Early in my college career, it became apparent that I was willing to go into debt for just about anything. Whether it was a new outfit, eating out, or a road trip, debt was no object. I had my trusty credit card. (Trusty credit cards by the time I graduated from college.) I really was the poster child for instant gratification and stupid money decisions.
Thankfully, I had a wake up call. Somewhere toward the beginning of my senior year in college, I realized that my credit cards were almost maxed out, and that interest was eating up most of my minimum payments. I further realized that I was still paying off that first trip to Vegas my freshman year, and quite likely those jeans I had discarded months ago. I began thinking about what was really important, and considering what I was really willing to go into debt for.
Everyone’s answer to the big question is different, of course. It comes down to financial priorities. You need to think about what is important to you, and consider what is important enough to pay back, with interest, over the course of years. For me, the things I am willing to get into debt for have been whittled down over the years:
This is probably obvious. I suppose I could save up to buy a home with cash, but I’d rather just borrow for it. And I did. Three years ago, my husband and I bought a home. We enjoy our home, but we don’t have any illusions about it being an investment. We view it as a purchase, one that we were willing to make for the stability and other intangible aspects that come with home ownership.
While you don’t necessarily need a four-year degree to get a good job, I think that education is important. I took out student loans to help pay for my education and my husband did as well for graduate school. We could have went the “part time and going to school at the same time” route, but we both felt that it’s more important for us to get out of the whole process as quickly as possible.
Well, sort of. I’m not a big fan of financing a car, but my husband wants what he wants. And he normally decides to buy on the spur of the moment, so we have something for a down payment, but not for the whole car price. We put limits on it though, opting for relatively modest lease returns that don’t cost too much. We’ve only bought two cars in the nearly nine years we’ve been married, one at the outset, and one 18 months ago when we realized that it was finally time to become a two-car household. I’ve got my fingers crossed, though, that the next car won’t need to be financed.
No More Travel
Early in our marriage, we considered it essential to fly to New York to visit my husband’s parents — even if the trip had to be put on a credit card and paid off over intervening years. However, we have modified our habits in that way, instead saving up for travel, and having a fund set aside for emergency travel (for funerals, illnesses, and weddings). While I love to travel, I realize that it’s really not something worth getting into debt for.
I’ve learned over the years that few things that are, in my opinion, worth debt. By the time you pay the interest, and spend years fretting about making the payments on time, it truly does begin to seem like a prison. I try not to add up how much I could have if I hadn’t paid all that interest early in my 20s, but it’s hard not to look back with regret at what could have been.
These were my choices. What are you willing to go into debt for?
This post was featured in the Best of Money Carnival and the Carnival of Money Stories.
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