Got debt regret?
More than 3 in 5 Americans experience debt regret — and most wish they'd saved up instead.
Most of us at one time or another have felt the pangs of post-purchase remorse. An outfit that looked great in store lighting — and not so much in sunlight. An ill-advised meal deal on a road trip. Or that last shot after a bar’s closing bell.
Yet when the cost means getting into debt, post-purchase remorse can turn into deep-seated regret.
What are our biggest regrets?
Overall, more women experience debt regret than men — 62.8% of women regret a debt they’ve taken on, compared with 59.6% of men. The most common debt regret for both is shopping, with half of women admitting to this regret, compared with 2 in 5 men.
Education is also the second most common debt regret among both genders, but women regret it slightly more than men. When it comes to purchasing a car with a loan, men regret this decision slightly more than women.
The generation with the highest proportion of people with debt regret is Generation X (aged 35-54), sitting at 65.7%.
Millennials (roughly ages 18 to 34) closely follow at 61.9%, while baby boomers (those 55+) are the least likely to regret a debt. However, more than half of all boomers (52.2%) still regret a debt they’ve had.
What would we have done differently?
Of those who’ve taken on a debt they regret, nearly 2 in 5 (37.6%) say they should’ve saved up to pay for it outright instead. A further 31.0% say they shouldn’t have made the purchase, while 20.2% say they wished they’d shopped around for a better deal.
The most common thing women would do differently is save up and pay for it rather than go into debt. For men, the most common thing they’d do differently is simply not make the purchase.
Ask the experts…
Shopping, education or tuition, car purchase, a vacation and a home purchase or renovation are the top drivers of debt regret. Here’s how to avoid regrets for each one:
To avoid debt regret when shopping, be sure to do your research both online and off, and make sure that you’re getting the best price for any product you want to buy.
Education or tuition
The best way to avoid regretting an education or tuition purchase is to compare all student loan options to ensure you’re getting the best interest rate, and also to apply for any and all appropriate grants and scholarships that might be available.
A car purchase can easily be regrettable, but only if handled improperly. Research the Internet for pricing, and then send in the deals you find to the Internet manager at any particular dealership. Ask if he or she can do better. Negotiate in the sales office as well, there are plenty of strategies to get discounts or certain fees taken off of the price. Don’t feel bad about walking away from a deal that you don’t think is best for you.
Get the best airfare you can through Internet research. Understand that you can get last minute hotel deals using the mobile app Hotel Tonight. Use Deal of the Day websites to score discounts on restaurants and other entertainment. Set a budget and stick to it. All of those strategies will help avoid debt regret.
Home purchase or improvement
Realize that most home improvements should be done for personal satisfaction and not for an increased home sale price. It usually doesn’t work that way. Use independent contractors which you can find on Craigslist and other Internet sites instead of nationally known companies. Do as much of the work as you can yourself to cut down on labor costs. Make sure the improvement or even purchase is something that you truly and really want.
For all media inquiries, please contact:
Richard Laycock, Senior content manager & insights editor
More guides on Finder
Personal loans vs. balance transfer credit cards: Which is best for debt consolidation?
How to weigh up your options for a balance transfer or personal loan.
Is your debt stopping you from finding love?
Survey finds an estimate of over 3 in 4 Americans consider credit card debt unacceptable in a partner
Debt snowball method
Build on your previous success with this debt relief strategy.
Compare debt tracker apps
Let your phone help you get your finances under control.
What’s the debt avalanche method?
Find out how this method of paying off your highest-interest debts first can save you in the long run.
Compare debt consolidation loans for bad and fair credit
A bad credit debt consolidation loan can help you manage your debt through a single monthly payment.
Debt consolidation calculator
Use this calculator to figure out how much you could save with a debt consolidation loan.
America’s biggest money mistakes of 2019
We don’t often hesitate when it comes to sharing expensive purchases that we’re proud of. But what about those purchases we regret? Get the breakdown between generations and genders on what we regret most financially, from college to gambling.
5 ways to consolidate credit card debt
Learn how to pay off credit card debt faster and possibly with a lower APR. Find out if credit card consolidation hurts your credit score.
Ask an Expert