“Debt is the slavery of the free.” – Publilius Syrus

Credit card debtWe’ve all heard David Bach’s mantra, “Pay yourself first” and why it’s the reliable path to achieving wealth. But not everyone out there in the personal finance blogosphere is a devotee. Michael at It’s Your Money writes, “I’m not a big fan of David Bach. I could go into details, but for the sake of time, I’ll just sum it up like this: People want easy, and David Bach sells easy.”

“Yes, there are some good things between the Automatic Millionaire covers. The idea of ‘paying yourself first’ does indeed need to be stressed, and Bach does this repeatedly. Retirement planning via automatic paycheck deduction and/or electronic deposit is anther positive step which Bach rightly encourages. His entire ‘Latte Factor’ spiel is built upon the realization that most people fritter away staggering sums of money during their lifetimes. That, too, is an idea worth emphasizing.”

Most people in this country live paycheck to paycheck and many have staggering amounts of debt. The average American family has $10,000 in debt. Getting out of debt is not easy.

Some rely on God. Free Money Finance suggests, “The Bible says that we should honor God with our wealth, with the firstfruits of our crops, THEN he will bless us financially (Proverbs 3:9-10). It says something similar in Malachi 3:10-12. I take these verses to mean that the 10% tithe goes to God first, before anything else — debt payments included.”

“He’s promised that if you’re faithful, He’ll fill your barns and vats to overflowing. He’s even said that you should test Him by tithing and see if He won’t open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it!”

He concludes, “I started tithing 15 years ago and I can attest to His faithfulness in this area. I know He’ll do the same for you — because that’s what He’s promised.”

Not everyone is a believer including this commenter when she indicated, “Twenty years ago at the age of thirty when I outgrew Christianity and found my own truth, my life improved enormously and wealth and well-being hasn’t stopped pouring in since.”

I’ve known many Christians who tithe and still struggle financially. Why aren’t they experiencing the “blessings” others have received? For me personally, I don’t think God has anything to do with it. You can pay 10 percent to God or 10 percent to yourself. But in the end creating wealth is more about the discipline it requires to appropriately earmark money each month.

The only person that can eliminate your debt is you and this brings us back to Bach. Sure, paying yourself first is a disciplined approach to building wealth. I can’t argue with that. But what about those with staggering debt?

Gary Foreman at The Dollar Stretcher offers the best advice in my opinion. He writes, “Does it make sense to put money in a savings-type account earning 6% when you’ll be paying three times that much in interest on your credit card balance?”

“Some people think so. They believe that once you’ve started to save money you’ll continue to save. And there’s some truth to that. Using your savings account for the unusual expenses gets you out of the habit of reaching for a credit card when a crisis occurs.”

“But, it does seem a little crazy to be borrowing money at a higher interest rate than you’re getting on your savings. Achieving a debt-free lifestyle is important, too.”

He concludes, “There’s another way to look at the issue. Reducing your debt is actually a way of saving money. For every dollar that you repay this month, you’ll reduce next month’s interest charge. So you’ve really saved money by paying part of your credit card balance.”

God, mammon or credit card debt? Paying off the Visa sounds like the smart choice. God might reward you, Bach will forgive you, but in the end you’ll win if you’re debt free.