Debt is All Around You (And It’s Accruing Interest)

This article was written by Dollar D. He is a software developer and finance nerd by day and a real estate investor and blogger by night. He blogs about personal finance, real estate, and financial independence over at The Dollar Disciple.

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My wife and I lead pretty busy lives, like most of you I’m sure. When time is tight, or when we’re just plain lazy, the thing to go first is the housework. I was doing some dishes the other day, dishes which had been left in the sink from dinner the night before (gross, i know). And as I scrubbed, I said to myself, “Self, this would be a lot easier if you had just done the dishes yesterday.”

And that’s the truth with many things: doing things today is often easier, faster, or cheaper than doing them later. And yet we put them off anyway. Just like spending today and paying it off (with interest later), we constantly borrow resources from our future to enjoy them today.

Most people who don’t exercise say that they don’t have enough time. But the time you “gain” by not exercising is actually borrowed time. Your health is like a bank account and the balance gets smaller every day. When you exercise, it’s like making a tiny deposit into that account. Not enough for a whole day (otherwise we could work out and live forever :)) but enough that if done consistently, you can maintain good health into your old age. Most of us avoid exercise but eventually that “health debt” must be paid and it will cost you money, time and heart ache later.

In software, writing bad code is a form of debt called “technical debt.” Often times, programmers write bad code to meet a deadline or get their manager off their back. But bad code leads to bugs and fixing bugs can take more time than just writing good code in the first place. It gets worse the longer the bad code survives and it gets way worse if the person who wrote the bad code leaves the company or switches projects. Bad code written by somebody else is even harder to fix than bad code written by you!

There are plenty more examples:

  • dirty dishes left in the sink take longer to clean later
  • bad feelings which go unexpressed can blow up later and ruin a relationship
  • procrastinating on work leads to stress and lost sleep when the project comes due
  • failing to properly maintain your car can lead to expensive repairs in the future

The truth is that there are many more types of debt than the kind you pay back with dollars.

Any time you do something half-way or leave something undone, you’re borrowing from your future: your time, your health, your good mood – the debt must be paid somehow.

Pay the balance today or you will pay the interest later!

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25 Responses to “Debt is All Around You (And It’s Accruing Interest)”

  1. Daisy says:

    I procrastinate sometimes and don’t get things like car maintenance done. It is definitely more painful when I put it off. Another thing is my retirement. If I don’t save for retirement now, it’s going to be harder to retire when I’m older.

    • Retirement is definitely one area where it seriously pays off to start early. The dollars you save now when you are young have the most time to compound. Any amount you can save now will grow to a large sum in your old age when you need it most!

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  3. Bridget says:

    haha interesting perspective! I absolutely agree… which is terrible because I’m a huge procrastinator =(

    Having a messy house really stresses me out, but I hate cleaning. I do try to tell myself that I’ll feel better if I just start picking things up, and it’s true. It’s also amazing how much you can get done in 15-20 minutes. I usually try to tidy a little before I leave for work, then when I get home, my apartment feels welcoming and I can just unwind rather than think, “man I gotta clean up!”

    • Oh, I’m guilty as charged when it comes to procrastinating on some things… But it helps to recognize the consequences :)

      I can let the clutter go for a while but eventually I just get claustrophobic and have to pick up the place. You’re right though: a good 15-20 minutes can really turn a room or two around!

  4. Michelle says:

    I’m trying to change my procrastinating ways! It’s so hard.

    • Personal change is always hard! The funny thing about procrastination is that, in my experience, getting started is always harder than continuing. I like to tell myself that I only have to do something for 15-30 minutes and often I’ll find myself doing much more than that.

  5. Yeps.. there are a lot of little things you can do now that pay big dividends in the future. I’m thinking about things like putting on sunscreen to delay premature aging, then you don’t need all those expensive skincare treatments you read about in Marie Claire.

  6. For me its a case of some things I prioritize like good health and clean house, and some things I procrastinate, like writing blog posts :-)

  7. Juan says:

    For me, poorly organized paper work is huge debt. I pay my bills on time but I just can’t seem to spend the time and energy to organize them :\

  8. I like the example about the dishes and relationships (gunnysacking is the term, I believe).

    Debt just sucks all around, doesn’t it!

  9. Money Infant says:

    I used to be a terrible procrastinator. Now I still occasionally fall into that trap but I can usually avoid it by simply telling myself that X has to be done anyway, might as well take care of it now because later there will likely be 3X things to do and even less time to get them all done. It’s worked pretty well for me.

  10. What an interesting perspective! I’ll admit, I hadn’t thought of it that way (as in – different kinds of debt).
    So I guess the saying “Just get ‘er done!” would be very appropriate? =)

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  12. Often I find myself annoyingly lazy. My car had a heating problem and I overlooked the thermostat, the result is a head gasket break, that mans two grands. Do you believe that? Good reminder post I needed it!!

  13. YFS says:

    Great quote: “Any time you do something half-way or leave something undone, you’re borrowing from your future: your time, your health, your good mood – the debt must be paid somehow.”

    That’s a good way to look at debt and your future. My opinion on debt is that only take it out if you can’t help it or if you can make money from i (no gambling but a legitimate earnings)

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