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Things I Could Have Bought with $30,000 Lost to Credit Card Debt

 

I have no idea if this is a ’65 or not

As we’re coming into the homestretch of paying off our credit cards forever, it’s kind of horrific funny if you think about the things we could have done with that money instead. Just like building savings, wealth, or a retirement fund, our debt was years in the making. I’d say it was sort of an art form, albeit a very alternative style that doesn’t receive much critical praise. I honestly can’t name one tangible item we have ownership of because of that debt. I know there were a couple of fun trips and probably some nice sporting equipment. There were also lots of restaurant meals that have long been digested and disposed of. The biggest thing we have to show for our $30,000 in credit card debt is a new understanding of how wonderful being consumer debt free will feel in a few months.  I know it is not healthy to wonder what could have been, but if you are going to put that purchase you can’t afford right now on a credit card, think about these things we could have had without our debt.

  1. A Year Abroad-I have a friend who, with her husband and son, took a year sabbatical to live in Argentina.  They rented a house, enrolled their son in school, and spent a year learning a different culture. I asked why they chose Argentina.  Her reply was because they could live there for $30,000/year, where in Europe it would have been double the cost. I’m sure there are many other destinations we could have found for around that amount. What an amazing experience!
  2. Rental Property-While we were able to recently purchase our first rental property, if we hadn’t had credit card debt, this could have happened years ago.  In our area, you can buy a house for under $80K, so $30,000 would be more than enough for a down payment and renovation if necessary.
  3. Roth IRA’s-I have fully funded my Roth IRA for the past three years, but we haven’t maxed out my husband’s plan. With $30,000 we could have fully funded both for an additional three years.  If we had done that and never put anything else in, assuming 6% interest, the money would be worth over $180,000 by the time I’m 65.
  4. College Education-If I’d put that money toward my student loans, they would be paid off now. Instead, that will be the new project after the credit card debt is gone. We could have been debt free except for mortgages.
  5. And just for fun…..Mint condition 1965 Ford Mustang– I could care less about classic cars, but my husband has always had a longing for a 60’s era Mustang.  While that might not be the most wise financial choice, we could certainly have purchased a very nice one for the amount we’ve thrown away on credit card debt, and we’d at least have something pretty to show for it.

My husband and I are fairly intelligent people. Between us, we have 15 years of higher education. We don’t have any serious vices. We’ve always held steady jobs and don’t have the excuse of a poor economy or health problem that got us into debt. I could beat myself up, but I do find satisfaction in knowing that we finally took the right steps to stop the cycle of credit card debt. Hopefully after our next ten years of marriage, we will be able to have a list of things we were able to do with our money instead of what could have been.

What is the dumbest thing you’ve ever bought on credit? If you’ve gotten out of credit card debt, what did that feel like?

 

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.

38 comments

  1. There’s no use in beating yourself up over past credit card debt, or for that matter feeling bad about current credit card debt. I’m glad you guys took positive steps, and I hope others do too! I have not personally had any significant credit card debt. I do have a lot of student loans but I can’t go back in time and change anything so I just pay them off month after month.

  2. Oh boy, I bought some doozies with my credit cards. Nothing really tangible…a few trips and overall just crap I did not need. I agree with DC that it’s important not to beat yourself up and make knocking out that debt your goal…which I can tell it is. When I paid mine off, it was like a 800 lb gorilla was taken off of my shoulders. It was awesome, definitely something to look forward to. Have a great weekend!

    • Impulse buying is so psychologically interesting. If we could only stop and process the fact that we won’t even remember what we bought, but the bills will be coming for years, would we still buy it? I think spending can be as addictive as any other vice.

  3. I wouldn’t be too disappointed, 30K is quite the achievement!

    Also, sometimes a learning outcome can be equally as important as a financial one.

