My Personal Loan Journey: When Vet Bills Lead to the Financial Doghouse

My Personal Loan Journey: When Vet Bills Lead to the Financial Doghouse

Peter had a plan for paying off his credit card debt. But like many best-laid plans, it quickly went awry — his furry best friend needed help.  

As told to Beth Gaston for LendingPoint

I’m a fairly thrifty person. I don’t buy something unless I feel like I really, really need it. I’m making six figures but, in some ways, I still live like a grad student because of my credit card debt. I’m not proud of the fact that I don’t manage my money well enough. But I had found a way to start making progress.

Early in 2020, I was taking great strides in paying off credit card debt that I’d incurred during the course of a 20-year relationship. During that time, I’d gotten a big raise and promotion and was helping my now-ex pay off his credit card debt. I’d consolidated my debt from three credit cards through balance transfers and gotten to where I was hardly paying any interest. My plan was to have everything — about $50,000 — paid off in three years.

Then my dog, Zoe, got cancer in March of 2020.

They said the kind of cancer she had would go into remission with treatment, which was $400 a week for five months. I did that for a while, and she was fine. But then she started having symptoms again. The treatments went up to $800 a week.

She died in November after nine months of treatment. I didn’t have pet insurance, so I racked up almost $18,000 in debt for her treatments, on top of the credit cards I was already paying off.

I really missed the companionship and emotional support of a dog, so I rescued Ellie a few months later. Three days after I brought her home, she collapsed in my bedroom. I found her unresponsive, so I rushed her to the vet for another $2,000. Altogether, I spent $20,000 on pets last year.

My three-year debt repayment plan depended on having additional credit to maneuver with. Zoe’s treatment filled up the empty card I’d been planning to transfer my debt over to, suddenly leaving me with three maxed-out cards. And my interest rate jumped to around 24% from practically nothing.

I wasn’t able to get ahead. Meanwhile, my credit rating started to drop because of the amount of debt on my cards. I knew even if I wanted to do another balance transfer, I wouldn’t get approved for a card with a low interest rate.

Then I realized I didn’t need to cover the whole debt right away. I just needed to cover enough to have available credit again, so I could consolidate my credit cards, like I’d been planning.

My best option was to take out a personal loan to cover the vet bills. My loan has a 9% interest rate, down from 24% on my credit cards, over a three-year repayment period. I have a grip on what I owe and I’m getting everything paid off — the loan and the cards.

And because the funds from the loan helped me pay down my credit card debt immediately, my credit rating is going back up. If I want to eventually buy a house, maybe another car or perhaps move cities, I can’t have my rating fall below “good.” Because I got this loan, that future still feels possible. I’m really pleased about that. 

Peter Matthews, 54, lives and works in a major Southern U.S. city. He has worked at the director level since 2011. His rescue dog is still alive and well.  

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