The Gift Of Debt – Enjoying My Hobby

gift of debt

This post is part of The Gift of Debt Series an eight-day, multi-blogger extravaganza hosted by The Fiscal Flamingo. The series is designed to give you the permission to kick up your heels, embrace your debt with glee and look forward to finding the gold at the end of the rainbow. Follow along in the series as we tell the story of our gift and encourage you to find yours.

Yes, you read the title correctly.  This is a post about the gift of debt.  Now, how can anyone with debt even think it is a gift?  Well, I used to be in debt.  When you get out of it, you realize that debt actually gave you a gift. The gift is different for each person and I am no different.  Debt gave me many things, but it also gave me a new perspective on my finances.  Debt gave me the ability to enjoy hobbies again without worrying where the money was coming from.

When I was in my spending phase, I would pay for everything with my credit cards.  I would continue to add to my debt balance and have no regard for how much I owed.  I would go out and have fun, go on trips, and just enjoy life.  It is really fun until you look at your credit card balance.  After mine reached over $50,000, I realized my spending lifestyle was detrimental.  I needed a change.

As I have spoke before, I went from being a spender to a saver as I paid off my debt.  By the time I paid off my last credit card balance, I was all about saving money.  My mindset had changed.  Yes, it took four years, but I did get to the end of the tunnel.  The light at the end was quite refreshing.

After I paid off my debt, I wanted to start enjoying my hobbies again. I do have many of them, but two of my favorites are hiking and working on cars.  Yes, one is incredibly cheap and one is incredibly expensive.  We love what we love and I am not changing.

Though I loved working on cars, I always just worked on my daily driver.  If anyone who works on cars can tell you, never make changes to your daily driver.  I learned that the hard way before I went to college.  Long story, but important lesson learned.

A Project Vehicle

My New Jeep Project

My latest Jeep project

One goal of mine when I got out of debt was to buy a project vehicle. I have always been a fan of Jeep Wranglers, so that was my choice.  I get to go out and four-wheel with my brother a few times a year and we always have a good time.  I wanted to have a Jeep in order to take part in all of the festivities instead of just riding along.  With my goal in hand, I had to start working.

Because of debt, I learned a new way of purchasing a vehicle.  I could have just got another loan and worked on paying it off, but I wanted to do something a little different.    I wanted to save for the vehicle.

Buying a vehicle is a lot of money, but it doesn’t stop there.  When I get a project vehicle, I have to create a budget for the things that I want to do to it.  When you are working on a Jeep, I need to think about lifting it, adding body protection, new gears, axles, tires, and many other aspects.  It can cost a lot.

If I didn’t have debt, I would just load up the credit card and buy all of the things that I need immediately.  After debt, I didn’t even think of that.  I created a savings goal for each thing and would only buy those items when I saved for them.  It made buying the items more rewarding. When you save for something, you enjoy it much more.

Credit Is Not Bad

Oh yes, I just said that.  Another gift that debt gave me was to understand that credit and loans were not the problem, I was.  I was the one causing all of the havoc on my finances.  Credit cards are just tools that you can use.  You choose how to use them.

For my latest project Jeep, I decided to use credit to my advantage.  Yes, I used a loan to buy the car.  Now, before you jump on me for this decision and how I would write about how debt changed me and then get another loan, let me explain.

The first thing I did before I bought the Jeep was to save over three times the amount of the car.  I saved it up.  Since I have a really good credit score, I get access to some of the best loan rates.  I found that I would get an auto loan that would end up costing me very little over the life of the loan.  I also realized that I would make more money in my online savings account than what the loan would cost me.  So, here is what I did.

I put the cost of the Jeep into my savings account to earn the interest.  I then put the same amount into my investment account that is earning me 8% per year.  I then got the auto loan.  With all of this, I realized that I could make money by not spending it on the Jeep upfront.

Yes, debt has given me many gifts.  It has changed my mindset, but it also let me realize that you can use credit to your advantage.  You just have to understand how to do it.  Is it really a bad idea?  I don’t think so.  Why shouldn’t you use the tools to your advantage?  I know that debt is scary.  I have been there and done that, but I now know that you don’t have to be scared of it.  You don’t have to be scared of loans or credit cards.  You need to understand how to use them wisely.  You change your mindset and you financial lifestyle changes.  It is that simple.

So, if you have been in debt, what gift do you think debt gave you?  Did it give you a better appreciation for your money?  Did debt push you to make the necessary changes to your lifestyle?  I want to hear from you!

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Grayson Bell

Grayson Bell

I'm a business owner, blogger, father, and husband. I used credit cards too much and found myself in over $75,000 in debt ($50,000 in just credit cards). I paid it off, started this blog, and my financial life has changed. I now talk about fighting debt and growing wealth here. I run a WordPress maintenance and support company, along with another blog. It is Empowered Shopper, which helps people get information about products they want to buy. You can also check out Eyes on the Dollar, which is a great blog that I co-own.


