Should We Treat Ourselves While Destroying Our Student Loan Debt?

Snow Capped Fence [20/366]Recently I shared how intensely I think people should destroy their debt depending on what type of debt they have and the interest rate of the debt. We’re pretty lucky that we didn’t have any of the worst types of debt, which include payday loans and credit cards. However, as you’re very aware, we do have mortgages and a lot of student loan debt left that we’re working on paying off.

How serious are we about our different types of debt? We are currently working on destroying our student loan debt as quick as we can but have no intention to pay our mortgages off any faster than their 30 year terms. With that in mind, we’re trying to decide whether or not we should treat ourselves with a couple of larger purchases before the student loans are gone.

What Are We Considering Buying

Particularly, we’re considering buying a cheaper laptop (around $500) and a much larger purchase of fencing in our backyard (around $4,000) so we can let Daphne, the expensive personal finance dog, roam around without going on a leash. This also frees our time up a bit (but not too much) since we wouldn’t have to physically take her out multiple times a day.

Why We Don’t Think It Is A Good Idea To Buy

Tori’s student loan debt hangs over both of our heads because, while it was necessary for her to take out the student loans to pay her way through college, she ended up with a crazy amount of debt that we’re constantly reminded of every time we make a payment. By making either of these large purchases we will be delaying our student loan debt payoff which means the loans will hang over our heads that much longer.

We’re also against taking out debt for purchases such as computers or a fence. We feel these should be cash purchases and I think 99% of the people reading this will agree. While we would technically be paying cash for these items, to us it would feel like we’re taking out a loan to purchase either the computer or the fence. What’s our logic?

By purchasing these large items while still owing money on the student loans we’re essentially buying something else instead of paying off and lowering our debt. So, instead of having less debt we’d have more stuff which is almost as bad as taking out more debt to buy more stuff in our minds.

Why We Might Cave In And Make The Purchases

Paying off the amount of debt that we have in student loans is more of a marathon than a sprint. By balancing debt pay off with our other goals, it could be argued that we’d end up paying the debt off in a more controlled way since we’d be less likely to splurge along the way.

That said, we do already have a mini fun budget each month so we already have the little splurges baked into our plan. If we budget to buy a laptop or fence we’d be increasing this mini fun budget by quite a bit.

The question is, does it make sense to make a large splurge and go for the new laptop or installing a fence, or should we just wait for the loans to be completely gone before we buy them?

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About Lance Cothern

Lance Cothern, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is the founder of Money Manifesto. You can read more about him here or connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest.


  1. Liz@BrusselsandBeyond says:

    It’s a really relevant question actually and one that I’m struggling with a bit as I begin to pay off my own student loans.

    I don’t own a house or a car and don’t have plans to make any extremely large purchases, but I did purchase a $1100 laptop a few months ago. I had used my old one for 5 years and with the noises it was making, it was clear it was on its last legs. Just several months after purchasing the new laptop, it crashed. I think it’s about prioritization and whether you need the item. Sometimes we do need new things, even if it slightly hampers the debt payment. Good luck figuring it out for you two!

  2. Fence is more of an investment. We did this last year, definitely worth it!

    Laptop is on our plate as well, and we’re looking at the Lenovo outlet. Some Core i5 and Core i7 laptops with 1TB hard drive for under $500!

  3. Funny we write about the same topic today!

    I used to say no. No fun for you if you are in consumer debt.

    But with all the bailouts, I say absolutely!!

  4. Treating yourself once in a while is important. It helps relieve stress and avoid ego depletion, the thing that causes budget/debt fatigue. That being said, a fence or conputer is a pretty large purchase.

  5. How are you going to pay for it? Are you taking on more debt or using cash? There is an IT guy at work who bought a laptop on ebay for $57. He said he was outbid several times, but out bid by adding a $1.01. The fence is an investment in your home.

  6. Those purchase seem pretty high on the utility scale, I would say go for it.

    Greeting fellow CPA blogger.

  7. You’ll get some return on investment for the fence, so as long as you’re paying cash and not adding more debt, I’d be OK with that one. The laptop is interesting. I have a desktop computer that I’ve had for almost 10 years. I’ve upgraded the memory and hard drive to their max capability, and have re-imaged it a couple of times. I did think it was dead once but it just needed a new video card. If the laptop is functioning, could you get away with upgrading and re-imaging it to extend it’s life further? If it’s physically failing, then you could justify the replacement purchase.

  8. 4K is a lot of money in your debt situation. Yes, I know fences cost that much but you can’t afford it. Could you do a cheap DIY dog run in the meantime for a couple of hundred?

  9. I believe maybe you could pick one for now. Since $4,000 is far greater than $500 then I would say purchase the laptop. Besides, $500 is extremely reasonable to me for a laptop – considering people pay at least twice that for Apples lol. Maybe purchase the fence later. I’m a dog owner and understand the beauty of having a fence, but it’s not as if the fence is absolutely vital at the moment.

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