This updated post is about living a debt free life that was shaped perhaps by echoes of the Great Depression.

A contented apartment renter in New York City, I have never bought, nor considered buying, a co-op apartment, a country house, a beach house or any other ritzy extravagance like a fur coat or showy, jeweled bauble. It’s true I once owned a car when I got out of school, but it was an old cheapie  (but still snappy convertible), for which I of course paid cash. So consequently during my many years waltzing around this planet, I have never taken out a loan or borrowed money. Years ago I was advised by a broker friend to take out a loan and pay it back just to establish a good credit rating and prove I was credit worthy for any big ticket items I might consider purchasing further down the line. But taking out a loan would have chained me to monetary shackles and my inner frugal master protested, “No way! Ain’t no way I’m owing a bundle of dough to any pile of financial bricks!”

Not that this no-loan-blemish on my credit rating has ever stopped credit card companies from stuffing my mailbox with pre-approved card offers, wasting years of their time and mine. I carry one credit card and that’s all I’ve ever needed. Although getting that card was no breeze. At that time — to give away my antique status — merchants were winding down their acceptance of personal checks for payment and switching over to credit cards, so I sent a credit card application to Chase, my bank. My checking and savings accounts had been with them for ages, but my application was immediately rejected. Reason? A full time freelancer, I had no verifiable weekly income, which to Chase put me on the same level as “unemployed” or “vagrant”. My very respectable savings account balance was immaterial to them. It was only after I went to the head officer and pleaded my case, that he relented and issued the card. Which taught me that it was smart to do business with flexible companies and that even if one door was slammed in your face, there was always another doorknob to jiggle and try for entry.

An enemy of interest payments in any form, I pay my all my bills including my credit card bill in full every month. Never having lost any sleep over unpaid debts, I marvel at people with astronomical credit card bills. The thought of paying a minimal monthly charge on a huge credit card bill, thereby stacking still more interest charges on top of old ones knocks me out. It’s like starting out with a credit card bill the size of a goldfish, and feeding and feeding it till you end up with a monster bill the size of Moby Dick.

While I don’t know exactly where it originated, I seem to have always had an abhorrence for buying things on time and paying later in spades. My parents lived through the Great Depression. Though they never spoke of it, some facet of those hard times seems to have definitely wafted my way. I’ve also been strongly effected by the writing and stark black and white photos and films from that era. What was it like, I’ve often wondered, to shuffle along those dark, silent bread lines, or to sell a few meager apples in the street or to abandon a foreclosed farm and join that forlorn caravan of dusty jalopies heading for California.

As soon as I started earning my first money as a baby sitter, I started saving money to purchase things on my want list. This set up my life’s spending pattern. Putting off gratification was normal for me. And in fact the long wait to save the necessary funds only added to my enjoyment of the thing when I finally possessed it.

When I lusted for something out of my financial reach, the necessary cash would somehow pop out of the sky. When I yearned to see Europe, the money gods took pity on me and Sherlock Holmes daughter contacted me with my first big free lance assignment. Actually not the ghost of the great detective himself, but the daughter of the actor, Basil Rathbone, who played Holmes for many years. An account supervisor at an advertising agency, Cynthia Rathbone’s plum art assignment paid for my first trip to Europe. I’ve always been thankful to her, both for her good taste in choosing my work, but even more so for showing confidence in me, over coming the initial doubts of the art director.

Having no debts means no sleepless nights or unpleasant visits from repo men – real or figments of debt-agitated imaginations. And it means freedom. With no debts to hold you down, you’re free to fly wherever your wings might take you.

Helping to Stay Debt Free: