Home > Debt > “Smart” Ideas That Can Keep You From Paying Off Debt

“Smart” Ideas That Can Keep You From Paying Off Debt

keeping you in debtIt’s hard to know when to spend money in the midst of paying off debt. You do have to buy necessities, and sometimes you need a little splurge to keep you motivated. In this world of uber-consumerism, there is always someone who can convince you that just about anything you want to buy  is a good idea. Don’t detour from your debt repayment plan with one of these three seemingly “smart” ways to spend money.


Nothing can sabotage your debt repayment plan like sales. I bet most of us have had this experience, either in stores or online. You see some sort of sign or banner ad offering x% off something, say it’s 25% off shoes.

You think to yourself, “Hmm, I wear shoes. Maybe I’ll just take a look. I’m certainly not buying anything.” The next thing you know, you have three new pairs of shoes. One of them is kind of a weird color, but it was a brand you love and came with an extra discount. Twelve months later, you sell that pair of shoes on Ebay for 1/10 of what you paid for it. It really wasn’t your color.

As we were racking up credit card debt, we rarely bought anything that wasn’t on sale. We always looked at how much we saved instead of how much we spent. Truth is, anything you buy because it was on sale instead of because you needed it is a waste of money you could be putting toward debt. I’m not saying you have to go barefoot if you really need shoes, but don’t buy them just  because you found a deal.

Being Green

My neighbor had a friend who installed enough solar panels to heat his entire house. The friend was trying to talk my neighbor into doing the same by singing the merits of having no heat bill while helping the environment. When my neighbor asked how much it cost to add solar, he almost fell over when he found out that the cost was $30,000, which of course, could be financed over a 5 or 10 year period! When he did the math, it would have taken over 12 years to break even. He only planned to be in his house for about 8 more years.

You see this same argument with people who buy new cars to get better gas mileage. That might be a good plan if you bought an older car that got good gas mileage to replace your guzzler, but buying a brand new car to save money is insane.

I am all for being green. I cannot throw an aluminum can in the trash to save my life, but spending a ton of money to potentially save money while you are trying to get out of debt is a terrible idea.

Supporting Adult Children

I was reading a piece in the latest issue of Money magazine about how people were faring after the recession. I was shocked to learn about a couple who were giving their adult child $250 a month when they didn’t even have a month’s worth of savings to fend off emergencies. I bet they like to play Russian roulette on the weekends too.

It might seem harsh to cut off your child, and you can check in with me again in 12 years when my daughter is a legal adult to see if I still feel the same way. Hopefully, I will have taught her to be self sufficient and not expect Mom and Dad to bankroll her throughout life.

I have no problem helping your kids pay for education or with expenses when they are trying to get started on their own. I would even offer up a down payment for a first home if I was in good financial shape and could afford it. I would not stand in line at the soup kitchen because I gave my adult child all my money. You can bet your kiddo will thank you someday when they don’t have to take care of you in retirement because you are broke.

What seemingly good things do you see that derail people’s debt payoff plan? Have you ever bought something you don’t need because it was on sale?

Image: Freedigitalphotos.net/Cochrane

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.


  1. Completely agree with all of these. Sales are the things that play with our heads – it is cheaper so lets go out there and buy loads of stuff with don’t need and want. It costs about a small fraction of what we pay for it in the sames anyway. Supporting adult kids is a killer (I know about it) but it’s very hard to cut them out (though this is usually the best thing for everyone).

    • Like I said, ask me again when my daughter is grown, but I don’t think I could support her long term if she wasn’t making an effort, and certainly not if I was paycheck to paycheck myself.

  2. I know someone that has a 24-year-old son, he paid his son’s full tuition taking up Dental Technician course, and now his son is already working but I just can’t get his point of view. He is still supporting his son financially, he sent him every month but still he keeps on telling that he has a lot of debt.

    • Sounds like the son is taking advantage, but he might not know that if Dad has always given him money. It’s hard to learn what is appropriate if you’ve never been taught, I guess, but I think they both share blame.

  3. I’m such a sucker for a good sale or even things that are on clearance. I feel like I’m missing out on an “investment” if I don’t get something when its 70% off.

  4. I’m sure I’ve bought a few things that were on sale simply because they were on sale, but I think I’m getting a lot better at this. There are things that I plan on buying anyway that I keep on a list and then I wait until it goes on sale or some deal comes along (when possible – some stuff you need right away). I can see how you can end up spending a lot of money on things you don’t need, though, when it comes to sales.

    • There is something about a good sale that just sets off adrenaline or something. I have to really work to pass them up sometimes.

  5. Whenever I’m tempted to buy something on sale, I always remember something my mom likes to say, “It’s not a sale if you weren’t going to buy it anyway.” Most of the time it works, sometimes it’s doesn’t. 🙂

  6. Man, was I a sucker for a sale. It didn’t matter what the heck it was, if it was on sale then I always bought it. But, I’ve learned that just because it’s 25% off I still have to pay the other 75%. 😉

    • I think if you always look at it that way, you shop lots less sales. Now, if it’s 95% off, that is still tempting. Sadly, I found myself considering a Saint Patrick’s Day hat last week until I snapped out of it.

  7. Ugh. The supporting your adult children one makes my stomach turn – enabling is never good. The one I see that really pains me is the acceptance of “good debt” that get people into further debt, like furthering your education, etc. I’m not saying there aren’t times when these things are good decisions, but people really need to be careful about spending unnecessary money if they’re already financially unstable. Great post, Kim.

    • I have a friend who just rolled a bunch of credit card debt and is funding a vacation on student loans. It just isn’t going to end well, but what can you do?

