Red hates happiness

February 1, 2011 · 46 comments

I have some very disturbing news to share with you all. I just found out my home girl Red, who blogs at Girl With the Red Balloon, hates happiness. She probably also hates puppies, rainbows, and babies, but I’m yet to confirm that. I came to this conclusion after reading this sentence in a recent comment Red left

[…] shouldn’t you be advocating for the most responsible ways to get out of debt? Would you tell a family that is $28,000 in debt to take a vacation? I hope not!

Alright Red, I’ll play your game. Would I tell a family with $28,000 of debt to take a vacation? While I don’t know if I would necessarily beg them to go to Fiji, I probably wouldn’t tell them not to either. I don’t have the authority to tell people what to do with their money. Vacation away my friends!

To be perfectly honest, debt freedom isn’t really that different. Sure, it’s nice not having to send Sallie Mae a check each month, but other than that, nothing’s really changed. I’m still frugal. I still drive the same car. I still buy used furniture off Craigslist.

Don’t get me wrong, being debt free is cool and all, but really it’s just a tiny piece of the personal finance puzzle. I mean how depressing would my life be if my biggest financial milestone is debt freedom? I want more. I want to  have a million dollars in the bank. I want to send a bunch of underprivileged kids to Young Life camp. I want to buy a shark and a pony, force them to make babies, and be the first owner of a ShaPony. I have bigger goals than just paying off a few creditors.

If someone, who has a car payment and a Sallie Mae loan, wants to go to visit friends in France for a week, who am I to tell them not to? Heck, who am I to say taking such a trip would be financially irresponsible? If they make all their payments, I could care less what they do, how quick they get out of debt, or how many vacations they take.

For some (like Red and myself) we wanted nothing more than to pay off all of our creditors. While others might be just fine making minimum payments. And so now I ask you… What’s your debt strategy? Are you keeping some low interest student loans or car payments around? Or did you drink the kool-aid and want nothing more than to scream “I’m debt free”

p.s. I love you Red :)

1 Sally

I love so much about this post. I think a lot of people are under the impression that once they get out of debt life will be easy sailing. I totally agree with you that it’s all about being frugal and responsible with your money, regardless of how much debt you have.

Personally, I’m just a freshman in college and I’m blessed enough to have my parents (and grandpa) pay for all of my necessities (room & board, tuition, books), but one of my goals once I am on my own is to not accrue any consumer debt. I don’t want to be wasting my money on eating out and buying up every scarf and sweater J. Crew makes, as tempting as it may be. I’m sure a car payment will come along and a mortgage will be hard to escape, but I also want to pay those off as quickly as possible while still giving myself enough room to breath and have some sort of emergency fund. I want to be able to serve those that are in need and if I don’t have the money to do that, well it’d be a little difficult, wouldn’t it?

P.S. I’m hopefully going to get placed at a high school in april for YL!! I’m getting so pumped!

2 Ninja

Yes! Is there a Young Life draft where you are? We have one each year and it is quite the event. We ended up with two new leaders from San Diego State. I LOVE YOUNG LIFE!

3 Sally

I think it’s more like a big presentation and no one knows who is getting placed where until the leaders open the card. Staff prays over it a lot and they interview each potential leader to decide if they are right for Young Life and to find out what their ideal demographic would be. I hear it’s really awesome. Some friends from other schools have already been placed and they said placement night was a BLAST!

4 StackingCash

I think when it comes to personal finance blogs, people tend to be a bit sensitive and jealous regarding other people’s money. Flare ups happen, but I feel that’s when the truth comes out too. From that point, the arguments give others several great points of view to use in their personal finance journey. Hmm, I hope that makes some sense in why some of us hates happiness and need drama :) Umm, happiness creates complacency? I better stop, my tangent is going wickedly off.

Our debt strategy was simple. Because we don’t trust the stock market, our best rate of return was to pay off all debts. As you now know, being debt free is pretty damn powerful. Especially when you take those debt payments and put them into your accounts. How is that for a rate of return!

