I have been working on getting out of debt for the last 13 months, during which I’ve been able to eliminate (and charge up again, and finally eliminate) my credit card debt, as well as a fair amount of student car loans. During this time, quite a few changes have happened – I mostly finished school (more on that later), I was made a job offer that was eventually rescinded, was unemployed for the first month of my debt free quest, found full time employment but still searched for a job with benefits, found another job 2 months later, and have been working 2 jobs, at least 6 days and 70 hours per week since November. As you can imagine, there’s not really that much time for a break to do much of anything but work (and write), but it’s a life that I don’t mind all that much.
Also during this time, I had been forgoing mostly anything that involved a trip until earlier this month. I did plenty of things that I consider fun, mostly involving physical labor (in my mind, it’s really fun). Unfortunately, I never got a chance to leave town and take a break from working to see new things and basically do nothing.
Back in February, I saw a deal from Frontier Airlines that I couldn’t pass up. They were offering enough frequent flyer miles for a free ticket if you purchased a 1st class ticket (originating from a few airports) on the Frontier. I had a gift card laying around that was nearing a year in age, so I decided that turning that gift card plus a bit of cash into two tickets was something I could divert a bit of cash from my debt repayment strategy from. I bought a the ticket, and started planning (in my head, at least) my vacation to Alaska with the free miles. Unfortunately, that was not to be, as it’s almost impossible to get to Alaska with frequent flyer miles. I instead decided to go to Georiga.
I was able to pay for the whole trip with cash (although I occasionally used my credit card for the mileage points (so I can get more free tickets and more vacations) and it was the first time I think I’ve ever been able to do that. When I got back (and sometimes during the trip), I couldn’t help but thinking that I’m not focused enough on my debt and should not have taken the vacation because it could have waited until I was out of debt.
When I got home, I decided to try to figure out how far behind it put me. Unfortunately, the numbers are not good. I estimated that without my vacation, I could have paid off my smallest student loan this month or come darn close to doing so. Given the money that I spent plus the lost earnings from not being able to work, I’m fairly sure it would have been really, really close.
While this is all unfortunate, the more I thought about it, the more I was glad I did it. I would have had to use that free airline ticket by Dec 31 either way, and I’m not sure I would have been able to find the time to go any other time. That right there would be quite a bit of value that had evaporated that wouldn’t have been able to go to debt. I also considered this trip a reward for being able to pay off my credit cards after almost 5 years of carrying a balance.
On the whole though this trip was more than worth it. I had a great time with my travel companion, saw some really sweet stuff at the aquarium and the world of coke, and enjoyed not having to get up before 5am every day. While I may not be as close to student loan debt freedom as I could be, the habits that I’ve picked up over the last year will continue to stay with me and make that day come at some point. My vacation may have just pushed it down the road a bit.
To me, this does not seem like that big of a deal, but to some, it’s close to heresy. Sure, 1 of my student loans could have most likely been paid off by the end of August (but I had not known that at the time) but taking a break from the work has sort of recharged me and has geared me up for another 5-6 months of 18-20 hour days, 20,000 more miles driven, and long work weeks. If that were to change, however, I’d be all for that as well.
Have you ever spent money on fun when you were in debt, but in control of your debt? Was it worth it?