I’ve been giving this some thought lately and I’m beginning to suspect that time moves differently for debt free people than for those with loads of debt. Speaking from my own experience and the experiences of other debt free people that I know, the debt free seem to experience life at a much slower pace than those with debt. The best I can figure, this strange time warp is caused by three facts of debt free life.
Saving up to buy things slows down the purchasing process: (And since much of American life is centered around buying, if you can slow this process down you can really slow down the pace life.) Since the debt free save for big purchases, we don’t usually experience the “gotta have it, go get it now, rush out the door” syndrome. Maybe in an emergency we’ll experience this but in everyday life, our purchase process is slow. We take the time to save up for the things we buy. Since we have to wait (sometimes for a long time) to get things, we’re never in a hurry up and shop mode. We get plenty of time to save money, compare models, dream about what we want, and hunt for the best deal. As such, our purchasing process is much slower and less stressful. Plus, we always have something to look forward to. Anticipation is a good feeling and tends to slow time down. Remember when you were a kid and Christmas took forever to come? It’s the same thing. I’m currently saving for a new computer and I’m really enjoying the anticipation of having a new machine in six months or so.
We don’t work ourselves into the ground to cover debt payments: The debt free often work very hard, don’t get me wrong. Most are far from lazy. However, the difference between many without debt and those with debt is that work is more fun. Many debt free people have more freedom in their work. Because they don’t have to have a paycheck to cover a certain amount of debt, they may be able to work part time, string several fun jobs together, start their own business, or be very choosy and only take work that they really enjoy. As a result, they enjoy their work time more and are more in the moment. Since work makes up a huge part of our lives, you want to enjoy it and make the time matter.
Being in the moment tends to speed time up in the short term, but slow it down in the long term. Think about how time flies when you’re doing something you love. You can spend hours on something without even realizing it. Yet when you look back on a year or a month spent doing what you love, it seems as though that time went by more slowly because you accomplished a lot and felt good doing it. On the other hand, when you’re doing something you hate, the minutes drag by but in the end you find yourself wondering where the months or years went. You spent that time wishing it away and thinking of better things. You didn’t accomplish anything and you were miserable. That adds up to a feeling of life passing you by in a blur.
Since the debt free don’t often have to work at jobs they hate just to pay the bills, their work time contributes to their overall well being and the feeling that life is being lived to the fullest, not wasted or passing by with nothing to show for it.
We’re rarely riding the cutting edge of things and, when we do,
it’s something to be excited about: Most debt free people don’t tend to live on the cutting edge of technology, fashion, or any other fad. As a result, we never feel pressured to keep up with the newest stuff. Constantly keeping up with things makes you feel like time is flying by too fast. Keeping pace with fads is exhausting because things change so fast. Measuring life by fashion seasons or new cell phone models can make you feel like you’re aging in dog years. It all changes so fast. Since the debt free take the time to save for products, buy many things second hand, use things until they die, and are less concerned with trends, we don’t feel like life is rushing by. We buy things and keep them for years which makes for a slower paced life. On the rare occasion when we are “caught up” (i.e., we saved for that computer and, for one brief moment we are the owner of the newest thing), it’s pretty exciting for us. We appreciate it more and savor the feeling for far longer than the person who’s already on to the next thing.
I think the debt free experience life at a slower pace simply because we refuse to get caught up in a society that demands we rush around and always keep up with trends. We understand that such a lifestyle is costly, both in terms of debt and in terms of the toll it takes on our health and perception of life. I don’t know about you, but assuming that I only have eighty years or so to live, I’d really prefer for those years to pass at a slower pace and with more meaning for me. That’s what the pace of debt free living gives me: A chance to slow down and appreciate my life rather than always rushing, spending, and doing work I hate to pay for stuff.