5 LifeAndMyFinances

I would agree with Red. If I knew that my friends were $28,000 in debt and they were planning a vacation, I would probably tell them that they were idiots. I would than probably calculate how much their vacation would actually costs them with the current interest rates. After all, they are my friends, I would have to tell them the truth and open their eyes to their decisions! Right?

6 SS4BC

Oh a post TARGETING Red? You’re so cut throat, Ninja!

Also, Red happiness. She just hates debt. =)

7 SS4BC

*Red LOVES happiness it what that should read. That is what I get for trying to comment at 5 in the morning.

8 Michelle

I don’t have a blog, but if I did, I would totally call out other PF’ers if they weren’t doing what I think they ought to be doing…Not quite Dale Carnegie of me, huh? But in real life, we are on the Dave Ramsey get-out-of-debt-as-fast-as-possible-to-the-point-of-pain plan. No cable, no fancy cellphones, beans & rice, Baby! So I have drink/drank/drunk the Kool-aid…and my family/friends know this. But since they are family/friends – I never tell them WHAT to do, only what I am doing, so that by example setting they can see a different path.

Right now, my stepdaughter and her husband are RACKING UP the consumer and student-loan debt like it’s going out of style. It really hurts to think that they rent and have $75K+ in debt already…and son-in-law just signed up for a $70K masters degree program that I am 100% positive they will finance. SO 2 years from now? They’ll have as much in SLs & consumer debt and my husband & I HAD in mortgages & consumer debt before we started our Total Money Makeover. I’ve toed the fine line between calling them IDIOTS and expressing my concern that they are limiting their options (stepdaughter will be forced into the workplace vice being a Stay-At-Home-Mom because of their debt burden). IT is so hard to watch.

Sorry for the streamofconsciousness.response, but there ya go. I think I’m on Ninja’s side in this discussion – you can’t TELL people what to do, but you can show them how doing it might be better.

9 Michelle

and on the Dave Ramsey front – DH & I started out with $63K in debt (including the IRS and a HEL/2nd on our house that represented 10 years of poor choices) and a $140K first mortgage. As of TODAY, two years or so later, our first is down to $127K and we’re within $10K of paying off everything except the first mortgage. so a $66K turnaround in 24 months. Being “gazelle” works, I tell ya!

10 Kristia@Family Balance Sheet

That is awesom!!

11 Jenn

My husband and I decided to pay off a car loan and my student loans early, as both had what we felt were high interest rates, at around 7%. We decided, however, not to pay off his student loan early, which has an interest rate of about 2%. While we’re frugal about our spending, dislike debt, and have the cash to pay it off in full and still have a great efund with cash leftover, we felt it wasn’t the biggest bang for our buck. Instead we decided to put that money toward a car and house fund. We paid cash for a much needed used car with low miles, thereby
avoiding what would have likely been higher
interest debt. We are now focused on saving for a house DP of 20% or more, plus a fund for furnishings. And we’re planning a nice vacation this summer, to be paid for in cash. To us, these choices make sense.

12 SP

I pay a bit more than the minimum, but I don’t really think of my student loans as some debt burden I’m itching to get rid of. They are low interest, the payments are reasonable, and they are essentially just another bill. I think of it as sending my 18-21 year old self a little peace of mind and happiness (and uh, a college degree). And it really doesn’t worry me.

I probably wouldn’t actually TELL people going on vacation when they were $28k in debt they were idiots, but I’d probably think it to myself.

13 Kevin @ Thousandaire.com

I completely agree with Ninja. In fact, I just posted about how I think the homeless couple who won tickets to the Super Bowl should go to the game instead of selling the tickets for thousands of dollars, because that’s what they want to do. Who am I to tell someone what they should do. I can tell them what might be a good idea, but it’s PERSONAL finance, not SOMEONE ELSE TELLING YOU WHAT TO DO finance.

14 Sara

I completely agree with Kevin (and Ninja, by that logic) – PF should not lead to judgment finance! In fact the most interesting thing Red said in those comments was “It’s all about an individuals’ priorities, and it’s offensive – to me, at least – when people assume that you don’t have a life because you choose to live responsibly and don’t find value in the things they spend money on.”

