My brother once likened debt to a negative savings account. It's a good analogy: debt is money you've spent before you saved it, and both will accumulate interest if arranged through a formal financial institution. Of course, with debt the interest is being paid to someone else.
Paying off debt is a valid way to meet the Pagan savings challenge. It could take the form of simply using the weekly savings amount to pay off a bill faster, or the money could be allowed to build over the year and used all at once for that purpose. Either way, it strengthens the discipline of building energy through saving money.
There has been some wonderful online discourse about the role of institutions in modern Paganism. There are those who believe the price -- of leaving behind our counterculture roots -- would be too high. Others believe that this is the only path to a mature religious movement, and still others propose solutions that include both. I believe it's important to include the idea of financial institutions in this dialogue.
I'm not necessarily talking about banks and credit unions, although nothing is off the table. While Pagans are frequently loving, giving people, our community lacks any institutional ways to support one another financially. A credit union would certainly fit part of that bill, but not every problem can be solved with a loan. Each of us face challenges and opportunities that could look very different with a bit more money: wardrobe for a new job, affordable day care, credit counseling, even basic money management skills. These challenges are quite effectively addressed by some religious communities. Should they be in ours?
With a mix of emotions both rich and deep, I spent the waning hours of 2013 acquiring a new automobile. It's been ten years since I have bought a car, and I still think that 179,794 miles is only a fraction of what my Civic Hybrid is capable of driving, bought the deed is done, and now I can savor the many feelings it has evoked.
A few days in, the overwhelming winner is joy. My new bug is just three years old, handles like a dream, and makes me feel safer and more confident on the road.
Sadness that I am parting company with a machine that has been with me for longer than any other comes a close second.
Then there's relief that I got out of the negotiation and credit process intact. It's still possible to buy a car without credit, but it's becoming less and less common.
Let's not forget the angst over getting a vehicle that gets slightly worse gas mileage.
Countering that is the happiness that comes from giving my old car to a loved one, improving his life and keeping it out of the landfill.
And of course, there's apprehension over this $12,000 of debt I have brought into my life.
I've been studying the nature and value of money for awhile now, and I've only begun to scratch the surface of what the stuff is. Here in the United States, and perhaps elsewhere, philosophical and economic discussions about money are hopelessly entangled with political philosophy, which makes it all the harder, but I think I have a grasp of what American currency is, and how it got there.
Barter was the first way humans exchanged things they had for things they wanted. It works well when two people each have something they other wants and they value it equally. Otherwise, the trades can become inordinately complex, such is the stuff that fiction writers love to illustrate, because wacky hijinks ensue.