OK, so we sold off all our stuff, and paid off all our debts. Life on easy street, right?
Hardly. In fact, it seems more of a struggle than ever before.
Why is this? Well, as a spendthrift, you don't spend too much time thinking about your bank balances or how to pay your bills. You make the minimum payments and roll over debts and hope it all works out, until one day, 5, 10, 15 or even 20 years later, the shit hits the fan and you realize that you should have been paying attention.
So, the life of the debtor is actually more carefree than that of the frugal. The debtor merely accumulates more debt and buys more stuff and never thinks about the consequences - like our Mullet-headed friend.
But once you are forced to pay cash (or the equivalent - money you HAVE, not money you BORROW) then you have to make harder choices.
Suddenly, things seem more expensive than before. And suddenly, even small amounts of money seem huge. Not only are things not easier being debt-free (and staying that way) they are harder.
You realize that you are not as rich as you once thought you were, and you have to pinch pennies, clip coupons, buy things on sale - or not buy things at all.
It is tough. But the alternative, while fun in the short run, it tougher in the long haul. The misery of perpetual debt and the perpetual need to suckle on the credit teat is far worse than the struggle to live within one's means.
Yes, there is a bit of an ecstatic rush when you pay off debts, and realize that you are debt-free. But staying that way is very hard to do - and requires constant vigilance.
For example, in 2005, we sold our home and were debt-free and had a pile of money in the bank. Woo-Hoo! It was great. But not for long. We decided, for some reason, that we had to have a "house" and went back into debt to get one. Bad idea. We could have lived with less and remained debt-free but chose not to.
We fell into the mentality that "everyone has debt" so it must be OK. And we didn't realize that taking on a mortgage at age 50 ain't such a swell idea, when retirement is about a decade off.
So, now, in 2012, we are debt-free again, and this time intend to stay that way.
And it ain't easy to do! It is a struggle. Life is a struggle. But it is a worthwhile struggle.