I think the opposite is also true – it’s offensive, to me, at least, when people assume that if you have any type of debt, but you don’t cancel your cable or refuse to go on vacations, that you’re somehow irresponsible, stupid, an idiot, or any of these other adjectives that have been thrown around. (Red’s comment alone makes it clear that she thinks people who choose to do these things are irresponsible at best.)

Yes, everyone should be encouraging each other to make wise decisions and to live within their means, but those decisions are completely personal in nature, and we shouldn’t be judging each others choices so harshly. A vacation to me may be the biggest source of happiness in my life, and in an overworked society like ours, I think we all need to find our own outlets for our satisfaction, without the judgment of others.

15 Laura

I’m a big believer in having “balance”. The only debt we have is student loan debt (thank goodness I’m the only one with it) and we are trying to pay it down in a reasonable time frame. However, we’re only young once and we try to enjoy our lives rather than constantly saying “no we can’t do that”. We love to travel and I’m not going to give up all vacations in order to pay down my low interest student loans super early. I know most people in the personal finance world don’t agree with us, but it’s what works for us and we’re okay with it.

16 Jenn @ Paying Myself

I am also a big believer in the idea of balance. Yes, I have debt – plenty of it, thanks to going to law school and setting up a business. But I also want to have a life. Last summer I went to Mexico for a week. It cost me just over $1,000 for the trip, plus expenses while we were there – probably around $1,750 when all was said and done. I could have put all that towards my debt but I choose not to. I think it’s important to learn about balance while we’re paying off debt. Most of us got into this mess because we were all “spend spend spend” – and now we need to learn how to spend within our means. If we focus too much on paying down our debt, I think that will eventually be to our detriment because once we’re debt free I can imagine the cycle starting all over again.

17 Jen

As someone who is >more< than $28k in debt, but making big headway in paying it off, I disagree to some extent. Sure, the goal is to get out of debt, but if you can't do the things you enjoy along the way, what is the point of living? It's all about priorities.

Although my husband and I wouldn't go out and spend thousands of dollars on a vacation while in debt, experiences are much more important to us than any material possessions. Right now we're planning a road trip vacation (total cost will probably come in around $500 for a week) and I will be looking forward to this for months. Then, when we get back, I'll be reminiscing about it for months. I will remember a trip like this for the rest of my life – whereas what's another couple weeks of debt repayment in the grand scheme of things?

Life is about balance. If paying off debt ASAP is your top priority, then by all means skip the vacation. But if experiences mean the most to you, then go ahead and take a vacation (but keep the costs in check)!

18 CityFlips

I’ve been a situation in which I still have credit card debt and I have gone on some pretty nice vacations. Here’s the deal though…I still pay way more than the minimum balance on my credit card and I pay cash for the vacations. So yes…I could use that money to pay of debt a wee bit faster, but amazingly, my interest rate is super low for a credit card (7.9%). A while back I set what I thought was a reasonable debt free goal date and I’m still on track for that date. Personally I think it’s great that I’ve been able to make sacrifices to save enough cash to pay for both vacations and credit card debt at the same time. Like I said yesterday, I just can’t deal with giving up all life’s pleasures to get out of debt a month or two sooner. I live with my parents, side hustle for extra cash whenever I can, make my own coffee most of the time, take my lunch almost every day, use swagbucks to earn gift cards to use for fun stuff and presents (today I bought a mini photo printer!), etc. Hopefully we can all agree to disagree on this topic! Whatever works for you, go for it! I bet we all celebrate equally (kool-aid or no kool-aid) and scream, “I’m debt free!”

19 Sandy

We have a lot of debt- but most of it is at less than 3% apr. I have prioritized by apr what needs to be paid off.
We go on mini vacations every year- usually around $500 trips.
We’ve made our fair share if money mistakes- so I try really hard not to tell my family when they are making mistakes. But I don’t get it when ppl who make $20,000 a year, who have $40,000 of debt (with a family) who go on expensive vacations, and then complain they can’t make their minimum payments.

