I’ve got a bit of a confession to make.
It’s something I don’t tell a lot of people about (in fact, I’m pretty sure my parents have never heard this).
You see, I haven’t always made the best choices in the world. Sometimes though, it’s helpful to look back so that you can learn from your mistakes, and to see how far you’ve come.
That’s what I’m going to do today.
Most of my debt is in the form of student loans. I don’t think student loans in themselves are a bad thing. They’re just another other tool. If used appropriately, they can really help you. If not, they can hurt you equally as bad.
I only have two private student loans: both were originally for $25,000. One was taken out in 2006, the other in 2007. I wasn’t completely dumb at the time; I knew they had to be paid back. 18-year-old me just didn’t know how hard that would be. I didn’t count on things falling through like they did.
Related post: The Financial Reality of Being a Broke Biologist
Today, my student loan balance has grown from the initial $50,000 to $56,541.79 due to interest charges. I’ll be paying interest on it for quite a while before I even bring the total back down to the original $50,000.
This brings me to my confession. Obviously, I paid for school, but I used it for living expenses as well. In my 19-year-old brain, I thought this meant I could use it for anything I wanted, because obviously I was alive. Duh.
I also know that I’m not the only one. According to a survey by LendEDU, nearly 31% of college students expect to spend some of their student loan money on spring break. Come on, guys, learn from my mistakes!
The Worst Student Loan Purchases I Made
Three months of “free” living
I was the worst college student right out of the gate. I had to repeat my first two years entirely.
Thankfully, once I got going I got my act together in a hurry. By the time I graduated I had been nominated by the professors as the best student of the year in my degree program.
One of the worst things I did was stop going to class entirely during my second year. It was just too cold out and my bed was just too warm.
In one of my least-brilliant moves, I didn’t put in for a partial refund or anything. I paid for the semester in full even though I didn’t attend. I didn’t even have a job at this time, so for the next three months until the spring semester started, I lived entirely off of student loan money.
29-year-old me to 19-year-old me: Put some big girl panties on and be an adult! I’m giving up all of my extra book-reading time now to pay for your extra naps!
Vacation to visit a boyfriend (now ex-boyfriend)
29-year-old me to 19-year-old me: You can do better. Financially and in the man department.
Related: If you have student loans too, it never hurts to check if you can get a lower rate. It could save you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan. I love LendEDU (affiliate link) because you can compare a bunch of lenders for free and it won’t hurt your credit score. Booyah!
SO much yarn
I am a knitter, and yarn used to be my retail therapy. Any fellow knitters know what I’m talking about; ask them about their stash.
Unfortunately for my finances today, I didn’t buy your garden-variety yarn. I had an expensive habit that could rival that of any drug addict. I never liked the cheap stuff; only the finest virgin baby alpaca/rambouillet yarn would do. I would go out at least once a week and buy the prettiest yarn just for the sake of it.
I still buy the expensive stuff today, but my methods have changed. I’ll only shell out the big bucks once every year or two now, only if I have a pattern already selected, and only if I’ve already saved up the cash for it thanks to our budget.
29-year-old me to 19-year-old me: I know the rambouillet is soft and fun to knit. But not having to work days and nights for the next twenty years is even more fun.
Spinning wheel and drum carder
For the grand finale, I bought a brand new spinning wheel and drum carder for $1,540. You probably don’t even know what those are, and that probably speaks to how important they are for a newly-released “adult” to buy.
A drum carder is used to comb fibers from a raw sheep’s fleece into something you can then spin into yarn, using the spinning wheel.
My 19-year-old mind thought that I was going to make a business out of it, which was basically the excuse I used whenever I wanted to try an uber-expensive new hobby. I made a grand total of $0 on any of the yarn I ever made.
I still keep these around today because every once in a while I do like to break it out of the closet and spin some yarn. There’s something badass about making your own stuff.
It’s something that I keep telling myself I’d like to do more of when I retire, and I don’t want to have to buy the whole damn set all over again, so I guess I’ll just lug it around with me for the next 40 years. Sigh.
29-year-old me to 19-year-old me: Words. Fail. Me.
Was it worth it?
That’s a lot of wasted money that I could be using today for other things, like not being in debt. Was taking out the student loans really worth it?
Ultimately, I do think the student loans were worth it. I wouldn’t be here today—wherever that is—without them.
But, at the same time, I do wish I would have spent my money wiser. I just didn’t realize how much blood, sweat, and tears would go into paying them back. To have the burden lessened even a little bit would save me a world of problems today.
Guys, don’t leave me hanging. What were some of your worst student loan purchases? What would you tell your younger self? Leave a comment below!