Debt – The Opiate of America

Debt is a drug. Not one of those “good” drugs they advertise on TV which promise to cure you of some horrible disease while only subjecting you to dizziness, nauseau and an upset stomach. No, debt is much more clever than that. Debt is a bonafide opiate – extremely addictive and able to manipulate our mind. It gives us the warm and fuzzy feeling that we’re saving money and ‘doing the right thing’ while we’re spending more than we could ever imagine. The withdrawl symptoms are brutal, like an opiate.

We want to avoid debt, we really do, but its peddlers are everywhere. When we go to college, we’re offered government guaranteed loans with deferred interest – our first hit. When we buy a car the first conversation is about ‘financing’. When we need a place to live we’re taught about ‘good debt’ and deducting mortage interest. By the time we look up, we’ve already spent the majority of our near term future income. We’re complete junkies.

We decide to get smart about money, cut back on the ‘foolish’ things that we feel guilty about – nice meals, vacations, massages, etc. With a little self restraint we’re now saving an extra few hundred $’s a month. Like a junkie who is using less often, we start to feel better about ourselves. We can beat this.

Then it happens, not immediately as even debt cannot penetrate our iron will when we first start something. It waits quietly in the corner, until just the right moment. When we have quietly begun to tire of our self-imposed austerity. We are tired of being ‘good’, frustrated that so much of our hard earned money goes to pay off so little of our outstanding balances. At this exact moment, when our guard is down just a little bit, it pounces.

Not in the way a lion pounces, this is much more subtle. It plants in our head the seed of an idea. The idea of a new car. We can’t stop thinking about it. How much happier would we be if we had the latest model? It looks so nice in the brochure. It’s practical too. It has more room for the family, has more airbags than our current car. It also comes with a new warranty and maintenance included. We’ll save money on repairs over the next few years.

Don’t we deserve it? We’ve been working so hard, we’ve been so good. Forgoing all those guilty pleasures for all these months. We definetly deserve a reward.

How much will it cost? That’s the best part. The dealership is running a low interest finance special and by going with a slightly longer term loan the cost is only $100 more per month than our current payment. $100 a month? For all of this? How can we say no? Afterall, we’re saving more than that by forgoing our guilty pleasures. Even after buying the car we’re still saving more than we were before we decided to ‘get smart’ about money. How very clever we are.

But we are wrong. We have been fooled again into spending tens of thousands of dollars over the next 5+ years in return for saving a few hundred dollars over a few months. And yet we think we have won.

And we are still addicted.

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