  1. November 11, 2013 at 7:13 am — Reply

    That’s really cool that you feel like you’ve benefited from being in debt. While it’s likely not your preferred method of learning, it’s great perspective to have at this point!

    • November 14, 2013 at 10:34 am — Reply

      I think most people that get out of debt finally realize that they benefited from it.

  2. November 11, 2013 at 8:37 am — Reply

    Well I’m still in debt from student loans and I’d say the biggest thing it’s given me is the motivation to pursue my side hustles (blogging and spreadsheet work). If I wasn’t in debt with student loans I likely wouldn’t be nearly as committed to making side hustles work, so I really do have to give it credit for that.

    • November 14, 2013 at 10:34 am — Reply

      I agree DC. I have a huge motivation to pursue more income opportunities.

  3. November 11, 2013 at 8:41 am — Reply

    I think the one thing debt has done for me is forced me to become a budgeter and also to think outside the box. I am constantly asking myself, “How can I do better?”

    • November 14, 2013 at 10:35 am — Reply

      Thinking outside of the box is really important.

  4. November 11, 2013 at 9:23 am — Reply

    That’s a great way to look at it Grayson! I had many of the same takeaways myself. For some crazy reason, I tend to like to learn things the hard way, so I guess it makes sense that it happened for me. The gift to me was learning how to appreciate money and the value of hard work to save up for something I wanted. Those lessons have been invaluable for me ever since.

    • November 14, 2013 at 10:35 am — Reply

      Yeah, I am with you there John. Unfortunately, learning the hard way is the way it gets drilled into your head.

  5. November 11, 2013 at 9:48 am — Reply

    I am also often thankful for my debt (as odd as that sounds). I wouldn’t be the person I am today, with a strong marriage, better handle on my finances, and a better perspective on life, if I hadn’t gone through this experience of paying off a mountain of debt.
    On a separate topic….while I agree with you that Credit is not inherently bad and can be used as a tool, each person has to determine whether they are able to responsibly use it. Would I like to think that one day I could responsibly use credit cards to my advantage? Sure…but I’m very skeptical, as I’m a habitual abuser. Some people can drink for fun, others are alcoholics….

    • November 14, 2013 at 10:36 am — Reply

      Thanks for the comment Travis. You are absolutely correct and something that I have said in almost every post about credit cards. You have to know if you can use them wisely or not. I can’t tell you that. If you aren’t comfortable picking them up again, then don’t.

  6. November 11, 2013 at 10:34 am — Reply

    It’s great to read about how you can enjoy your hobbies again now that you’re debt free and even better about how you now use credit to your advantage! Love the jeep! I’m still at the changing mindset stage and if I’m honest I do fear credit cards and loans right now. I’m sure that will change further along in my journey to debt freedom! I do think debt has given me a gift and that is how it’s shown me what my future could hold once I’ve dealt with my debts. It’s definitely been a learning experience!

    • November 14, 2013 at 10:37 am — Reply

      I feared credit cards and loans, but my mindset changed quickly because I realized that they can be used for good. You just have to take the time to understand how you plan on using them.

  7. November 11, 2013 at 11:17 am — Reply

    That’s so funny that you wrote about this, because my husband and I have been debating the same thing about a vehicle purchase- it is better to pay cash or get a loan and invest the money. We’re in need of a daily driver, not a project car though. At least in our area, getting a loan through the dealer can sometimes allow you to get a better deal on the cost of the vehicle (since the auto dealer figures they will make money off you over the course of the loan so they can give you a break on the price). We could then just pay off the loan right away if we wanted. We’re still debating that one.

    • November 14, 2013 at 10:38 am — Reply

      I was able to get a very low auto loan rate and the math just moved me toward the financing aspect. One thing I would say is that you need to have some money in a safe account just in case your investments get killed. I had the loan amount in savings and I put the same amount in my investment account. I had to keep my risk low.

  8. November 11, 2013 at 11:28 am — Reply

    I’m a believer that if you created the debt through over spending,( not by medical hardships, losing one’s job) then you should pay that debt back on your own not through bankruptcy. I know from experience. It’s the only way one learns. I’ve seen too many people go right back and rack up debt again because they didn’t learn from their mistakes. It takes commitment and hard work to pay back debt. I learned and now I’m proud of being debt free. Through the help of an organization, Consumer Credit Counseling, they can put you back on the right track. You’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel and be free again.

