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Swear off debt
Elizabeth Gilbert
Author, "Eat, Pray, Love"

My father is the most frugal human being I've ever met. His most adamant instruction was that I should never under any circumstances go into debt. To this end, he passed along the message his own grandfather had taught him: "Borrowing money is like wetting your bed in the middle of the night. At first all you feel is warmth and release. But very, very quickly comes the awful, cold discomfort of reality."

That vivid image has stuck with me forever. Even when I was a diner waitress, I wouldn't let a month go by without paying off my credit card. And this adamancy has kept me warm and dry and free my whole life.

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Last updated July 22 2008: 11:27 AM ET
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