I Bought a JetSki and it was the Worst Financial Decision!

Buying a JetSki taught me a lot about my money habits and if I hadn’t purchased it nearly 20 years ago, I wouldn’t be where I am today. So while I dumb decision, the lessons I learned were far more valuable!

You should never forget your mistakes, but you surely should learn from them. I’m going to share with you one of my biggest money mistakes ever and why I still remember to this day. It taught me so much about my previous self and why I’ve come such a long way.

You see, this time of year gets me thinking. It’s summer time and many are enjoying their vacations, time off from school, and just all-around outdoor lifestyle. I like the summer time (minus the NC humidity), but the reason why it gets me thinking was due to what happened back in summer of 2006. It was not only the year I graduated college, but also when I transitioned to being an “adult.” Too bad my spending didn’t get the memo.

My Overall Experience

It’s been 17 years since I bought that Jetski and 14 years since I sold it. To this day, it is still one of my worst financial decisions that my wife and I can still laugh about. It taught me a lot about myself and how I viewed money. In the end, buying the JetSki turned out to change my financial life forever…in a good way. It’s not about the mistakes you make, but the lessons you learn from them.

stupid money mistakes

Fresh Out of College and Big Paychecks

When I was fresh out of college, I already had a job lined up.  I got an internship prior to graduating and was offered a job when I got out.  That was awesome for me and I enjoyed that first job.  It taught me a lot about the professional world and how college really doesn’t get you ready for it.

Either way, I was really enjoying getting those steady paychecks.  The one problem is that this job only paid me once a month.  I had never been paid that way before, so it was new for me.  I never budgeted a day in my life and was never ready to deal with a monthly paycheck. Heck, I wasn’t ready to deal with earning five figures.

When you get out of college and you start getting four figure paychecks each month, your mind might start to wander. Mine surely did and it ended up being one of my biggest money mistakes to date.

A Random Radio Ad and My Wandering Mind

One morning on my way to work, I heard a radio ad for a huge sale at a local motor sports dealership.  One dream (so I thought) of mine was to own a Jetski.  I have ridden a few in my years and loved being on the water and having the power.  Well, for some reason, this radio ad spoke to me.  You want to know why?  Of course you do…..

The only thing that I heard in the entire radio ad was the low monthly payment of only $69 and I could own a Jetski.  It would be mine and I could take it to the lake each and every weekend.  How exciting this could be?  This is what was going on in my head.  I mean, I was making big money right out of college, right?

When I got to work, I jumped online and started researching the deal and the Jetski that I wanted.  I probably didn’t work much that day, but it was a Friday.  I was super excited.  All of the cool bells and whistles for only $69!!

I was going to get my dream and only a month out of college.  Welcome to the American Dream!  I even called my wife and told her.   She really didn’t seem to care much, but she was a little hesitant.  Oh well, she would love it once I brought it home, right?

The Deal and the Excitement

Yep, that is my money mistake

I left work that day and drove over to the motor sports dealership.  I walked around in there for about an hour just admiring all of the toys. I was like a little kid in a candy store.  I love anything with an engine.  It has been this way for years and that is one reason why I have a Jeep in my garage.

After the hour, I found the watercraft that I wanted to bring home with me. The salesman approached to see if I needed help and of course I said yes.  Here comes the sales process and I was ready!

Related Read: This salesman caused me to bite!

The salesman was a really nice person and asked all of the right questions to which I thought I had all the right answers.  I knew how much I was making and knew that I could easily afford the $69 a month.  That was nothing in my eyes.  We started working on the paperwork and after an hour, I was ready to sign the paperwork.


Do you see that number there?  Yeah, that is how much a new Jetski costs with a trailer.  But, does that matter when you only have to pay $69 a month?  Hell no, wait,  yes it does.  It makes all the difference in the world.  The salesman explained the deal to me and apparently I didn’t really want to listen.

I fixated on the low monthly payment. What’s another low payment when you’re making good money?