20 Niki

You keep saying that you would never tell somebody what to do with their money. You are right it is none of your business. The thing that bothers me with your post is that you are essentially mocking others attempts or goals to get out of debt, since they are not like your own. I completely agree that Dave Ramsey is not the end all be all of getting out of debt, plenty of people have done without him. It is also clear that your methods are not the canon that all debtors must follow either.
It almost seems that you post these “ideas” because you know that you would inflame some. It doesn’t make sense to bash anyone who is trying to get out of debt, even if they are taking more drastic measures than you did.

21 Ninja

Did you read the last paragraph? I said I was just like Red. I didn’t vacation while in debt. I didn’t spend money on frivolous things. Red and I shared the exact same stance on becoming debt free. How else do you think I paid off $28,000 in two years? BECAUSE I WAS INTENSE!

The article wasn’t at all telling people not to be intense about getting out of debt, simply that I would never tell people they can’t do fun things if they wanted regardless of how much (or little) debt they had. Having debt and going on vacation aren’t mutually exclusive in my opinion.

I’m pretty sure my methods are not the canon that debtors must follow either, nor have I EVER implied that they were. All I do is blog about my experiences. Nothing more, nothing less.

22 Niki

I feel like you are arguing both sides of the coin. That being intense is okay for you, but since Red suggested it she must hates happiness.
My point was that everyone has their own way of getting out of debt, whether you take a vacation or not. I never meant to suggest that you implied that we have to become Punch Debt In The Face-onites. I understand what you are saying about not telling people what the can or can’t do and as I said I agree with that.
It just seems that coupled with yesterdays post that you are being derisive about others methods of getting out of debt. That is what I took issue with, but I guess it is all in the name of comedy.

23 Niki

Sorry I had to reply again because I noticed yesterday the you had replied to Red with this:

It is easy for me to say Red. I am debt free and loving it. You’ve followed my blog for quite some time. How many No Spend challenges do you recall me partaking in when I WAS in debt? Oh, wait. That’s right…NONE!. No spend challenges don’t get people out of debt. RESPONSIBLE SPENDING DOES!!!!!! I still took vacations, ate out, and bought “toys” while I had $28,000 in student loans. I just did so reasonably and when it made sense. I never said frugality was a bad thing, just think no spend challenges are

Ninja:1, Red:0

So I am not sure which it is, you did or didn’t take vacations? I am a little fearful to bring it up in case you decide to write a post tomorrow ripping me a new one. Did you at last have the decency to give Red the heads up before posting this? I guess it is fine since you p.s. love her.

24 Larry

All the posts above talk about debt in absolute terms – this one has $28,000 or $56,000 or $2.79 in debt – without talking about the larger financial picture. There is no “canon” (though the Ramseys and Ormans and such appear to think there is), but IMO unless one looks at debt within context, it can’t be said definitely that a specific amount is dangerous. A lot depends on the interest rate, the length of the loan, the inflation rate, and your ratio of total debt to total assets as well as the percentage of your income that goes towards debt repayment.

I think this is helpful:
http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/SavingandDebt/LearnToBudget/weston-4-reality-checks-for-your-finances.aspx

25 Marie

To answer the original question I have less than 40k in student loan debt at 0.65%, yes less than 1%. My mortgage is at 5.75% and when I tried to send them a big chunk of money to ditch PMI they won’t. And googling finds that they are screwing every customer this way, so I kept my chunk of bucks. So we have 6 months e-fund, can replace our 2 cars with beaters from our car fund, and we plan to do a 10 year anniversary trip to Vegas this year since we didn’t even have a honeymoon.

26 Mo D.

Jenn took the words right out of my mouth! We believe in living a balanced life; even though we’re focusing more time and energy on paying down our debt, we still enjoy the odd weekend away, and 1 vacation/year in October (for our wedding anniversary)… and I do soooo enjoy happiness!

