillion, up 3.8 percent from last year. That includes $880 billion in credit card debt. Among people between 35 and 44, 10 percent are having their wages garnished over unpaid debt, according to an NPR report this week.
I’m grateful to be able to avoid this whole morass. I think my inclination to thrift began in 7th grade, when I was asked to memorize a passage from “Hamlet” that included the line, “Neither a borrower or a lender be, for loan oft loses both itself and friend, and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.” Now there’s an old-fashioned word that deserves a rebirth. My dictionary defines husbandry as “originally, management of domestic affairs and resources (and now) careful, thrifty management.” A good goal for all us husbands!
There’s financial debt, and then there’s interpersonal and spiritual debt. When interacting with other people, we can try to give more than we take, to listen more than we talk. In my belief system, I recognize that I have a debt to the Creator for all the blessings of my life, but (lucky me!) that debt has been forgiven. I can’t say this better than Barbara Brown Taylor:
“Someone to whom you owe everything — your life and breath, your blue eyes, your fondness for fresh tomatoes, your pleasure in the moon and stars, all the loves of your life — someone who has given and given and given to you and who has gotten precious little in return has examined your enormous debt in great detail and knows from your credit rating that the chances of repayment are nil. Someone who knows all of that has taken the stack of your IOUs and torn them in two, balancing your books in one fell swoop for one reason alone: because that someone wants to remain in relationship with you and wants you to be free to respond.”