Our Economy Wants You to Be In Debt—5 Things You Can Do to Take Charge

PIC: Brendel (CC)

PIC: Brendel (CC)

Liz Pleasant writes at Yes! Magazine:

Last month PM Press published the Debt Resisters’ Operations Manual —also known as “the DROM.” But don’t let that menacing-sounding acronym fool you: this is a book written in plain English and filled with tips and tactics for dealing with debt.

The book has been available online since September 2012, but this publishing marks the first time the manual has been printed, bound, and sold. Don’t worry, you can still find a free copy online. But, hopefully, getting this book into stores will help its message reach more people—however ironic it might seem to buy one with a credit card.

“Everyone is a debtor so there’s no limit to the audience” said Andrew Ross, a member of the Occupy Wall Street offshoot called Strike Debt, in an interview with Guernica Magazine. Although Ross has gone public, most of the authors of the Debt Resister’s Operations Manual have chosen to remain anonymous.

The book explains how creditors, big banks, and other lenders operate and how debtors can navigate both in and outside of the system.

“From a young age, we are conditioned to feel that being in debt is shameful and worthy of punishment,” the manual’s anonymous authors explain.

Debtors shouldn’t feel that way, the DROM argues, because the situation is largely unfair and out of their control. “The reason you have tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills is that we don’t provide medical care to everyone,” the authors write. “The reason you have tens of thousands of dollars of student loans is because the government, banks, and university administrators [are] … driving college costs through the roof.”

All that debt adds up. About 75 percent of Americans are in debt right now and owe a total of more than $11.5 trillion, according to Forbes magazine. That’s about three times the amount of spending the Obama Administration requested in its 2015 federal budget.

And it’s not necessarily spent on expensive handbags, sports cars, and vacations. A 2012 study published by the left-leaning thinktank Demos found that 40 percent of American households in debt use their credit cards to pay for living costs like rent, food, and utility bills. Additionally, about half of household debt comes from medical bills.

While the authors clearly worked hard to make the manual’s language accessible, that doesn’t mean it’s a quick read. If you lack time or patience to sit down and wrap your head around how FICO credit scores are generated, here are five tips from the DROM that you can start using today.

1. Avoid payday loan services and other “fringe” finance.

Stay away from paycheck loans, pawnshops, prepaid cards, nonbank check cashing, and rent-to-own agreements. These alternative financial services—known in the industry as AFSs—may appeal to those who don’t want or can’t have a checking account, but these institutions often prey on their customers through hidden fees and high interest rates.

Read more here.

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  • Dingbert

    #4 is the killer. I don’t use credit. America believes paying twice to buy something you can’t afford once is the pinnacle of responsibility.
    Most places won’t give you a chance to offer proof to the contrary. They’d prefer to look up a magic number on their computer that tells them whether or not you’re a horrible person. Because, you know, banks are just so upright and trustworthy.

  • Juan

    After being suckered in to this debt bullshit for years, I finally figured out that if I cannot immediately pay for whatever it is I want, I do not need it. If I want something and don’t have the money at the moment, I save up until I do.
    I have a credit card for convenience, but it gets paid off completely every month.
    Zero debt. Zero!
    Things are fucked up for the people who are forced to go into debt just to survive or take care of their families. The system does look like it is rigged to trap as many people as possible into debt peonage and keep them there. Kinda like the the evil company store of old mining operations.

    • Mr Grim

      I do this with credit card as well. If you can manage it, it’s a good way to be, if you must use the damned things.

      Definitely feels better with my nuts not in that particular vise..

    • Matt Staggs

      Just pulled out of major credit debt thanks to a debt management program. Never again, man. Never. If only I could go back in time and handle my student loans better than I did. You never get out from under those things.

  • Echar Lailoken

    Do not live beyond your means. That’s my only rule.

  • BuzzCoastin

    Duh Homeland gruberment
    is the largest debter in the whirled

    wonder where Homelanders get that debt habit

  • emperorreagan

    Tip 1 isn’t helpful at all. Payday loans, checking cashing places, and the like are a segment of the financial industry set-up to prey on people that don’t have the resources they suggest (borrow money from friends & family, sell some of your stuff, etc.) or otherwise lack access (areas where there may not be traditional banks, or “bankers hours” where you have to have job flexibility to be able to get to a bank to do anything anyway).

    Tip 4 also isn’t helpful. An employer with sufficient funds & bureaucracy to justify running credit checks as part of their pre-employment screening isn’t going to be interested in flipping through someone’s portfolio of financial records. And both landlords (at least in my experience with both renting from individuals directly and from property holding companies) and employers already ask for references, so what good is suggesting providing references when they’re already required?

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