The $69/month promo was only the minimum payment.  That is the least amount they allowed you to pay on the loan.  This minimum payment was only good for 3 years.  Once that time was up, then you would be assessed a minimum payment that is calculated on how much you owe, kind of like a credit cards.  I was so excited about the Jetski that I didn’t listen to this man.  I knew that I could pay off the $10,500 in 3 years.  That was easy…..or so I thought!

The End of the JetSki Party

In the beginning of the purchase, I was loving my Jetski. I thought I was the cool kid on the block.  I was just out of college and had one of the coolest toys.  All of my friends wanted to go to the lake each weekend and ride it.  So cool….

I really enjoyed those times out on the lake and when we took it to the beach.  I had some good times on that Jetski.  That all ended when the 3 year promo deal expired.  The 3 years came and went and I only paid the $69 each and every month.  In the 3 years, I had only paid off $2,484.  Yep, I still owed over $7,500 after paying toward the loan for 3 years.  How depressing.

The next day of the 3 year mark, I received an email telling me that my promo was over.  Now, I was going to have to pay a larger minimum payment and interest on the loan.  Crap!  My minimum payment jumped to nearly $200 a month and I wasn’t prepared.

You remember that I wasn’t running a budget and it was catching up to me.  I had started racking up major charges on my credit card to fund my e-commerce business and I was only paying attention to the minimum payments.  Stupid, just plain stupid.

I was in trouble. Big trouble. My minimum payments reached the amount of my mortgage payment each month.

Another issue was I slowly stopped using the Jetski.  I used it a lot during the first few years, but then that usage started to go down.  It sat in my garage and didn’t get turned on much.  I just didn’t have time because of my business.  I still owed money on the loan and I was getting tired of paying that money.

Time to Sell

I realized that time had come to sell the Jetski.  It just wasn’t a good investment and I needed to get the loan off of my back.  Unfortunately for me and most people, you can’t just sell a vehicle (Jetski included) without having a clear title. This meant we would need to pay off the loan. In order to do that, we had to do something I still regret to this day. We raided the only savings we had left to break free of the loan.

Once we had paid off the Jetski, we wanted to see if we could get any money back with a sale. It wasn’t an ideal situation, but I wanted nothing to do with the stupid thing. It had to go!

Luckily for me, I have a brother that lives down near the beach and that is a great place to sell a Jetski.  I called up my brother and asked him for help.  He said he would be happy to.  I then took my Jetski down to the beach and just waited to hear back from my brother.

Months passed and I heard nothing.  Many people had looked at it, but no one wanted to purchase it.  I guess in 2009, it just wasn’t a good time to sell something like a personal watercraft.  Something with the economy or something ;).

I finally received a call from my brother when I was in West Virginia camping.  I couldn’t answer it because I didn’t have service, but he left a message.  I got it once we got to a place that had service.  He told me that the Jetski was not running properly.  It was broken.  Double Crap!

I told my brother to give it to a person he knew that was good with fixing this watercraft.  His buddy then passed it on to another person that was a specialist for my brand.  After hearing that it was going to cost $800 to fix the craft and I approved, I heard nothing else.  The person had my watercraft for well over a year.

He was one of those shifty business people that just takes money and doesn’t provide a service.  After emails and calls were exchanged, my brother and I drove to his business.  We knew we were going to be in for some trouble once we got there.  This man was just uneducated and created terrible stories about why he didn’t fix the problems.

This man was just terrible.  I asked him for a refund because he didn’t fix the problem and it appears he didn’t even work on the Jetski.  He just kept it outside, uncovered and let it rust.  He then blamed me for the rust problems and I told him sternly that I only kept it in the garage and my brother did as well.  Just more stories.

The man ended up forcing us to leave his property, but I made sure to take the Jetski with me.  It was still broken and there were parts missing.  It just ended poorly.

Long Story with a Crappy Ending

If you have stuck around to the end of this post, then I want to let you know what happened.  After trying unsuccessfully to sue the man and realizing that he had nothing to his name and his business wasn’t even licensed, I realized that I wasn’t getting my $800 back.

Now I have a broken and rusty Jetski that used to be worth thousands.  Now, it is worth nothing.  I was pissed and I still owed about $5,000 on the loan because of how long it took to get it back.  My only option after looking to see how much it would cost to fix was to sell it for what I could.

