There might be a $200 balance on my MasterCard. It gets paid automatically every month. My car is 18 months old and paid off.

I don’t have a mortgage because the payment on condos as nice as my apartment is almost double what I pay in rent — and it’s somebody else’s job to mend the roof, replace the carpet and repair the fridge. Strikes me as pretty good deal.

I used to think my dad was a skin-flint because when we were kids, getting money out of him for toys, ice cream and candy was like pulling teeth. One time when I was in my 30s I told him I thought he was penny pincher.

He got a little hurt at the accusation, but said, “Well, I don’t spend money I don’t have. If that makes me a penny-pincher, so be it.”

Later I realized he wasn’t being tight with a buck so much as he was trying to teach us rugrats an important life lesson: if you ask for money you haven’t worked for, one of the most likely replies is “no.” This was good preparation for growing up in a world where asking for money can bring a “yes,” but you have to pay it all back and reward the giver with a bunch more because he has it and you don’t.

I also read something else later in life that stuck with me: Rich people earn compound interest; poor people pay it. I’d rather be an earner than a payer.

It’s strange being out of debt in a society so thoroughly greased by it. I read the other day that because the United States imports more than it exports, it’s in a perpetual state of debt. All those foreigner-bashing Republicans probably would just as soon not admit that China and Saudi Arabia are paid-up partners in the American Experiment. (Interestingly, this actually makes them much friendlier to us, because their fortunes are riding on our continuing to keep borrowing to pay for stuff we don’t need and can’t really afford. See, it’s always good to have partners).

I think the main reason I avoid debt is that it’s just one more complication. I pay what I owe every month and the issue’s settled. I don’t have to worry about my neighborhood going to hell, I don’t have to worry if my roof needs to be replaced, I don’t have to worry about getting fired, getting foreclosed on and having terrible credit the rest of my life.

It’s also nice to have a good rating for all that credit I’ll probably never use.