    • November 14, 2013 at 10:39 am — Reply

      I am also in that camp Patty. I knew that I created the debt, so I had to pay it off. I didn’t want to get help from others. It takes time, but if you get yourself in a mess, you need to get yourself out.

  9. November 11, 2013 at 11:32 am — Reply

    I think one of the most amazing things about getting out of debt is starting to put those payments in retirement accounts and savings accounts and seeing how the interest finally starts working FOR you.

    • November 14, 2013 at 10:40 am — Reply

      The beauty of compound interest can really make you excited to save.

  10. November 11, 2013 at 12:09 pm — Reply

    Nice lessons Grayson. I think we often learn the most from the difficult situations we find ourselves in. We can be very resourceful and creative, but it often takes our backs being against the wall to find that out about ourselves. It’s great that you were able to learn such a balanced set of lessons here.

    • November 14, 2013 at 10:41 am — Reply

      I certainly agree Matt. You are correct.

  11. November 11, 2013 at 1:28 pm — Reply

    A lot of people become very wealthy using debt. If the return on your investment is greater than the amount you pay on the debt, than you are using arbitrage to skim the difference in your favor. This is how people who buy up houses or real estate do it. They know what they’re doing and make good choices in debt that will lead to more wealth. Imagine all the jeep projects you could buy yourself then 🙂

    • November 14, 2013 at 10:42 am — Reply

      Yes they do. I have learned quite a bit when looking at how you can use debt to your advantage. If you have a good credit score and know how to spread your risk around, then it is not as hard as it seems.

      I like the sound of Jeep projects!

  12. Romona @Monasez
    November 11, 2013 at 2:30 pm — Reply

    Being in debt has helped me change my way of thinking about money as well. Also, when I’m paying off my debt and I make minor accomplishments, I really feel proud which is a great feeling. So having debt kind of helped me to know that I can do what I put my mind to.

    • November 14, 2013 at 10:42 am — Reply

      It is a great feeling Romona. I remember those little wins.

  13. November 11, 2013 at 2:49 pm — Reply

    Debt can impart some powerful lessons. I love that helped you learn to truly enjoy your hobbies. It does feel differently when we can enjoy them knowing we are creating debt. I can see your son helping you rebuild cars when he gets a bit older and go four-wheeling with you. It’s the way I feel about traveling. We could go on big trips every year if we used our credit card. But I also know every time someone would slide our credit card, my stomach would just ache knowing that I didn’t have to money to pay it back. Waiting two years to save money for a big trip may not be very glamorous, but I also felt great every minute of the trip too! And yes, I agree – credit cards are not bad. We just need to use them right and to our advantage.

    • November 14, 2013 at 10:44 am — Reply

      I am really hoping my son will love to play with cars with me. I look forward to that time!

  14. November 11, 2013 at 3:06 pm — Reply

    Having debt has taught me not to make the same mistakes in life that many people do, meaning go after things like brand new cars because I’m “supposed to”. I’m still a ways away on my debt repayoff so I’m still learning but I know I’m a lot better off than many people out there.

    I also agree about credit cards. I take lots of advantage of the free rewards I get so I’m a big fan of using them responsibly.

    • November 14, 2013 at 10:46 am — Reply

      That is a great lesson Tara. That will take you very far in life!

  15. November 11, 2013 at 4:40 pm — Reply

    Wow. Thinking back, it was the fact that we had so much debt that was a catalyst for almost everything I do today. Because we got out of debt in 18 months we were able to be a national TV, I was able to start my own business and now I am able to help others get out of debt as well. Being in debt truly made me feel like a slave and now that we are no longer controlled by it, life is so much more enjoyable.

    • November 14, 2013 at 10:47 am — Reply

      Same here Deacon. Debt has pushed me to do more with what I have and not accept the norm.

  16. Girl Meets Debt
    November 11, 2013 at 4:43 pm — Reply

    I’m not debt-free yet, so I don’t think I have received the “grand prize” but so far the gift that debt has given me is the belief that if I really want to accomplish something, something as scary as climbing out of a $55K hole is possible. Great post Grayson!

    • November 14, 2013 at 10:47 am — Reply

      It certainly is possible and I know you will get there. The prize is waiting for you Wendy!

  17. November 11, 2013 at 10:36 pm — Reply

    I agree with Wendy, not debt free yet but getting there, slowly. It’s made me realize exactly what I’m able to accomplish.

    • November 14, 2013 at 10:52 am — Reply

      Glad you were able to see what you can do and good luck in the rest of your journey.

  18. November 11, 2013 at 10:36 pm — Reply

    Debt made me start being serious with my finances and started repaying it actively. I also learned that credit cards are not evil. It’s how you use them.

    • November 14, 2013 at 10:53 am — Reply

      I learned the same thing about credit cards. Glad you got a little gift from debt.

