I stole some money 23 years ago to feed a gambling addiction and seriously nearly ended up in prison for what would have been at least 6 months. I still clearly remember being in the the cage behind the front counter at the police station where they hold charged people in preparation for fingerprinting etc, and hoping that no-one I knew came to the station while I was in clear view. It was an experience that terrified me.
But, I was completely honest with the police, admitted full guilt, plead guilty at the court & ended up with no jail time but thousands of dollars worth of fines as well as having to pay back the money that I took. I was able to clear most of that even though I was now unemployed by moving back in with one of my parents and using every cent of my dole payments apart from rent & food to pay off the fines. I did get a job after 3 months, so all fines & compensation were paid off as soon as I could do so. Just meant no going out for about 8 months.
When in court, the solicitor told me that, if the magistrate said he was suspending sentencing (to another day), that meant I would be going to jail. So, when the magistrate said he was giving me a suspended sentence (very different to suspending sentencing), I nearly collapsed. Then the solicitor told me a suspended sentence is different to suspending sentencing, and meant I would not go to jail unless I breached a 2-year good behavior bond. I went from terrified to relieved very quickly.
Needless to say, I have been a very honest man since then. But the conviction still follows me around. Even though I was qualified for many jobs, a conviction for larceny reduced my employment prospects quite a bit, and also, because I was convicted of a crime that could have meant time in jail, if I travel overseas, some countries could deny me entry (although enough time has probably now passed for me to be okay).
My serious advice to people is, crime is not worth it. Even if you can cope with a stint in jail, a conviction follows you around for many years afterwards, and impacts your life in ways you could never imagine. I am genuinely thankful that I was caught before I got myself too deep in s**t. But it is much better to not do the crime at all than go through the hard & humiliating experiences of arrest, police charges & court appearances, and having to tick the "Have you ever been convicted of a crime?" box on various forms & applications for years & years afterwards.