I am really lucky that I don't have any credit cards. I'd surely use them if i did.
So i don't have any debt there. My student loans worry me a great deal. There was only one period of my life where i was able to pay them. Now I just avoid looking at my mail.
I would get into debt if i had to, to keep my home. I do have a mortgage. I try not to think of that as a debt so much as a trade. It's not like a lay-away; i do get to live here while i pay it off.
WARNING: Crazytown babbling ahead -
I've been really thinking about the "food on the table" idea, and i did want to mention that (even without food stamps) there is a ton of free food to be had with food banks/food pantries. This is food that is donated by the community for those in need, and also by local grocery places that are pulling things off the shelves (bc they are near the sell by date, or they are overstocked).
This is certainly a valid emergency idea. No one looks down on others for having hard times. I've found, in a 12 mile radius, over a dozen sources of very nice food boxes with good food staples in them.
My sister, for some reason, won't apply for food stamps. And i doubt she'd go to a food bank, even though this is food available to her by the community. I don't understand her reasoning. If she felt bad about taking charity, she could always donate food to them when her circumstances were improved, and keep the cycle going. This is what those agencies are for - to help people get through a crisis. I'd hate to see her take on debt for something she doesn't have to.
Especially in this economy, there should be no stigma in going through hard times. I almost feel like there is a brotherhood between everyone right now, since so many are suffering.
Anyway, that's food. Health is something very different. I can totally see going into debt over health issues. There are free clinics for small things...but for a serious illness, you want the entire gamut of high end services available.
A mortgage is considered 'good debt', as are 'student loans', even though they don't feel very good. I'd like to own my home outright, but i wanted to ensure i had the smallest possible monthly payment. If i had the chance to pay off the mortgage early I would. I don't feel it looming over me, though, since the monthly is so small.
What else is crucial? Heat when it is cold, and coolness when it gets too hot. Lights and other electrical expenses to me are actually not necessities. There is a lot of food out there that doesn't need to be cooked to eat, or kept frozen. If I had to, i absolutely would use a cooler to finish up my perishables and them eat temperature-stable food for as long as it took. I'd use a propane camp stove to cook, if it came to it.
Clean water - enough to drink, clean and cook with, or keep alive a garden that feeds you. Watering a lawn or cleaning a car are not necessities, IMO.
Those are my thoughts. I know most people will find a lot of this insane. I just remind myself that all these modern extras are first world conveniences. People all over the world and throughout time have thrived without them. They just made do.
I am making do without hot water because I can't afford propane. It's not a hardship for me. I'm not even saving up for a tankless water heater, since i have found workarounds to live with.
Am i saying everyone should cut off all their utilities until they are financially able to take them on? No. I might be lynched if i suggested that!
But I did want to point out that there are choices, and we make them.
I am choosing to have internet service. It's $36 a month, which is a LOT to me. But since I have food stamps and use food banks, have no trash service or propane, and have a free government phone, and charity assistance on my electric bill, then i keep the internet going. For now. I won't hesitate to chop that off if i have to. And I am ready to cut off the water as well and fill up from 25 cent kiosks for drinking/cooking water.
I can also choose not to drive, and take the insurance off the car for as long as i needed. Not that i would want to do this, but i could.
The only things I HAVE to pay are the mortgage, and the sewer bill, and the cat food (okay, I could give up the cats but i'd give up everything else first since they are my responsibility).
Please don't flame me; I am honestly not suggesting people do this to get out of debt. It's asking too much of people, i think. But that's my take on it in my life. I don't have kids to worry about and i don't care what the Joneses think.
And I don't mind camping, even in my own house.