My Biggest Financial Mistake

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Good photo, huh? I took it on my holiday to a South-Pacific island earlier this year. It was a great spot with lovely people and beautiful conditions, but this trip was my biggest finance mistake. After reading a fellow blogger’s account of her biggest financial mistake recently, I thought I’d share mine.

It all started about this time last year when I was still very much trying to keep up with the Joneses – a bit hard when you’re essentially living on one-and-a-bit incomes. I had the travel bug bad … so I bit the bullet and booked us for an island holiday.

Here’s why it was a mistake:

1) We didn’t actually even go to the place we wanted to – For years we have wanted to go to Italy for a holiday. We were about to accept a family loan (yes, another one) so we could go with a family member who wanted travel companions (No, I don’t know what we were thinking either). I eventually regained my senses enough to realise we couldn’t afford to go halfway around the world … but what about an island getaway? Surely that’s affordable, right? Ha!

2) We couldn’t afford it. Well, I guess that’s obvious, but I am ashamed to say that I used the credit available on our CC to charge our holiday … the whole thing!  (This available credit was only there because of a previous attempt to get out of debt which I eventually lost sight of). Of course, once the holiday was charged, that didn’t leave much for spending money. So most of our dollars from then on had to go on accruing some spending money, not paying back the holiday. So we left for our trip in a pile of debt.

3) We made some mistakes before we left – others had told us the major banks in Australia had branches at this island nation and getting cash out from the ATMs would be no problem. Well we didn’t realise that our bank wasn’t a `major bank’. Therefore, we had $300 worth of local money but were otherwise cashless for several days (it was a Friday when we arrived). We had no choice but to charge our meals to our room by eating at the hotel (expensive!) and using our cash to get us through. Of course, if I’d thought ahead and memorised the PIN number to get cash advances on my credit card that might have helped … of course that would only have worked if I’d had enough spare credit available on the card to help us in this emergency situation!

4) We finally got the money situation sorted, withdrew some more money and resumed our holiday … that worked well until I left my wallet – with all the money we’d just withdrawn and all my cards inside – on the bus on the way back to the hotel. Words can not explain how bad that night was. My husband was inconsolable, while I thought I might have dementia or some other brain-damaging condition. Generally we didn’t cope very well. Added to that, our one-year-old son was running a temperature, so none of us slept that night. After an awful 24 hours, in which I finally ended up crying in the hotel reception area, the general manager finally made some enquiries in the community.

He managed to find out that a young local girl had left my wallet (with all the money still inside) at her local church. She had called the hotel the night before but reception had lost the message. She had also apologised because she used the phone card I had purchased to make the call! How could she apologise for something like that!  Needless to say, we left her a significant reward and a personal thankyou .. and obviously she got to keep the phone card!

This trip really taught me that there is no value in trying to buy something you can’t afford – it is not worth the stress and in fact, you can end up further away from your goals. If anything, our dreams of going to Italy are further away because of this holiday, and while it was enjoyable, our crazy money mismanagement led to a lot of stress. I am never going to charge a trip to a credit card again, and I will ensure I am not dependent on credit for spending money either.

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5 Comments »

  1. Yowzers! That’s one expensive vacation! I’m glad you learned from it. I’ve learned the same lesson several times over from my expensive mistakes.

  2. I agree, Lynnae. Overall the holiday wasn’t as costly as it could have been (partly because half the time we had no money) but the lesson was probably worth its weight in gold!

  3. debtfretter said

    Actually I should clarify and say the holiday didn’t cost anywhere near the actual amount shown as my original debt on my CC tagline on the right. I just meant that once I paid for the trip, we were back near our CC limit. This doesn’t reduce how stupid I was but does change how expensive people might think our taste is!

  4. JvW said

    Thanks for sharing your story & congrats on having it all paid off! I know exactly how you feel with trying to withdraw money at foreign ATMs – such a gut-wrenching, soul-sucking feeling. The girl who returned your wallet sounds like such a little sweetheart – it’s nice to know there are still people like that out there.

  5. […] debtfretter Made a great post today on sosickofdebt.wordpress.comThe first few lines are here: […]

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