The True Cost of Being in Debt – Wasted Opportunities

28-01-2015 | Ramona |

Back in 2008, when I bought a car and financed it, my current husband (boyfriend back then) was shocked to see I was willing to get in debt for a car. While I was very optimistic about being able to pay it (even if it was a pretty big chunk of my paycheck), he was horrified that something could go wrong. I was working on my small web design business as well, so I didn’t have just my wage to count on. And nothing could go wrong. Right?

14 months into my 4 year car contract the radio station closes down and we’re all left unemployed. There were already rumors for half an year and a huge red light was having our executive fired. He was replaced by a colleague who didn’t have too much in common with leadership or anything similar.

I was annoying with her every day, but couldn’t afford losing my job, since I had debt for 3 more years. So I just stayed there and went through all the crap, since my options were limited. When the radio closed down, I felt a bit of relief, knowing I don’t have to deal with this, but I was also scared because I had almost no income to count on (the design business was barely working – I never focused on it properly).

By the end of 2009 I was in dire straits. Was working a lot to earn some money for my now full time freelancing career and had absolutely no perspectives or goals: I was just trying to pay off my car and see what else life brings me.

That autumn my husband’s friend from NYC came to visit us. He invited us both to his home there, something that seemed absolutely impossible to fathom: we needed a tourist visa (and they are not given out like candy in Romania, if I may say) and also a lot of money. Let’s say our tickets there would be at least 1500 bucks, which is HUGE in a country where most of the population earns probably 400 bucks/month (and these are already good wages).

I just said that it’s gonna be impossible until I pay off my debt and didn’t bother with the thought.

My husband is on the stubborn side though and he took it step by step: What do we need? Visas, money, tickets.

Believe it or not, we did get the visa in January 2010. I still cannot imagine what luck struck us, but it did. Both of us had 10 year tourist visas. My husband sold some of his prized coins to fund our trip, I was working like crazy to earn more money to cover some of our costs and also make my big monthly payments.

We got our tickets and spent 6 AMAZING MONTHS with them from March till September. And we did it again in 2011 and 2012. I had to sell 3 of my sites in 2011 to afford tickets and some of the costs, but it was OK. Then my business really picked up and 2012 meant having my car paid off entirely and a good income.

Being in debt for me meant having my wings cut. I had to deal with a crappy boss, since I wouldn’t dream of telling her to shove it and move on. No, I had payments to make each month and absolutely no other chance to make it work. I was willing to forgo the BIGGEST of my lifetime opportunities (spend 18 months in one of the most amazing cities in the world), just because I was sure we couldn’t make it.

Fortunately my husband was stubborn enough and had some good coins to sell for our dream to come true. Being there meant I was able to learn a lot from our friends (they are amazing people and also parents), my business grew exponentially and I got the chance to visit New York, which is absolutely tremendous.

This is the reason why I wouldn’t be willing to get back into debt too soon anymore. It’s not all about the money, even if, knowing I owe money wouldn’t help me sleep too tight, but I would probably lack the COURAGE to go live my dreams. Now, if we want to leave the country to go live who knows where, I’d do it in a heartbeat and have no fear about it.

There are no words to say how much we thank our amazing friends for their generosity and kindness. We were family to them and this experience helped us bond together better and also taught us a lot about parenting and relationships. When our friend told us to come and visit, I was just thinking he’s smoking something good: we were both unemployed (husband left his job that autumn, too), little money in our accounts and I was in huge debt.

Yet, we were LUCKY. This is what I always say when it comes to my freelancing success story or anything like this: I was lucky to be able to establish my small business this fast, to make good use of all the years I was so passionate about web design (since 2002), even if it was just a hobby, lucky to have an amazing family (my folks paid my day-to-day expenses and put food on the table for me) and to find some terrific clients who have taught me a lot about running a business and about being a good human being after all.

What about you? What’s the biggest set back for you when it comes to debt? Do you fear that you let good opportunities slide by just because you need to focus on paying you debt? Do you dislike the idea of having to give money to the bank each month? The uncertainty that tomorrow you might be jobless just like I was in 2009?

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Recent Comments

  • James W. @ London Web Design

    January 28, 2015 at 8:12 pm

    We’re doing better financially here (bigger wages, clearly) and still you don’t say no to 18 months in NYC. Good you were able to make it work, I think you’d never have forgiven yourself for this.

  • James@StartingNegative

    January 29, 2015 at 4:11 am

    I really need to spend some time in NYC. Definitely on the bucket list.

    Would you say no to any type of debt? For me, investment property and further education seem like cases where I’d consider more debt.

    • dojo

      January 29, 2015 at 8:20 am

      Right now I would only take on a mortgage, if we needed it. I’d try to save money for anything else (it’s true college education here is not as pricey, so, with a little saving effort, I could pay it from the pocket). I don’t take loans to fund a business, was able to grow mine with no initial investment (it’s true there’s a lot of work though :))

  • Fig

    January 29, 2015 at 9:01 pm

    Right now the only debt I would take on is a mortgage and that’s only if it was with my partner and I couldn’t rent. I’m honestly annoyed at having a car payment and would like to ditch it soon. It’s something I didn’t consider when I got my car, but having a monthly debt payment of any kind limits options!

