Credit Card that is….
I remember one day in late fall of 2005 I didn’t have money to pay for some sisterhood retreat I wanted to go on. So I got online and applied for my first credit card. It was shockingly easy and I received it in the mail less than a week later. I quickly maxed it out before Christmas-missed a few payments and by February I called my Dad crying because the creditors wouldn’t leave me alone.
The card was only for 500.00. My Dad paid it off for me on ONE condition.
“Don’t open up another one until you are out of college. Let this be a lesson to you. You can ruin your credit.” He said.
I skipped out of his office feeling free as a bird. I’m unsure of whether he told my mother or not about that first time. I kind of wish that instead of just taking care of it he had explained to me why it was so bad, and what was going to happen to me if things ever got out of control again, and then…. paid the card off for me. Perhaps instead of cancelling the card they could have watched it and help me learn how to properly use credit. I’m not blaming them one bit, they were helping me after all. I just wish that knowing what I know now we could have handled that first situation differently. Maybe things wouldn’t have spiraled so far out of control in the coming years.
I was able to heed my father’s demands for about a year or so. In March of 2007 it was revealed the Concert Choir was going to Japan for a tour and part of the trip was being subsidized by a sister University in Japan. I was dying to travel the world, and the trip itself was only going to cost about 2000 for three weeks: food, lodging and airfare included.
But….. I hadn’t saved anything that year. I spent my paychecks from the Housing Office playing around and paying my sorority dues, and all of the graduation money my Grandmother had spent years saving was LOOOOONG gone. Plain and simple: I couldn’t afford it, but the thought of not going never crossed my mind. What was a girl to do? I opened up a new card with Citibank and it was even easier than the first time. It was as if my prior indiscretion never mattered, and at the time I still had no idea what a credit or FICO score was.
I maxed out that card and opened another with Capital One while I was on the trip…double wheeeeeeeee! Are you keeping track? This is now three cards I’ve maxed out in a year and a half
I knew nothing of budgeting, saving, investing, the constructive use of credit-Zero! But it was my fault; I was blissfully ignorant and just copped the excuse that I was bad with money, numbers and finances. “They’ve never been my thing.” I took the ONE math class that was required to graduate during my freshman year. We briefly covered mortgages and interest rates but did I crack a book ever after? Uh, no. If my parents weren’t teaching it to me, and I wasn’t getting it in school, where was I supposed to be learning about these things from? I should have sought out different sources, checked out library books, asked my parents, teachers and friends more questions. Ugh, talking about money is so taboo and people don’t want to do it—but we really should!!
A reader made a great comment on my site yesterday and it gave me pause– is the demographic I want to target even going to be out looking for this blog? Is learning about money really on the top of the priority list for a nineteen year old? No. It isn’t and it wasn’t for me either. I had to hit rock bottom first. Sadly, people only change when they want to. I’d really like to save some young women from the agony and the ecstasy that is a relationship with a credit card. When I was twenty I had nearly $7,000 of consumer debt, which is a lot for someone with no income and no hope of paying that down in a reasonable time frame. Since I only paid the minimums on that balance $7,000 quickly became $10,000 by the time I hit twenty-four. Fun, right?
There is an unparalelled joy in being able to go into a store and buy yourself anything you want. The trip to Japan was an amazing educational experience and it widened my horizons beyond the Alabama skyline. I wouldn’t trade my time as an Alpha Gam or the friendships I made there for anything in the world. Unfortunately the debt I went into for those items and the interest I paid on them kept me from studying abroad my junior year in Italy, from attending some awesome musical theater/opera workshops during the summer (because I always had to work a summer job to pay the minimums on my balance) and it kept me from being able to really pursue acting in New York because I had to quickly get a full-time job to be able to support myself. I moved to New York with 300 dollars and a suitcase, remember? How many of you reading this can say that in your late teens/early twenties you knew the very basics about personal finance?
Do you remember your first credit card? First Financial mistake?
Carnivals and Mentions!
Carn. of Financial Camaraderie at The University of Money
Wealth Artisan’s FinCarn at Wealth Artison
Carnival of Retirement at Life Insurance by Jeff
Totally Money Carnival at James Petzke: Graduating with a Surplus
Y & T’s Weekend Ramblings at Young and Thrifty
Yakezie Carnival at Kylie Ofiu
Carnival of MoneyPros at Making Sense Of Cents