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Photo by: Andrea Chiu

OK, I ended up going on that vacation which is why I haven’t written a new blog entry for a few weeks.  Sorry for the lack of entries and thank you for your input on my last post. I want to continue on this topic of whether you or me deserve a vacation while in debt. As we can see with all your comments, everyone’s got an opinion and they’re pretty diverse.

I asked Gail whether she thought a girl like me deserved to go on a trip and this was her response:

For a girl who calls herself an Unspender, you’re doing a lot of shopping: there’s the trip to Hong Kong, the new laptop (yeah, I know, the ipod was free), the wedding in Calgary and now the trip to Vancouver. Only you can decide if these are worth the long-term costs. It’s your money and your life. But don’t delude yourself. If you are spending money you haven’t yet earned, you’re not going to be in a Happy Place when a crisis hits. And if you think having a 5-year-old laptop was a crisis, think again. You may think you NEED a vacation, but you WANT a vacation. You NEED a roof, enough food, and clothes to keep you warm. You NEED to be able to get to and from work. (Okay, if you work on the new laptop, it might be a NEED, but only if you couldn’t work on the old laptop.) I’m not going to tell people they shouldn’t take vacations when they have debt. I do believe you shouldn’t spend one iota on unessentials until your debt is repaid — and while your vacation is a frugal one, you seem quite resigned to being in debt for a long time. Hmmm. Little Debt Fatigue rearing it’s ugly head? Have you calculated what it’d take to be out of debt in three years? Two years? One year?

Now I don’t disagree with Gail. I know the difference between a need and a want, but I don’t agree with the idea that a person in debt should not spend any  money on any unessential things until they’re in the black. That approach may work for some people and I tip my hat off to them. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s realistic for me to exclude occasional trips to the movie theatre or a round of drinks with friends. That just isn’t living to me and I know I would be very unhappy and overwhelmed. I think many people feel the same way.

Reader and fellow-blogger Nancy Zimmerman has an approach I agree with much more. She put it well when she left this comment:

What worked for me in the long term – and this goes against almost all financial planners – was to pay just a bit more than my minimum debt payments, and just resign myself to that as part of my life for the next several years, and at the same time, start saving up for things and start investing.

That accomplished a couple really, really important things for me:
1. My money started being FUN and INTERESTING and ENCOURAGING instead of always only about the black hole of debt
2. I discovered what it felt like to save up for something, and go on a trip, and come back without having increased my debt.

Long term, the debt went away, and I still had the savings habit plus a portfolio.

Lots of people will say: don’t do anything but pay off your debt (often said with a judgmental tone!). That makes cold financial sense, true. But even more effective: doing.what.works. for you!

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Let me know, would you recommend Gail or Nancy’s approach to becoming debt free? Perhaps you have another way of attacking debt?

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Photo By: Shahram Sharif

The forecast here in Toronto calls for a rainy weekend. It’s good weather for staying in and reading. Here were some of my favourite reads from the past week:

How to Live with Just 100 Things: Time Magazine reports on participants of the 100 Things challenge, including Dave Bruno of Guy Named Dave, who are taking the lead on clutter and reducing their pile of stuff to a concise list of 100 things. Could you live with only 100 things? Probably, but the question is would you want to?

Yeah, You’re Cheap Quiz: It’s its A fun quiz to see whether you’re cheap or frugal, smart or stupid with your cash. Yes, it’s Time Out NY, but it can be applied to any city.

How To Achieve Any Goal: Leo, writer of Zen Habits has a knack for making it seem so simple. Every challenge has its bigger bumps. Whether we want to be more financially fit or athletically fit, we all need motivation and the reminder that we can do it.

Advice for Starting A New Business: As a person who dreams she will one day be her own boss, I gravitate towards advice for starting my own business. J.D. of one of my favourite blogs, Get Rich Slowly, asks his knowledgeable readers on what they think a new entrepreneur should know.

Please share your favourite articles, blog entries and other links with me.