I had a disturbing conversation with my wife the other night. We were talking about the results of this situation with the medical bills and about our progress on paying down our debt. We threw the idea back and forth of paying off my student loan before her car loan. Now interest-wise this makes no sense, but balance-wise it does. I can pay off the student loan in one big lump payment if I focus all our debt repayment on it for one month. That would kind of simplify things since I would have one less debt to worry about, and would be a nice feel-good victory. The extra interest we would end up paying on the car loan to do this would be negligible. She agreed. Then she gave a reason why she agreed:
"Well, the car loan isn't really debt anyway."
I was floored! What? Not debt? I need to tell the bank to stop charging us interest. She stood her ground; a car loan is not really debt. So I ask her why she thinks a car loan isn't debt.
"Because everyone has a car loan."
I stopped to think about this. Does everyone have a car loan? Of course not. Does anyone need a car loan? Of course not. Very few people absolutely need to buy a car that second...they could easily just start saving a payment and buy a car in a few years. Most people buy a new car when theirs starts having problems, or they just get tired of it. That's certainly not a necessity to borrow money. Rarely do people literally run their car into the ground until the engine implodes and it refuses to move another inch (and those that do have probably been saving for a new car anyway).
Yet there is the mentality that everyone has a car loan, that everyone needs a car loan, and that it isn't really "debt". Why is this? Is it because everyone around us is so addicted to debt that one little car loan doesn't seem like a big deal? Has the automotive industry itself so well marketed buying a car on time that it seems like just another standard process in buying any car? Or are we just so entrenched in this culture of instant gratification that saving money for 5 years for a single purchase just seems outrageous and out of this world?