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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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About Grayson Bell

I am an average Joe, who built up over $50,000 worth of credit card debt and had to learn how to break it back down. It took 4 years of learning budgets, secrets, and many other personal finance tricks in order to cut the debt to $0. Now, I push to teach others not only how to get out of debt, but how to use credit wisely and how to start growing their wealth. You can view my other site, Sprout Wealth for ways to grow your money. I am also a freelance personal finance writer who provides staff writing and ghost writing services.


  1. 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!
    FI Pilgrim recently posted..Seriously. I Really Did Save 15 Percent Or More On Car InsuranceMy Profile

  2. 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.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted..5 Frugal Ways to Celebrate the HolidaysMy Profile

  3. 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?”

  4. 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.
    John S @ Frugal Rules recently posted..What is it That You Prize Most?My Profile

  5. 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….
    Travis @debtchronicles recently posted..Warning: The Long Term Effects of Debt Will SHOCK YouMy Profile

    • 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. 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!
    Hayley @ A Disease Called Debt recently posted..Friday’s Fab Links #16My Profile

    • 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. 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.
    Dee @ Color Me Frugal recently posted..Learning from Money Mistakes #1: Living too high on student loansMy Profile

    • 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. 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.
    Patty Virginia recently posted..Lavender and White Chevron Steering Wheel Cover by EmbellishMePattyVMy Profile

    • 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. 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.
    Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life recently posted..4 Ways To Destroy A Friendship With MoneyMy Profile

  10. 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.
    Matt Becker recently posted..How to Start Investing From Scratch – Part 2My Profile

  11. 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 :)
    MMD recently posted..Could Early Retirement Planning Be Ruining Me?My Profile

    • 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. 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.
    Romona @Monasez recently posted..Monasez Monday Mentions 11/3/13-11/9/13My Profile

  13. 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.
    Shannon @ The Heavy Purse recently posted..What You Need to Know about Life Insurance {Infographic}My Profile

  14. 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.
    Tara @ Streets Ahead Living recently posted..A financial confessionMy Profile

  15. 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.
    Deacon Hayes recently posted..Focus T25 Workout: Time to Get Back in ShapeMy Profile

  16. 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!
    Girl Meets Debt recently posted..Ask the Reader: What is Your Financial Achilles’ Heel?My Profile

  17. I agree with Wendy, not debt free yet but getting there, slowly. It’s made me realize exactly what I’m able to accomplish.
    Catherine recently posted..Finding Happiness in the Little StuffMy Profile

  18. 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.
    Demaish @ Borrowed Cents recently posted..Debt updates and November goalsMy Profile

  19. 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.
    AverageJoe recently posted..7 Simple Steps To Sell Your House FasterMy Profile

  20. 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.
    Daisy @ Add Vodka recently posted..How to Save Money on a Wedding – When You’re a Wedding GuestMy Profile

  21. 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.
    Simon @ Modest Money recently posted..Is Peer To Peer Lending Worth My Investment?My Profile

  22. 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.
    Laurie @thefrugalfafmer recently posted..How Paying off Debt is Like Running a MarathonMy Profile

  23. 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.
    Kevin @ Credit Bureau Insider recently posted..Does Paying Health Insurance Build Credit?My Profile

  24. 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.
    Michelle recently posted..The Big Wedding Budget BreakdownMy Profile

    • 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. 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!
    Dear Debt recently posted..I miss my ex-lover, SavingsMy Profile

  26. 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.
    Jack @ Enwealthen recently posted..Great Enwealthen Anniversary Giveaway 2013My Profile

    • 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. 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!
    Anthony @ Thrifty Dad recently posted..Sweat the small stuff: Why small expenses matterMy Profile

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