  4. I’ve been out of credit card debt for about 5 years and I can’t exactly recall what I spent all of the money on. If I had a guess it was all on partying and eating out though. Love financing food and beer. …sigh…

  5. I love your #1 idea. It is something I have thought about doing. Not sure if it will happen.

  6. I usually claim that the $200 computer case I got in college was the dumbest thing I ever bought with borrowed money. But in reality, that award has to go to the summer in college when my job only lasted half the summer and I just used my Discover card to cover my expenses for the remaining 7 weeks.

  7. I don’t even want to think about what I could have done with my debt. Mine was student debt, but a lot of that “student debt” was money spent on going out and buying stuff.

    • Most cases, you are offered way more aid than you need. It should come with a disclaimer of how much it costs after you’ve been making payments for ten years.

  8. For me, it was definitely my TV. Thankfully, it’s lasted about 6 or 7 years, but at the time, it cost me $1200 (back when LCD tvs were just getting popular) AND I bought it on credit which took me forever to pay off. :S And I don’t even watch TV that much. AND my TV at the time was not even broken. Sigh…

    • That’s the think when you just put stuff on credit. You just think you need a new one. The whole not needing or not having money argument just doesn’t come up.

  9. Fun read… sometimes I think of the same topic. What I could have done, if I didn’t put that money on the credit card. Somethings I would change, some things not (like a trip to Hawaii before our 1st kid). But, I choose to look forward and fix the future. Best of luck in reaching that financial independence.

  10. We have both. Things to show for our debt and crap. I remember we spent several thousand dollars on new living room furniture. We paid it on a buy now pay over so many months scheme with no interest, but still. I use the furniture everyday, but I don’t love it. Yesterday we were in WalMart and walked by their small furniture dept. My husband looked at me and said why didn’t we just buy a futon way back when?

    You know what? Life is all about learning as we go. Some people make excellent spending decisions from day one and some of us need to learn from our mistakes. Looking back helps us learn, but it can also depress us, and there is no sense in feeling like that.

    • I was depressed, but not anymore. We have had a great life lesson. I think we probably bought our furniture on credit too. Can’t remember.

  11. God, I’m trying to remember so hard what the DUMBEST thing I ever bought on credit was… but I’d venture to say it was clothing. Although I wouldn’t call it “being in debt” (I used my credit cards mostly to build credit early on) it did feel great to cut up my last card. I cut it mostly because it was never being used and I’ve already built up an emergency fund. I felt like I was stickin’ it to the man (bank). That being said, Holly and Greg are making me think twice about opening up a card for reward purposes only. I may actually do it!

    • If you don’t carrry a balance, credit cards are a great way to earn some extra cash. I pay all our bills on one that is paid off every month and get several hundred dollars a year in rewards.

  12. I’m with everyone else…don’t beat yourself up! But I think your exercise is a good reality check….maybe it’ll help someone who is starting to head down the same path make better decisions.

  13. I’ve never had credit card debt before but I’m betting if I could go back and add up all the small things I bought with cash I could get something nice. This is why budgeting opened up our eyes to the money we were spending. Although we likely spent alot on “stuff” that is not accounted for what we did do was move forward. The numbers can get scary. Mr.CBB

  14. I once bought a dishwasher and held it on a credit card for a few months. Then I did the math on how much extra I was paying for that privilege. I paid it off before the end of that month and never carried a balance since.

  15. No sense in putting yourself down as a result. The best thing is identifying this stuff and hitting it in the butt! It sounds like a rental property though is an excellent goal to work towards (again in this case) after that credit card debt is paid off.

    I was really thankful my father taught me as soon as I got mine to never charge to it unless I could pay off the balance next month. Of course emergencies have occurred where I needed it but I stuck to that point. Now the only debt I have to worry about are those crummy student loans.

  16. You can live in Eastern Europe on that kind of money. It’s not easy but I know people who do it. You don’t even need insurance because the medical care is so cheap you can pay out of pocket. It leads to some pretty interesting adventures.

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