  19. November 12, 2013 at 12:14 am — Reply

    Excellent article. I learned a ton from my debt. I especially learned that the “cool” feeling of buying something always came with an ugly aftertaste when you bought it on credit. Now that I’ve learned that lesson, I’m able to now better control my spending.

    • November 14, 2013 at 10:53 am — Reply

      I remember that aftertaste. There was nothing fun about it.

  20. November 12, 2013 at 1:06 am — Reply

    When I was little, we didn’t have any money at all, except for that which we were indebted for. My mom financed all of our extra curriculars and other things, to help us feel like we were living a normal life with our peers. It was a great childhood and it wouldn’t have been possible without my mom going into debt because of it. So… that was OUR gift, though it, I’m sure, was no gift to my mother.

    • November 14, 2013 at 10:55 am — Reply

      It is amazing to see what parents will do to make a life for their children.

  21. November 12, 2013 at 1:27 am — Reply

    If anything debt has taught me the value of creativity and hardwork. Its said necessity fosters innovation, well, on the journey to repay debt I’ve had to take on some creative approaches and projects. Learnt a side of myself I did know of before.
    Perhaps to echo something you’ve said, now I also enjoy saving for something and the definite resultant pleasure that comes at the end when I buy it.

    • November 14, 2013 at 10:55 am — Reply

      Necessity does foster innovation and you can get creative when you are in debt. I know I have.

  22. November 12, 2013 at 8:16 am — Reply

    Rockin’ Jeep, my friend!!!! Like Travis, debt has given us the gift of a stronger marriage, and it’s also really instilled in our kids the dangers and the burden of a lot of debt. For these things, I am definitely grateful.

    • November 14, 2013 at 10:57 am — Reply

      Thank you Laurie. I enjoy it! I don’t think my debt gave me a stronger marriage, but shutting down my business did.

  23. November 12, 2013 at 8:41 am — Reply

    Debt financing is a great way to pursue your hobby, especially if your interest lays in selling the cars you fix up. Many people do the same with houses. Buy them with financing, fix them up, and sell them for a profit. The business model does not work without financing.

    • November 14, 2013 at 10:58 am — Reply

      You are correct Kevin. While I don’t have any plans to sell this Jeep, the interest rate is slow low that I make more money in my savings account.

  24. November 12, 2013 at 9:49 pm — Reply

    Your point on credit cards being a tool is a great one. I’m hoping that when I can get out of this debt mess we’re in, we can finally learn how to use our cards properly.

    Killer Jeep too! My husband wants an old VW bus to have the same kind of car-repair therapy.

    • November 14, 2013 at 10:59 am — Reply

      Thank you for the words on the Jeep. Credit cards can be used wisely as millions of people do it everyday. You just have to understand your spending habits and what you do when you use them.

  25. November 13, 2013 at 2:07 am — Reply

    Not even close to being debt free, but debt forces you to be creative in ways you might have overlooked previously. Sounds like you got out of debt and found new ways to engage with your hobbies. I love it!

    • November 14, 2013 at 11:00 am — Reply

      You are correct. Debt makes you think outside of the box.

  26. November 13, 2013 at 1:06 pm — Reply

    My largest lesson from debt was to never let myself go there again.

    Since then, I’ve tempered that lesson into the classic – never go into debt to acquire depreciating assets. So mortgage is ok, but car loan is not. That said, I’d rather not have the mortgage, so I work on paying that down as quickly as possible.

    There are many arguments for debt, and its positive uses. However, I’ve learned from my own experience that it is worth a significant amount of money to me to be out of debt. So the idea of leveraging debt to generate cash flow or because of the opportunity cost of savings may work for some people, and the math may even make sense, but I don’t like having the debt hanging over me.

    I have enough worries in my life without having to worry about optional debt.

    • November 14, 2013 at 11:02 am — Reply

      I can understand your point about debt. There is nothing wrong with that. It all depends on how you feel about it and how you deal with debt. I made mistakes, but I don’t blame the credit cards and I don’t mind using debt for my advantage. If the math works in my favor, I will take it. I do make sure to keep my risk low by having cash available to handle the debt, but not everyone can do that.

  27. November 14, 2013 at 3:35 pm — Reply

    Debt is certainly a gift I don’t want. Ha! But I’m glad it made you realize your true hobbies and that you learned from them. Your hobbies didn’t go away, instead you’re still enjoying them now, you just learned how to plan better and to learn to pay for the things you need ahead of time. As you said “when you save for something, you enjoy it much more”. I think that’s a great lesson!

    • November 14, 2013 at 3:43 pm — Reply

      Haha, well I wouldn’t say the debt was a gift, but the lessons learned from debt. If someone gave me debt as a gift, I would stop talking to them!

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