We raided our savings account to pay off the rest of the loan just in order to get a clean title. We had to get that before we could even put it up for sale in our state.

I put the Jetski up on Craigslist and had it sold in less than 4 hours.  Yes, just 4 hours and you know why?

I sold it for only $800!

Yep, I had multiple people ask about it and come see it in the same day that I posted it.  It was crazy, but people were only offering me about $300 for it.  I mean,it didn’t work and no one knew what the problem was.  It was also missing some key components.  Then a man came and offered me $700.  I told him that if he could do $800 and if so, then he could have it.  Done and Done!

Related Read: How to sell you car on Craigslist quickly and safely

The man took that huge money mistake off my hands and then I had to come to the realization that I would have to pay off the loan over time and have nothing to show for it.  What a way to go.

I felt like an idiot after I sold my Jetski.  It was a purchase that never should have happened.  I saw money coming in and I was partaking in lifestyle inflation.  I was being a stupid consumer and the only thing I had to show for it was a bruised ego and a nice loan. Terrible.

Buying the Jetski was one of my biggest money mistakes that I will always remember.  My wife and I still joke about it to this day.  She makes fun of me for getting it and I laugh, because that is all that I can do.

My Jetski Was a Life Changing Mistake

While I still think about that stupid purchase, I really can’t be too harsh. The reason being going through all of that and coming out on the other side, I realize I learned so much from it. I learned how I was using my money, where it was going, and my money mentality. My thinking was incredibly flawed. I didn’t budget, I didn’t track my money, and I didn’t care.

I do all of those things now and my financial life is much better because of it. I don’t have any debt outside of a mortgage. I own a business and work from home. I have a positive net worth that climbs every month. I use the Simplifi Money app to keep on my budget and track my net worth.

So, what is one of your biggest money mistakes?

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  1. Thanks for having the humility to share your story of a big mistake. And for 100% owning it. I’m glad it was a wake-up call for you, though.

    One embarrassing mistake I made was cashing out my retirement fund when I left teaching after my first year. I would not be able to contribute to the fund unless I was working in a public school in my state, so I figured I would withdraw it (after getting the employer match), pay the taxes, and put it toward our house down payment savings. I’m glad I didn’t blow it and sold in 2007 before the recession. But I had an early start because I was only 21 when I withdrew it!

    1. Thanks Kalie!

      Yeah, pulling out retirement can be rough, especially when you could have rolled it over into a different account with no tax repercussions or let it ride and grow. As you noted, it’s good that you see it now though.

  2. Sometimes what we buy are not always helpful and that is what we call “buyers regret”. Always prioritize your needs and financial obligation as to avoid money mistakes. If you don’t really need the item that much, ignore it even though it’s 10 OFF sale.

  3. So you sold a ski and didn’t give the buyer the title on the ski since you were still making payments..not sure how that works.

    1. Looks like I left out a large part in this article. We didn’t sell it before paying it off in order to sell it. I had the title for both the ski and the trailer free and clear, but I had to come up with the all the money to pay it off.

      You can’t sell one in my state without a clear title, so it wouldn’t have been possible.

      I’m updating the article to reflect.

  4. Omg thanks so much for sharing this. Came accross ur post and couldnt relate more. I was and am in the same situation. With an even more unfortunate story. I have 2 skis, so double the headache. Both are in terrible shape, on an ex’s property so its impossible to show them to potential purchaers and its been 11 years of ownership and they still are not technically paid off. Did get a loan to get the pinks but a lot of good that does me when I dont have physical possession. Not to mention trailer is not is usable condtion. It definitely was the worst mistake of my life you took the words all out of my mouth.

    1. That is a tough situation when you can’t even get to them. I know he is an ex, but would you be able to grab them since you own the pinks? They are your property, so you should be able to get them back in order to sell them.

      1. Working on that however its tough. I do not have the storage space neither the funds for a storage unit. And with a unusable trailer its hard to transport them around. I wish more articles and stories like this were made public. Those sales people really know how to destroy peoples finances!

  5. Iā€™m envious, Grayson. It sounds like your life is now utterly perfect.