  8. I usually buy things I don’t need that are on sale at the grocery store. I’m a sucker for the buy-one-get-one deals. I’m getting more disciplined but one or two deals still suck me in on every shopping trip.

    • Sometimes they are hard to pass up. If the Charmin huge pack is on sale for $5.99, I’m buying, even if I already have a stockpile!

  9. Ugh, the supporting adult children thing really irritates me. You aren’t doing the kid any favors by leaving him or her on parental welfare. I also had no idea it was so pricy to turn your home “green.” I get the long-run savings but that’s a huge investment in the short-term.

    • I would love to have solar, but it just does not make sense until the price comes down. We do little things like using shades to our advantage for passive solar and putting the bucket under the shower during the summer months for watering plants and such, but I just could not shell out that much for a huge undertaking, even if it means less of a footprint.

  10. I’m currently following a blogger in serious debt who keeps spending tons of money because they think it will help them personally and professionally. Insane, but Im sure in my own way I’ve done something similar. Oh wait, I have. I thought getting a certificate in life coaching would be a GREAT idea in the middle of my freelance career which wasn’t going very well. I think sometimes we can’t see the forrest for the trees. That’s why now when it comes to big decisions, even though I don’t have to, I run it by some of my really sensible friends. They can give me another perspective I might not have thought about.

    • I think that’s a great idea to run it by a friend who will tell it like it is. I think we can always convince ourselves that something is a good idea, and sometimes we need to just be doing something, even if it might not move us forward. Idle time brings all sorts of bad thoughts and energy.

  11. We’re like Pavlov’s dogs when it comes to sales. I still catch myself falling for the it’s 25% off or whatever. Sometimes it truly is a good bargain and sometimes it just sits in your closet, catching dust. Unfortunately a lot of parents set a bad precedent with their children when they were young by always giving them money whenever they asked. Kids just assume that their parents will always take care of them financially and haven’t learned how to stand on their own two feet. The hardest part for parents is breaking the cycle. Even though they know they should and need to, it’s very hard to watch your kids struggle.

    • I wonder how you draw the line between helping and enabling? I guess you always have to spell out the terms and conditions. If there are never any conditions or an end date, I guess it can go on forever.

  12. Sales were a big trap for us. And now I think about them the same way as you. I tell clients, if you were not planning on buying something, it is not 20% cheaper it is 80% expensive.

    • Exactly! I can’t tell you how many things I’ve bought because they were half off that ended up junking up our garage.

  13. I could never figure out why kids keep begging for money after they move out of the house. When are they ever going to make it on their own?

    I joined the USAF after a year out of high school. I decided tat pumping gas was probably not a great future. Of course I also decided that the USAF was not a great future (for me).

    • I think we all maybe need to try a few different area to see where we want to end up. Jim also joined the Air Force way back when and it was certainly not the career for him, but it gave him a life experience that didn’t involve mooching off his parents.

  14. 12 years to break even on solar is a long time but actually a 8% or so yearly return which is much better than keeping the cash in the bank. That is assuming you have the $30k or can finance lower than 8%, and nothing will break in the meanwhile, which I guess is too soon to tell with solar.
    The main reason I hear for not paying debt is “we are already on a tight budget” and while the little expenses won’t make much of a difference they don’t challenge big items either, starting with the interest rate on debt, moving to a 0% balance or refinancing the mortgage.

    • Solar is very expensive to add. If we’d done it originally, that might have been another story. I also hear panels tend to wear out after 10-15 years, but I have no personal knowledge of that.

  15. I couldnt agree with you more! Supporting adult children is a huge one. I know a lady who withdrew 100k from her retirement savings to pay for her kids law school so ”he wouldn’t have debt” when I questioned why he couldn’t pay for it himself and how she was going to replenish her savings she assured me he would pay it back when he was a lawyer making good money….wow.

    • Wow! Wow, that’s about all I can say. I took out loans to get through school. It sucked to pay them back, but I would have never in a million years taken money from my parents retirement, even if they had offered.

  16. In the last year or two, I’ve really started to steer clear of retail altogether. There’s just too much temptation. I shop mostly online for necessities, and will only consider “Shopping Around” if I’m traveling somewhere with unique stores/boutiques.

  17. I hope my kids don’t plan on sponging off of me past their early 20’s! I know so many people who are still dependent on their parents…it’s sad!

  18. Yep those SALE signs claiming it’s 75% off!! can be enticing even when you don’t really need what they’re selling. Very true about going green…my co-worker bought a nice clean diesel car that says it will use much less gas…not sure when the cost benefit shifts to his favor. And adult children…nope…not supporting them after a certain age. Many parents can’t afford to support their adult children…those adult children might end up having to support their parents if the parents had to spend money supporting the kids.

  19. I actually really want solar panels, but I would never do it unless I was in my forever home (which I’m not). I can’t believe someone would do that without considering the math involved! And sales, while a great deal if you actually need the product, are usually just extra money spent. I mean, how often do you actually need what you’re buying? I bet most people shop sales because they like to feel like they are getting a good deal, when the best deal would be to just save the money.

    • If we ever decide what will be our forever house, I would love to put solar in then and I think the cost on materials will continue to go down over time.

  20. I don’t get why parents don’t let their kids hit rock bottom. I think sometimes you need to hit rock bottom so you can truly be independent. My coworker complains about money problems and then she gives her kids lots of money weekly that they waste on eating out for lunch!!! and buying overpriced makeup and shoes. When you enable your kids when they’re younger, it’s only going to continue in their adult lives.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *