The devil on my shoulder

Oooh… that 56-inch plasma sure looked mighty fine, didn’t it?

Oh, shut up!

As I walked out the wide open door of our local electronics store here in town – empty handed – I pondered, on the way back to my car, about the subtle dangers of having some form of power. In this case, a little buying power. After all, I have been debt-free since June! Can you imagine what I can do with the money I used to pay my creditors with, now? In fact, I just realized I have since been putting almost twice the amount of my entire monthly budget in my savings account. That’s how much I used to shove down the drain. For years! Surely, I can now reward myself and splurge a little here and a little there, right? Right?

The past year or so has seen me ruthlessly glued on personal finance blogs, more and more. I would go through my bookmarks and religiously read at least a few postings or articles a day. For some reason, I seem to have developed a hunger, not for financial success in particular, but simply for basic wisdom in handling everyday money matters. Any wisdom, really. Even when I’ve heard them a million times before, I’d still be all ears. That’s how seriously I take it.

Twice in my adult life, I had driven myself down a steep road to financial hell. All in the name of helping others, if you will. And by the grace of God, twice I had gotten out alive, as well. Albeit each time taking at least five agonizing years to do so. That’s a lot of time wasted paying for my foolish mistakes when I could’ve just smartened up a bit and advanced on to other things instead. But what did I know, then?

I am no financial pundit, by any means. That’s now quite obvious, I think, by what I have been through in the past. But experience is a teacher whose lessons are worth heeding. The first time around, in fact. Because, the faster we learn, the healthier our future might look. I say “look” because I believe no one will ever know what the future will be like, for sure. We can only foresee, predict or speculate. And as it is, curve-balls are being thrown in all angles, all the time.

Now, vigilantly watching for curve-balls. For what it’s worth, this is what I am consumed with on a daily basis. I know it’s not a lot of fun. It’s just what I’m used to doing now, having been forever spooked by experience. I live today as if I’m about to be broke and homeless within the next 24 hours. That’s right. There are times when fear, as a motivator, isn’t such a bad thing, at all. I allow fear to sober me up, not to stun me. It may not be ideal in all situations, but it can be a possible expressway to freedom and confidence. A shortcut to a dream come true. A ticket to a peace of mind. But the road to the promised land is paved with sacrifices. Mile after mile. Day after day. At least for me, it is. And if one would dare claim a dream, I believe the way of sacrifice must be given absolute respect, first and foremost!

I can almost hear someone saying… Live now for tomorrow may never come. Hey, I can understand, believe me. But I also believe that tomorrow always comes. It always does. It just depends on what kind of tomorrow it will be. Could be good or bad. What I’m saying is that I prefer to make some kind of preparation. To anticipate a storm that may never come. I’d much rather err on the side of safety. And I may be a tad bit more extreme here than most normal people but… that’s just me. I am in no way preaching anything at all, here.

Though, the one thing that makes it easy and painless for me to go through all this is that I am truly, just a simple person. And I purposely live the simplest life possible. Whether in plenty or in need. I’ve never been enticed by anything other than what is basic (Hey, musical instruments are basic, right? Just checking.). One might consider me the epitome of boring – but at least, I can honestly say I have total peace of mind. At least, so far, anyway. And that, I will never ever trade for anything of material value.

But who knows? Maybe tomorrow will be different. It could all come crashing down, for reasons yet unknown. And I have no control over that. Though I hope not. For I look forward to seeing the fruits of my labor one day. Soon, I hope – and still retain the simple way of life I have now. I hope to be able to look back and smile, knowing it was worth all the trouble. I hope to be able to rest assured I have done my part, whether or not things turn out okay for me. And I hope to, at the very least, feel a sense of pride for having gained some form of personal achievement, if anything. Oh yeah, and if it shouldn’t be too much to ask, I’d like to be able to retire my 20 year old Sony Trinitron already. Perhaps replace it with something a little more hip. Just a little. For once. Without feeling any guilt.

But I can only hope.

At least for now, I’m grateful that everything is in good shape. All needs are met. There’s food on the table. TV’s still working. Yes, life is peachy, as it is.

So, pardon me while I flick this little red booger off of my shoulder.

Owe no!

Oh yeah!

I am debt-free, at last. Today, actually. That’s a year and a half ahead of schedule. So, am I disciplined or what? Well, I paid off every single penny I owed during the last five or so years, and I am feeling so good, right now. But more importantly, I’m also determined not to put myself in that situation, ever again. And that’s a firm promise.

Goodbye slavery. Hello freedom!

Now, time for a beer!