Debt…it is a four-letter word that decades ago—and rightfully so—was avoided and considered shameful. Today, unfortunately, it has become common place, with individuals buying on credit what they desire at the moment, while governments kick the debt can down the road by borrowing and/or printing money.

This, my friends, is a very serious issue, and I was glad to see it getting the attention it deserved this summer with the federal budget discussions. However, sadly it was not enough. While our national government continued to pile on more debt to our country’s already unfathomable $14.5 trillion, the S&P downgraded the U.S. debt for the first time… ever.

But there is hope. The State of Ohio is leading by example. While the U.S. debt was being DOWNgraded by S&P, the State of Ohio was UPgraded from AA+negative to AA+stable. This was due to the positive budget reforms in our Ohio budget. Ohio reduced spending by billions of dollars and did not raise taxes. This is not rocket science. It just takes a little fiscal discipline and political backbone.

Ohio has a balanced budget as required by our Ohio Constitution. Would it not be wonderful if our national government would do the same?

On a personal level, we should all strive to be as debt-free as possible. It takes a bit of a change of heart, from one of immediate self-gratification to one of loving sacrifice. That said, it can be a lot of fun and very effective. It is not that complicated. Here are a few simple ideas to get started, I am certain there are many others you will think of along the way (and if you do please share them – a series of letters to the editor outlining ways to save money would be both fun and quite helpful).

• Buy what you need before you buy what you want
• If you cannot afford it – don’t buy it
• Always pay off your credit card balance IN FULL each month
• Ride a bicycle or walk when the weather permits.
• Plant a garden and enjoy your delicious produce
• Do not be wasteful – learn to make do with less
• Save your money for when you really need it
• Use coupons
• Do not throw it away if it can still be used… or eaten

Regardless of whether the economy is weak or strong, saving money should be a priority. Being in debt means being beholden; it is a loss of freedom. It is time to put aside immediate self gratification and realize that it is good to be thrifty. Yes, it is cool to be frugal.


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