27 Alotta Lettuce

Excellent post! My husband and I both have student loan debt, and we’re going to Europe for 10 days in two months. Do I feel guilty about this? Absolutely not.

While we’d love to eliminate those debts sooner rather than later, we’re only willing to sacrifice so much, and draw the line at living like paupers on a perpetual spending freeze, because we know that’s a one way ticket to misery. Just like being dead broke with literally no money to enjoy life and the fruits of your labor is a joyless, exhausting situation to be in, so is PRETENDING you’re dead broke with no money to enjoy life and the fruits of your labor in an effort to pay off debts that really aren’t hurting you in any measurable way.

That said, I did recently increase my student loan payment by 30%, which in turn has cut the pay-off time (and interest) in half. I could increase it by ANOTHER 30% (or more) and pay it off EVEN FASTER, but right now, I’m not inclined to do so because being absolutely 100% debt free is not my husband and I’s ultimate goal.

28 Larry

I agree with everything you say. Back in the early 90s, when the economy was more upbeat and employer bonuses more generous, I took a week or more in Europe every year. When the dollar started really declining against the euro, I stopped going overseas about 2004, but I’d estimate I’ve made about a dozen trips there so far.

OMG! Suze Orman is denying, denying, denying me, and frankly I don’t give a hoot. So that’s 3K a year that might have gone into my Roth, or might have just been spent on nothing. But 10 years ago before arthritis started setting with my feet, it was no problem wandering around Paris or London for 6 hours at a time. I could have saved more and put off travel until retirement, but why not take advantage of the time when I was younger? My finances have more or less worked out: debt is fairly low, and while I’m not the wealthiest person in the world I have a fair amount set aside for when I stop working.

So enjoy Europe, don’t worry about the money, and let’s compare notes.

29 Alotta Lettuce

Also, I would like to point out that even though we DO still have student loan debt, we also have a 6-month emergency fund and we’re paying for our trip to Europe with cash that we saved for precisely for this.

30 krantcents

I try not o be critical of other people’s priorities unless they ask my opinion. I have friends who are in debt who travel with me when we go to Europe. Should they do that, probably not, but they must feel it is important to them.

31 Amy

I recently realized that I hate debt of ANY kind. My husband and I bought a new AC unit last year for our condo and put it on the Sears 0% credit card because I got lots of reward points (thanks, Sears!). Turns out, I HATED seeing that one thing over on the Liability column of our net worth chart. I ended up taking money from savings and paid it off like 5 months early. Now I just have an assets column! I haven’t had consumer revolving credit card debt for years, but I worked so hard to be mortgage free, then car payment free, that I can’t even stand to have debt at 0%. How screwed up is THAT?!!

32 sarah

It must be so lovely for Red to get such a lovely [not] post from one of her fellow Yazekie members. How supportive!

I wonder who’s comment will be subject matter for tomorrow.

33 Ninja

If you follow us on twitter, you would see that there was a fair share of mutual harassment going on between her and I. She told me she was preparing a rebuttal to my post yesterday and I told her to prepare for battle. The only “rude” thing I said about Red is that she hates happiness, which I’m pretty sure no one REALLY took seriously (except you perhaps?)

Funny you get mad at me on Red’s behalf when she has expressed no anger towards me.

Relax.

34 thewanderingbudget

I guess you could say I’m trying to dig myself out from debt… while on vacation? Not entirely true as it’s more of a working trip, but to be honest I can actually put more money on my debt traveling than when at home. More of a matter of circumstances than anything else.

My debt strategy is just that I’ve made it a priority, and I’m closely watching my spending. I don’t really have the discipline to stop spending altogether (yet). If I want to travel more though, this debt needs to go away!

35 Kristia@Family Balance Sheet

Wow, I just subscribed yesterday to your site and I’m finding it so entertaining. Where have I been all of these years?!

36 Ninja

I’ll tell you where you’ve been. On a bus to loser-ville. Thankfully, you found the Ninja train. Welcome aboard my friend :) Hope you enjoy the ride.

