There was a question posted in a fun Facebook group that I’m a part of the other day. The question was “What bad financial decisions have you made?”.
This question actually hit home with me as I sat and thought about my answer. My wife and I have done quite a few dumb things with money over the years. We’ve paid our fair share of “stupid tax” that we’ve since cleaned up. It’s amazing what kind of messes we can get ourselves into when we’re ignorant or lusting after an impulse buy.
The story I want to tell happened almost 10 years ago.
It’s not a pretty story, but it’s worth a read so I thought I’d share.
It all started when my wife and I got engaged. We did what most couples do. She signed up to go to a few bridal expos to get some ideas for the wedding. Little did we know that we were making the worst financial decision up to that point. At the expo, she was filling out information at many booths, trying to win something. We didn’t realize that these companies were just offering us a chance to win to collect our personal information to try to sell to us. She came back, excited about all the new ideas that she had gotten. She was also excited to have networked with many wedding professionals.
About a week went by and we didn’t think much of it.
That is, until we got a call saying we had “won” a giveaway. We were so excited! We were told we could get a free vacation to an all-inclusive resort in Cancun, Mexico. All we had to do was sit through a presentation. There was no obligation to buy, we just would tell them we weren’t interested and they’d give us the voucher. I’m sure you’ve heard this type of story before and you would never fall for something like this, right? We were young (early 20s) and thought we were smarter than them and could get a deal though.
Anyway, we decided to go and get the voucher so that we could use it for our honeymoon. I remember when we were driving there and parking I turned to my fiance and said, “no matter what, we aren’t buying what they are selling. We are just here to get the free vacation and then we’re outta here!”. Those were my famous last words I guess. Ha!
Entering as a team and feeling like we had a plan of action, we found the presentation room.
As we sat down, we counted seven other couples there. I remember looking around and thinking to myself, “well, if they are here, maybe it’s not a scam”. We took our seats after checking in, waiting for the presentation to begin.
I will say the presenter did a great job presenting the Royal Prestige dish sets with pots and pans. He made the dishes and cookware look amazing and easy to use and clean. Now, this is 7 layer surgical steel set of pots and pans and they are concave so you can steam things. And there are a bunch of other features and benefits that had me hooked in about 10 minutes. It was funny in retrospect but really, kind of sad, how fast this presenter had me from “I’m not buying anything, I just want the vacation” to “Honey, we have got to have these, they are going to change the way we cook and entertain for years to come!”
Well, the presentation went on for about 45 minutes and I was gobbling up everything this guy had to sell.
When it came time for the price to come out I thought, “I don’t have that kind of money!”. I think the total was around $3,000 for a set of tableware for eight (yes, eight!) and a full set of pots and pans and bake ware. Of course, when we got our turn to say whether or not we were interested or be pressured into purchasing, I was sold and was already wondering what I had to do to get this set. The salesman that approached me, of course, had the answer that I could just finance it and make small payments and we could have the set in a couple weeks. What a guy.
I remember my wife trying to talk some sense into me, trying to remind me that we didn’t have the money and that we really didn’t need a table set for 8 people. I replied in my impulsive self that we needed to get a nice set of dishes for when we are married and have a house and a full room to entertain. So, she gave in, especially since they sweetened the deal from a 4-night stay to a 6-night stay, and we ended up financing the dishes that night. We went home, excited that we had tableware and cookware already knocked off our list of things that we “needed.”
In a couple weeks, the dishes showed up and we started using them, making a celebration about it.
We did enjoy the dishes, but then the monthly bill started coming in. We found it manageable at first, it was only about $75 a month after all. I remember paying on it for a little while and then I started to get interested in how much we were paying as an interest rate.
I think I got interested because I was starting to look into how to start reducing our debt and try to relieve some of the mounting pressure that was growing as we started to accumulate more and more stuff with debt and the payments were starting to add up. When I found out the interest rate, it really sparked me into my first real, “I’m so sick of this! I’m going to get rid of it!” phase. I found out that we were paying a whopping 24% interest!!! This was absolutely ridiculous. After finding that out I set out to pay that off as fast as I possibly could.
We ended up paying the loan off quite quickly and vowed to never do that again.
I think it ended up taking us almost two years though.
As for the vacation, it’s never as good as the salesman makes it sound. We did end up using it, but it ended up costing us around $700 for the week for the resort, which was pretty nice, but it wasn’t “free.” Going on our honeymoon, which coincidentally, ended up being about 2 weeks before the vacation vouchers expired. Nice memories were made and we had a wonderful time. However, we now pay cash for our vacations and don’t try to get too much for free just by “going through a sales presentation” anymore.
We still have the dishes and use them daily for our family meals. The warranty on the dishes is a 50-year warranty which is very nice. We have used the warranty to replace the glasses and a few of the handles on the pots and pans, so the company is solid. I just didn’t like that we got impulsed into purchasing the dishes on a line of credit and will not be letting our family make that mistake again.
I know many other stories of dumb things I’ve done with money and can tell. It does take a bit of vulnerability to admit stuff like this, but, if it goes towards helping other people steer clear of financial mistakes like this so that they can win, I am all for it!
This post was originally published on MyFamilyOnABudget.com and is republished here with permission.
Photo credit: Getty Images