I don’t think I’ve met anyone who desires to be in any form of debt. Debt and indebtedness is not something any sane person loves. No one loves to owe anybody anything.

Debt is a form of shackles and we’re inherently freedom-loving creatures. But for all our love and pursuit of freedom, we are wont to fall in debt and indebtedness.

Common types of debt

Financial debt leads the way. It’s the most popular and commonplace debt. For some people, it’s even a habit. Financial debt is incurred when you borrow to augment your finances for whatever reason or purpose.

Essentially, spending money that you have not earned lands in financial debt. You become financially indebted by using money that you don’t have―money that is not yours.

When you owe someone money, you are at their mercy. Such debt steals your inner peace and sometimes your sleep. It’s a miserable feeling, always worrying about paying back what you owe in time or risk losing your property and face.

Before you protest that you are not in debt because you owe no one any money, I hate to break it to you, but financial debt is not the only kind of debt. Other types of debt exist and they may be worse. Just hear me out.

Social debt is a thing―a situation whereby you owe someone a favour. You may think it’s not as serious as financial debt, which is usually the case. But some social debts are even worse than financial debt.

Consider a scenario whereby you owe a very powerful, dangerous person a favour. That’s not a palatable situation at all. You never know what they will ask, when they will call in their favour and if you could do it.

Social debt puts you in the same unnerving state as financial debt. You struggle to go on with your normal life, living with the perpetual fear that you owe someone somewhere a favour. It’s silent torture.

And when they eventually call in their favour, you might have to go the extra length to fulfil it. What if they ask you to do something that’s against your values? Or worse: what if they demand that you commit a crime?

You can’t really say no, can you? They will simply remind you of your debt and hold you to ransom with it. And so, you find yourself with limited choices. Dance to their tune or suffer the consequences which may be mild or wild, depending on who you’re dealing with.

Then there is calendar debt. I know you’re wondering what that is. It’s a situation whereby you are owing time. How’s that even possible? Well, it is. You’re in calendar debt when you spend (free) time that you have not earned.

Say, for example, you have to do something to meet a certain commitment. When you leave that commitment unattended to while spending the time you should commit to it for something else, you’re incurring calendar debt.

When you go to a party while leaving a project with an imminent deadline unattended to, you are incurring calendar debt. Ditto when you don’t do your tasks as and when due so you can have enough time for family or rest/sleep.

Calendar debt takes out of your future time due to your careless time management. Why because you now have to use time in the future for what you should have done in the past. You get the gist now.

How to avoid debt

The way to avoid indebtedness is so simple it’s almost too good to be true. Here’s the rule: never spend what you have not earned. That’s simple enough, isn’t it? Only that it’s not in reality.

James Clear captured the rule to avoid all three kinds of debt perfectly:

Avoid financial debt. Don’t spend money you haven’t earned. Avoid social debt. Don’t spend goodwill you haven’t earned. Avoid calendar debt. Don’t spend (free) time you haven’t earned. The disciplined earner can be a guilt-free spender.

Avoid borrowing money at all if possible. And if you must borrow, borrow only what you can pay back. Never borrow to purchase material things or pursue vanities. Live below and within your means.

Be wary of social debts. Don’t go about asking for favours when you have not first added value to the other person. Don’t seek to pluck where you have not sown, lest you land in thorns. Share on X

As for the way out of calendar debt, stop procrastinating. Procrastination is the number one cause of calendar debt. Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today. Don’t promise to spend time with someone unless you’re sure you’ve earned that free time.

And always remember: only the disciplined earner can be a guilt-free spender.


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