Home Opinion and Features When being debt-free is decidedly quaint

When being debt-free is decidedly quaint

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One of the main changes in recent attitudes is our view of debt. My parents’ generation regarded being in debt as a rather disgraceful thing.

File image. Picture: Thys Dullaart

Each generation develops its own fashions and morals which change as the years go by. I was taught, for example, that a polite man stands up when a woman enters the room. Nowadays that seems rather quaint.

When I learned to drive, I was told a polite driver always closes the passenger door for a female passenger before going round to the driver’s side.

Try that today and you’re likely to get a snarky remark: “I’m not helpless, you know. I am quite capable of closing a door for myself.”

Oh well, I’m afraid old habits die hard, so I will just accept any snarls.

Sometimes, though, I do get an appreciative word of thanks and realise not everybody is a teenager.

One of the main changes in recent attitudes is our view of debt. My parents’ generation regarded being in debt as a rather disgraceful thing.

Honest people paid for the things they bought. If you didn’t have the money, you went without it. End of story.

I remember doing endless odd jobs and hoarding my pocket money for a whole year in order to buy my first bicycle – a slightly scuffed hand-me-down from one of the neighbourhood’s kids. I never considered borrowing the money from my father to pay for the bike.

It went without saying that if I didn’t have enough, I had to save up. I found half a can of blue enamel paint and painted it from end to end.

It was the pride of my life. I had worked and saved very hard for it.

Today it’s normal to be in debt. Furniture stores urge us to open accounts and buy all we want.

Payment? Oh, don’t worry about it. You can pay it off over two years.

No cash? No problem. Use your credit card. And of course the bank that issued the card only makes a real profit when you are in debt.

Car advertisements seldom even bother to state the price of a vehicle. They say things like, “only R5 999 monthly.”

Ask the dealer the price and he has to scrabble through his books to find it.

Offer to pay cash and the dealer gets moody and sullen because he loses all that extra lolly from keeping you in debt.

One of the first things I do at the start of each month is pay my municipal and telephone bills and any licence fees that may be due.

What’s left after that is mine. Sometime this means I spend the last week of the month on potato sandwiches and cheap wine, but at least I sleep soundly at night.

I wonder whether our politicians sleep well after having squandered all our tax money on trinkets and putting the whole country deep in debt.

Probably couldn’t care a toss.

Last Laugh

A lawyer arrived at the Pearly Gates and St Peter immediately turned and called out to an angel: “Quickly, bring this good soul a wheelchair.”

The lawyer looked puzzled and said: “Why do you think I might need a wheelchair?”

“We have just checked your account books,” said St Peter, “and if you’ve worked all the hours for which you’ve charged your clients, you must be at least 145 years old.”