    • dojo

      January 30, 2015 at 8:05 am

      The good thing with the car payment is that it’s probably not for a long time (compared to a mortgage), so you can solve the problem faster. Mine was for 4 years. Not nice, but still it didn’t drag for too long.

  • Steve Adcock

    January 30, 2015 at 2:23 pm

    Opportunity lost is an important element of debt that most people don’t consider. The immediate elephant in the room is, well, that potentially huge dollar figure that needs to be paid back. But the more “intangible” effect of debt, like you’re saying, is the boxed-in feeling that you get when you simply can’t afford to be more flexible in what you do for a living, or how long you are willing to put up with a bad situation.

    My parents taught me about debt from a very early age, so I never had debt aside from a mortgage and a small car payment. I know now that I should not have even had that car payment, but eh, nobody is perfect. You live and learn.

    But, I did go from being a single dude with 2 cars and a sport bike motorcycle, commuting 40 minutes into work each and every day…to marriage with two salaries and saving one entirely, NO commute because I work from home and a goal to retire before I hit 40.

    I like the change that I made, and luck had absolutely nothing to do with it.

  • PrankFrank

    September 19, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    Wasted opportunities come in many forms, and no matter what they are, I’m absolutely positive most people regret getting themselves into debt in the first place. I’m really happy to hear things worked in your favor in the end, but I get the sense you’re happier about the ‘lesson’ you’ve learned, am I right?

    • Ramona

      September 21, 2015 at 10:45 am

      I am clearly not gonna get blindly into debt anymore, like I did before. While it’s a happy-ending story, it was stressful and we could have lost some really amazing opportunities.

  • timba

    September 28, 2015 at 7:56 am

    I think the problem with being in debt is that, to most people, debt is normal! It’s advertised everywhere you look!

    Just last week I had an appointment with my bank, to discuss some minor details regarding my bank account, and I noticed they went out of their way to try and get me to buy fancy gadgets, in installments! I told them I already have a laptop and phone and TV…. but they kept insisting buying new items, in small installments, is worth it and everyone does it (I almost felt something was wrong with me for saying no!). So, yes, since everyone advertises it in such an aggressive manner, people think it’s OK to get into debt, since everyone does it…

    • Ramona

      October 4, 2015 at 10:55 am

      Banks will do everything in their power to get more people to sign up for their loans. It’s what they do 🙂

      You do need to be strong and know exactly what you need. If a loan is not something that you gotta have, then just ignore them and move on.

  • Jasmine2015

    October 4, 2015 at 1:26 am

    I totally agree about debit making you miss other opportunities. It is one thing to be broke and can’t do anything. It is another to be in debit and can’t do anything. Although I feel strongly about making sure I pay back what I owe, I can’t help but feel “suffocated” when having to pay back money. It’s like my freedom is gone.

    • Ramona

      October 4, 2015 at 11:59 am

      I had the same feeling. While the first loan was easy to pay back (the monthly payments were way smaller, compared to how much I earned), the second loan (the car payments), was absolutely suffocating. And, losing my job one year in my payment contract was pretty stressful as well.

  • kinga

    October 26, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    It’s true, being in debt means making sacrifice after sacrifice, in order to get out of it. I’m happy things worked out well for you, I really am! But I’m positive this almost never happens in most cases, most people I know who are in debt can’t afford too many luxuries, if any at all.

  • Candy_gurl

    November 19, 2015 at 8:48 am

    I personally know many who get in debt after debt after debt. Like, say someone has credit card debt, they still get a loan to buy a car and then they get yet another loan, to consolidate the debt they have so far. It’s nuts! Yet, thousands and thousands of people end up to be forever in debt! It’s like, open your eyes, people!

  • Jimmy89

    December 30, 2015 at 8:59 pm

    Being in debt is really, really bad. Period. It doesn’t even matter what kind of debt your’re in, big or small, mortgage or something less important, being in debt is like… having your hands tied! Not to mention how difficult it is to save money while you have to pay installments… I should know, I’ve been there!

  • Tools for Docs

    August 26, 2016 at 1:41 am

    Another thing I’ve noticed is always that for many people, bad credit is the reaction to circumstances outside of their control. Such as they may be really saddled by having an illness so they really have excessive bills going to collections. It can be due to a work loss or perhaps the inability to do the job. Sometimes divorce process can truly send the budget in the undesired direction. Many thanks sharing your notions on this weblog.

  • rz3300

    October 8, 2016 at 6:00 pm

    These are really where knowing and thinking about those things like externalities comes into play. There are things that you are spending and saving that are more than money and are in different forms, and wasted opportunity is certainly one of those. I do know there are opportunity costs, but now I need to go research a little bit because I am not sure where those come into play.

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