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10 Sep 2012

FAMILY DEBT FREE CLUB

I was actually a weird child, a nerdy teen and I spent more time in the computer laboratory at university than I did anywhere else. And I was not even a Computer Science student. I found the internet (in its early stages) too fascinating. Lets unpack my weird childhood.
family debt free club

When you are a weird child with fewer friends than your peers do, you tend to be too analytic. You spend a lot of time by yourself. Naturally, I spent that time either writing and scribbling on pieces of paper, or analysing some other written stuff. I enjoyed calculating hire purchase costs on those few paged catalogues for furniture stores like Ellerines, Town Talk, etc. My child mind couldnt believe how stupid adults were to pay almost double for an item on hire purchase instead of paying cash and saving. A lounge suite would cost R2999 cash for instance, and a whooping R5500 on hire purchase, over 12 or 24 months. This was me at ages 7-10,  calculating and thinking of the bad choices that adults and even my own parents were making. It was so strange that most adults only concentrated on how much they will pay monthly, instead of the bigger picture.

I am not surprised that I hated debt from the very onset. I never received any personal finance education, buy I had analysed those papers a tad too much. They were all full of ink from my multiplication and sums. And I wished to be the retailer selling on hire purchase and not a consumer. People pay a high price for being impatient.

You may think that my siblings, with my DNA and the same love for all things maths are as nerdy and debt free. NO, they are not, its so disappointing. I started a family debt free club where me and my siblings report to each other on our progress on paying our debt and creating wealth. It went well for months, with some wishy-washy reports here and there. We all loved the motivation we get from each other. Everyone pushed to be their best in the first months. I started throwing a prize here and there as a form of motivation. As time goes, the debt fighting burnout began to strike. I could feel that no one wants to report on anything during the Christmas season, and no one did. People dont postpone their holiday plans because of debt, I guess. My conclusion was that, the club has failed but everyone was into keeping it alive. Last month I decided to throw a challenge for all of us to see our progress:

"...I want each person to take stock of ALL his/her debt. Dot all the details down with the interest rate paid on each. If its credit card or clothing store account, check your last statements for interest rate details please. I might have a nice solution. One person will win an amazing prize..."
I then proceeded and listed my homeloan as my debt with its interest rate and my target dates as an example. This was to test if people are really interested to learn and to actually do something about their debts. The closing date for the contest passed and no one bothered to write anything. I had told the Mr and my sister who is still at school about the prize. Today, with a heavy heart, I announced that no one won the prize. A heavy heart because I realise that, people will not change their ways if they are not ready and determined. Its also a heavy heart because I am fighting a losing battle. It saddens me but its true that, if the horse does not want the water, it will never drink. Here is the email that I sent:

"...Anyway, I told only lil'sis and the Mr about the prize for last month contest. We obviously have no winner. No one reported on their debt. I wish someone did and got the prize. I would have paid the debt of the winner in a debt consolidation manner. In return, the winner would pay me at a much lower interest rate than his/her lowest rate. This means that the winner's overall debt payment would be reduced. I would actually use this person to show how practical this journey is. This is my last post on the siblings club. One thing I learnt guys is that, you will never fight a war without studying/ analysing your enemy. Everyone, even in competitive sports, studies their opponent to win the game. Its a fact of life. To fight debt, you have to know whom and how much you owe very well. How much you owe, when are you planning to finish, set targets, set small goals and rewards, etc. Otherwise you never know if you are winning..."

That was a bitter end of the family debt free club. I'm not giving advice that I don't practice by the way. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I am a bit of a nerd. I track everything and every cent I spend, no joke. Its a lot of tracking because I am not a frugal kind of a person. The tracking keeps my head clear. Its not always fun to see how much I spend but tracking it makes me save more the following month. My thinking is that, if you are fighting debt but not tracking your spending nor drawing a budget, you may not be able to know what you are doing. Did it ever happen to you that you go through thousands of rands without pin pointing what you did with them. Like a thief is coming to pinch it in hundreds of rands at a time. Its crazy and even a bit stupid not to know how much debt you have and how much it eats on your wealth every month. Not knowing how much your food bill averages and changes on a month-to-month basis.

This is a numbers game. Every small detail matters. Its actually not paying attention to the detail that put most people to the situations they are in. If you owe any debt, draw your table and write it all down and declare war to it. Its all so doable and almost easy.

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