It’s about to get personal up in here. You see, no one is perfect, especially me! In fact, I’ve made more mistakes in my life than I care to admit. The other day I was talking to my husband and we started discussing our worst financial mistakes. Thankfully, we made most of our mistakes before we really knew about this whole debt free thing. I started wondering if maybe our money mistakes could help someone think twice before making the same (or similar) choices. So here they are! Our top 3 financial mistakes:
1. We bought a timeshare (well, kind of).
Hands down the worst financial mistake my husband and I made was to buy a timeshare as a newly married couple. Let me paint a picture for you here. We were two young people on our honeymoon in Vegas. Being newly married and broke, we signed up to attend one of those timeshare meetings. Basically, you give up 6 hours of your life to listen to a presentation about why it would be in your best interest to own a timeshare. In return, they give you free tickets to the worst show in Vegas. Did you hear the part where I said we were broke? Well, we didn’t realize it at the time because we had never actually sat down like two adults to take a good long look at our combined finances. So what did we end up doing? Signing up for a trial run of a timeshare of course! We signed a $4,000+ loan in exchange for a three-year timeshare “trial run.” I’m going to go ahead and let you guess how many times we actually enjoyed that timeshare. Go ahead, take a guess. We were able to get away and enjoy the Vegas life ZERO times! That’s right! We basically just gave $4,000 away to that stupid place!
Within weeks of returning from our honeymoon that second pink line on the pregnancy test showed up and (surprise!) we were expecting. Our bundle of joy kicked us into gear and forced us to take a good, long look at our life and our habits. Were we prepared to bring a child into this world when we were burdened with so much debt? How does someone afford childcare? What on earth are we going to do to make this all work?
Thankfully, we figured it out. We counted the timeshare as a loss, paid off the debt, and vowed to never be so stupid again. Next time you’re on vacation, don’t let the rose-colored vacation glasses that you’re wearing distract you from your mission. Don’t let them talk you into buying something that you don’t even NEED and might not even use! And for heaven’s sake, don’t give up 6 hours of your life for one awful Vegas show.
2. I used student loans to pay for a Europe trip.
When I was in college I was like every other “normal” student and took out student loans to get by. They helped me earn my degree, buy food, and oh yeah, go to Europe for a month. I bet you’re thinking I was studying abroad and taking an amazing class on French literature. Nope! I had just graduated from college and I went with about 40 other students just to have fun. We spent 25 days exploring 11 different countries all over Europe. The trip cost $5,000 total and I didn’t hesitate one bit when I paid for it with my leftover student loan money.
Now I don’t regret going on the trip. It was an amazing experience and I will never forget it. However, I do regret using student loans to pay for the trip. I had the “I’ll just pay it back later” attitude because I hadn’t actually started paying on my student loans. I figured that it wouldn’t be a big deal and I almost felt like I wouldn’t actually HAVE to pay it back. That’s the thing with student loans. When they are in deferment and you aren’t paying on them monthly, you can actually forget that you’ll be held accountable for the repayment. If I could go back in time, I would have gotten a job to pay for the trip. I would have worked harder to not take out student loans. Moral of the story? Europe is awesome, but don’t use student loans to fund your trip across the pond!
3. My husband signed up for a credit card to get free food.
The last big mistake belongs to my handsome husband, Matt. Let the record show that I take no ownership of this stupid mistake. One day when Matt was in college he was hungry and naturally, he found himself at Chipotle because GUACAMOLE. When he walked in the door he saw one of those credit card tables that preys on hungry (and poor) college kids. Due to his obvious near-death hunger, he signed up for a credit card in exchange for a free meal. Did he cancel that credit card right away? Nope. He told me that later on, he felt so stupid for trading free food for a plastic card that encouraged him to borrow money.
Do you recall seeing these types of tables set up practically everywhere in a college town? When I think back on it now, I can recognize the brilliance of preying on weak 18-year-olds, but mostly I’m just angry. How dare they seek out young adults who haven’t been properly trained in how to handle money? This is why we have to take responsibility and teach our children how to handle money responsibly. And that’s where you come in! You have to be ready to help your child learn about earning money, tracking spending, and the negative sides of borrowing money. That way, they don’t repeat our mistakes.