Debt Culture

credit-cardsHave you ever wondered why debt is just another part of being a successful individual? Or has it become such an integral part of who we are that you’ve never really questioned it’s existence or role in our economic culture of loans and monthly car payments?

As a kid I watched the terrifying effects of severe debt take hold over our family after my dad had multiple surgeries on his knee and back. Each operation came with 6 weeks to 6 months off of work, thousands of dollars in hospital bills, and a growing stack of unpaid bills on the kitchen counter.

Although things were not easy, we were by no means the only family to struggle with debt.Β  So many people get too far in over their heads with it, even if it’s not necessarily their fault. My dad didn’t ask to have his knee reconstructed multiple times before they finally replaced it. He didn’t ask for the ridiculously overpriced medical bills. Who ever does?

Unfortunately it seems to have become just a part of living our lives, but does that mean we should just accept it as it is? Before I even started my first semester of college I had made a decision that I would not get into any more debt than I needed to; I was able to get through my first semester in college with mostly federal loans, and by time I transferred to the school I am at now I was able to get through with scholarships, grants, and a couple federal loans that seemed manageable.

I’ve never had a car payment. I’ve never taken out a loan to get a new laptop or to jump-start my “move out and get an apartment” fund. The idea of spending the next 15 to 20 years paying off student loans is enough to make me cringe, so my goal was to stay away from getting into debt that I didn’t need.

student-loan-hateAs my semester at Oxford draws nearer, however, I’ve had to accept a fact that I don’t really like accepting: my scholarships and grants aren’t going to be enough to get me through this semester. This isn’t that much of a surprise, but the last few days have been more than stressful as I’ve compared my options and pulled out unhealthy amounts of hair off my head in the process.

I guess I just don’t fully understand why almost every single college graduate will graduate with a piece of paper and more debt than they can handle. I love college. I love learning new things and preparing myself for a future career in writing or editing. I am blessed to go to a school that is more than affordable compared to many others, but as I prepare to go to one of the most prestigious schools in the World, I’m beginning to look at this whole debt thing a little more closely.

I don’t have any answers to half of the questions I’ve asked, but I think that many of us might need to reevaluate how we look at debt. Our economic culture is bathed in debt, and I understand why that is to a certain degree, but what if we’ve overlooked something? What if there is a better way?

Comment Question: How has our debt culture affected your life? Do you try to stay away from it, or do you embrace it? Let me know in the comment section down below.

5 thoughts on “Debt Culture

  1. What an interesting post. So, you’re graduating from Oxford and starting graduate school in the fall? Just curious. I earned a bachelor’s degree from a private university in the Midwest of the U.S. and I am $28,000 in debt. It’s daunting. My parents were supposed to pay for all of my undergrad, but my dad lost his job, so I ended up having to take on debt. My little sister is a senior in high school and plans on taking the route you did so she doesn’t have to deal with debt.

    I definitely think debt culture is a thing. Among my friends, it almost seems to be like a badge or pride or something, comparing how in debt they had to go to get a good education. I turned down a free ride to a much lesser university than the one I attended and sometimes I wonder if it would have been better to go to undergrad for free, earn a very high GPA because it isn’t as academically challenging, and then immediately go to graduate school that is free. It certainly is complicated, but I can’t say I regret my decision.

    1. Well thank you πŸ™‚ I’m actually just studying at Oxford for one term and won’t finish my undergrad until next year.
      I have a few friends who seem to think of loans and credit cards as “free money” and have even used student loans to go on cruises – it’s insane.
      I don’t regret my decision to go to college, but it is extremely frustrating to think about all the debt I’m building up.

      1. Oh, wow. I definitely don’t know anyone who has used their student loan money for stuff like that (to my knowledge). Mostly everyone I know who needed student loans are extremely frugal (myself included). I’m just curious: what college do you attend regularly? My little sister went to one college that said, “We send people to study abroad at Oxford.” And then we discovered that that really meant like one student who had a 4.0 and a 36 on the ACT or something crazy like that (the particular college that said that was Illinois Wesleyan). I studied at Imperial College of London for a term, personally.

      2. I’ve only known a few to go super crazy with their loans, but it completely boggles my mind.
        I go to Kuyper College, a small private Christian school. I’m not sure if anyone from my school has ever gone to Oxford, but plenty do study abroad. I went through a program called bestsemester which was recommended to me by the school.
        That’s really cool, did you like it?

      3. Wow, what an incredible opportunity and experience to get to study at Oxford! I’ll have to tell my sister to check out bestsemester. I *loved* studying in London! It was an incredible experience. πŸ™‚

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