A few days ago, I was reminded of why I try to avoid being on a payment plan.
One of my dreams in life has been to have the perfect smile. I put off getting braces for years because I was too broke, or due to job restrictions (my duty station didn’t allow anyone to get them). Last year, I finally had freedom and money saved up to get started with treatment.
Although I could afford to pay the full cost, the office assistant mentioned that I could put a certain amount as a “down payment,” then make monthly payments with no interest. Small monthly payments with no interest? Hmmm. Doesn’t sound like a bad deal, huh? I did as the office assistant suggested, paid a lump sum, and began paying $90 monthly.
My most recent payment was due before Thanksgiving, and payments have to be made in person at the office. I was busy with classes and preparing for my trip to Houston, and I forgot to go by the office. When I returned from Houston, I called the office to reschedule an appointment, because my nose had turned into a non-stop faucet. Moments later, the orthodontist’s office called back to ask if I had made my payment for the month. I said I hadn’t, and told them I could have my husband come by to make the payment.
My husband called to tell me there would be a $25 late fee on top of my regular payment. Anyone who knows me knows how fees irk my spirit, and I immediately face-palmed myself for my slip-up. Then I thought: “None of this would have happened if I had just paid for my braces in full!”
This isn’t the first time I was lured into the seductive arms of a payment plan, even when I could have paid in full. I bought a bedroom set from a local furniture store a few years ago. The salesperson gave me the same “make a down payment now, and interest-free payments the next several months” speech. I had the same thoughts that there would be no harm in making interest-free payments. Every month I went into the store to make my payment, until one day I felt silly about it all. If I had the money, why waste time and gas to go to the store once a month? I went in one month and told the sales clerk I was paying the full balance on my account. She gave me a strange look, but of course she wasn’t going to refuse it. I swiped my card and walked out with a proud smile and “PAID-IN-FULL” receipt in my hand.
I find it interesting (and sometimes frustrating) that when you set out to have a new mindset, others can make you feel like a freak of nature for not following what’s considered normal. America is fixated with the “buy now, pay later” mentality, to the point that it’s considered weird if you choose to (gasp!) save your money and pay for something all at once. As you can see from my experience, even the no-interest payment options come with consequences if you’re late just once. In most cases, I think payment plans create a false sense of security and perpetuate a culture of being comfortable with debt. The next time I have the money to make a purchase in full, I’ll have to read my own post before I fall for the payment plan trap.
I love this post, it’s very true that payment plans can be tricky, if you miss a payment then they would want to pile a load of fees on top. It’s the same for loan companies, they’ll give you a small loan with the highest interest rates they can give and once you miss that one payment after making 5 consecutive payments, that happy trigger finger moves quick to hit the interest bottom and then you’re stuck dealing with that. Loans and payments will always be trap.
Thank you, and yes they can be very tricky. I always find it interesting that there’s never a “reward” for making on-time payments, but there’s always a penalty for being late. :/