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  • Writer's pictureLeon de Leeuw

Lessons from being in debt

I have study debt and am quickly working my way out if it. The last few years, I wasn't doing that. I saw myself as a victim of circumstances, destined to a life in the cubicle to pay off my student loans. I am happy I did my education and reap the fruits of it each and every day. So I don't resent having borrowed the money. And I understand the principle that the money has been given to me with trust. Knowing that other people sacrificed time to collect this money, then lending it out, makes me think of the trust and responsibility given to me as a borrower. And I am willing to pay it back as fast as possible. Not that I have a choice, my student loans would not go anywhere unless I die. I can't declare myself bankrupt or any measure of this sort, the loans will still be there. And it's not much, I can overcome it. And even though it feels like a burden, which I'm sure it feels to all former students, I turned it into something positive. I'll explain how.

Initially, education is a form of self-investment. That's sure what I went to university for in the best years of my life. Now I have to pay off the loan, I see it as a self-investment as well. A lesson in personal finance, a lesson in being a responsible adult and doing what it takes to pay off the debt I have. Last year, I flipped the switch and went from being a big spender to being a frugal and responsible adult. I now save my money and pay off significant amounts. So much that I'll be done within a year, at most two. There's two ways you can pay off, the easy way or the hard way. The easy is paying off the monthly minimum, which should be easy if you have a job. Me, I go the hard way. Even though I managed to see the positive side and the lesson in having to pay off debt, it remains a burden I want to rid myself of as soon as possible. I am tightening my belt now so that by the time I turn 30, I can build up a steady life for myself and work towards financial freedom. I see having to pay off my debt as an extra-curricular program. It keeps me on my toes, looking to create a passive stream of income. I am anything but lazy and work towards my goal each day. And it's exactly the debt that gave me this motivation. I have something to work towards, being debt-free and then working towards financial freedom, so I can move where I wish and when I wish.

Debt has made me realize the value of money and above all my time. Each Euro I spend on something else than my debt, I have to make that Euro again and transfer it at a later stage. It's essentially not mine. And even though I could take the easy route and live a very wealthy life, living off most of my salary instead of a small part, I rather live frugally now. This doesn't mean I don't enjoy myself. I got a lot better at planning and working out affordable trips, finding the best deals, managing to save money on each facet of my trip. I researched the housing market and did extensive research on whether it would be wise to buy a property or not. My personal stance has become that I will never put myself in debt again. Not that it's such a traumatic experience, it's just a chain around my neck I wouldn't want to have once more. I am happy I can pay off a debt for an investment that paid itself off, rather than not having this experience and getting myself a car and being settled with a loan for that. Having to save money forces me to stay home or in my city sometimes. That means I start looking around what to improve in my home. I built closets, tables and other furniture and really made my home a pleasant place to be. I explored all corners of the city and found there's so much more to do than I ever thought. I called up long-lost friends and had drinks with them. If I didn't have my debt, I'd be on a flight to some far-flung destination and not really knowing what to do with my money. Now, I learned to save. I learned that I want to be financially free, to be able to take risks and make decisions at the snap of my fingers. I keep my possessions at a minimum, living in an apartment where the furniture is not even mine. I can pack up my belongings in a truck and move out today if I'd want to. And that's what freedom is to me. Learning, growing, being flexible and being true to myself. It's what every man should at least try to experience and if it's enjoyable, live towards.

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