37 The Passive Income Earner

Very interesting … Here is MY story …

My wife and kids visit her family during the Summer while they are young and still interested in going. It’s 3 international tickets to Asia that I have to pay for (plus some cash during their stay). Now, I have car payments, a renovation line of credit and a mortgage. Should I go for it or not? We’ve been doing it for a number of years now… but I always have a plan to cover my debt and pay for it. The opportunity for the kids to visit family can be priceless …

Do I have debt problems? I don’t believe so as the debt is chosen as opposed to a run away credit card … Do I have a life style inflation problem? I admit I did a few years back.

I also could sell investments to cover the debt, it’s just a matter of return on investment …

38 Stargirl

Hey this is great. I have about $30k in Student Loans ( I got a 50% scholarship and my dad paid another 20%! Frickin’ private schools!) and I’m taking TWO mini-breaks this spring. One with my boyfriend and one with my twin sis (We’re calling it The First Annual Twinfest). I am saving and budgeting for it (and yes, that includes budgeting for vacation splurges like cocktails and a new swimsuit) and it’s totally doable. I have zero guilt about the way I choose to spend my money. Especially considering that I have no car payments, and I don’t pay for cable every month (Netflix FTW).

39 zade

O geez, seems like you’ll always have complainers, sorry!!

Anyways, I have a 4 year car loan that I’m kicking in the face ..started at 11k in August 2009, and as of today its a 3.5k. I’m aggressive at paying it off within the next 4 months..BUT I do go on vacation (like out of the country) once a year plus little side trips within the US here and there. Last year alone I went to 4 countries, but still paid half my loan off. I’m single and make high 40s annually. I agree with you, its about responsible spending. I rarely go out or eat out, not because i’m punishing myself, but it just doesnt appeal to me. Now travelling, thats my thing, and I save to make it happen.

40 Oldfangled

Hubby and I are pretty much against all debt, so while we might take a vacation, it would be something we pay cash for. In fact, we were just talking last night about things we need / want to save up for, and it was kind of giving me the hives because I know it might slow down our debt snowball, but a lot of the items on our list are things we actually NEED and the rest of them are things that we don’t NEED but will improve our quality of life to an extent. But we won’t take out loans or use credit cards for that stuff. Instead, we save up or create a sinking fund to get the cash in hand.

41 JBlue

When I made it my focal point to aggressively pay off debt that was first and foremost for me. Everything else had to take a backseat. Although I still have student loan debt, the car and credit cards debt was no more. Sure you can make payments on time but if you’re serious about paying off debt and particularly within a specific time frame, that has to be your priority. Vacations and such can come later. It’s a huge relief knowing that once my utilities are paid, I don’t have to split my money up with half a dozen creditors at the end of month. Any ‘must-have’ or necessary expenses are paid for in cash and of course there’s always they EF for emergencies.

42 Matt

I totally agree with RED and NIKI!

43 First Gen American

I took vacations when I was in student loan debt and in college and I don’t regret one bit of it because I did them super cheaply, they were life changing and in many cases, I could not go there again they way I did back in the day. I went to Israel to visit my friend when I was studying abroad in England. I went backpacking through Europe, I stayed with my friend’s family in South Africa, I took an Eastern Block vacation and stayed with friends and family. Went to the Netherlands on business multiple times and I did it all before I was 25.

You don’t get to have the same kind of travel experiences once kids are in the picture and/or your health starts to decline. When you’re single, it’s much easier to crash on someone’s couch for free (with reciprocal offer always open), then it is with a spouse and 2 kids in tow. I worked all through college and some of that money did go to fun stuff. After my friends came back from a study abroad and talked about how awesome it was, I kicked myself for thinking I coulnd’t afford it, I swore if I got another opportunity to live overseas I’d take it in a heartbeat. Luckily it did and I made the right choice.

I’m under 40 and my house is paid off, I have a 401K plan, and I have a second house on it’s way to be paid. Travel has always been a priority ever since I lived abroad for a year. It can be done as cheaply or as poshly as you desire.

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