I am sure if I wanted to do the research, I could see how much credit card debit Americans average. Instead, I’ll take a guess and say that I was probably around average when I racked up $10,000 in debt. It wasn’t done on purpose and I am sure most people will say the same in regards to their debt. They will say, that they didn’t realize how much they were spending until it all was calculated and a bill showed up in the mail.
I know I didn’t and then it was too late, I was thousands in debt and had a horrible habit of just swiping a little 3×2 plastic card. It started in college when the banks showed up on campus and set up their tables to ‘educate’ college students are adulting. All I had to do was sign a few papers and wa-lah, I had my very own 3×2 plastic card show up in the mail a week later. Of course I didn’t read the fine print and even if I did, I don’t believe it would have made any sense anyways. I later learned the fine print stated I had an interest rate of 8%.
What I did read and understand was that my little 3×2 plastic card had a $2,000 limit. I interpreted that as I was just given $2,000 to spend, however I wanted. I did okay with it at first. I was a college kid who had no transportation and made a few trips to the mall here and there. I also think it helped that when I got the first monthly bill and saw a minimum payment of over $50 that I realized I had to be careful with no job besides the little gigs I picked up on campus.
It wasn’t until I really hit adulting head on with rent, a car payment, house bills and just life in general, that I really started to use my credit card. It was so much easier swiping a credit card then paying in cash. Sure it was only a 4.5 second difference in payment options, but it was easier to swipe. I didn’t have to do any math calculations to make sure I had enough in my wallet. There was always enough when I used the card. It was an endless limit pretty much and I was never faced with watching the dollar bills dwindle away in my wallet, acting as a reminder for budgeting.
Of course at this time my drinking and drugging also took off. I do believe that I ended up using alcohol and prescription meds instead of heroin because I could swipe my credit card. Square wasn’t available back then for my drug dealer to swipe my credit card for a bag of heroin. I could though, go to Rite Aide, fill a prescription for Ativan, Percs, and Trazadone, as well as attend any bar or ABC store and pay using my credit card.
So not only did I rack up a few thousand dollars drinking and drugging, but I started a horrible shopping habit. I would wake up and just feel like pure shit about myself. I felt fat. I felt ugly. I felt like a loser. I felt like a failure and a disappointment. I would feel depressed and ridden with guilt, shame, and remorse from the night before or couldn’t see my life improving and was overwhelmed and fearful. I used shopping as a means to lift my spirits for the moment. I felt great buying a new pair of shoes or a picture to hang in my apartment. I’d buy tanning packages and hair appointments and fill my closet with the latest trends. I bought happiness.
The downfall of buying happiness is that it doesn’t last. It’s not an inside job, therefore, it’s fleeting. Once the newness of the item wore off, I was stuck with myself again and all of those thoughts of failure and anxiety. Not only did I end up right back to the spot I was trying to escape from, but I added even more baggage to my list of disappointments. I added another $100 or another $250 to the list of shit I had gotten myself into. The worst was on the weekends, when I did’t have work or a routine to stick too. I was left with 48 hours to structure by myself and I usually structured it poorly.
Saturdays always started with the guilt from Friday night when I woke up and either couldn’t remember what happened or knew I had added 3 or 4 more charges to my credit card while I was out. There were so many times I would sit on my couch in my apartment and do a mental countdown, 3, 2, 1 and force myself to hit the ‘Login” button to my bank account. I always cringed in anticipation on figuring out how much more I had just added to the balance.
I could keep going on the poor choices I made with my credit card, but it would just be a run on of all the same. I felt like shit about myself, used purchasing an item to make myself feel better, only to add more shit to how I felt once it no longer ‘distracted’ me from life. And then, you know that fine print I didn’t read at first? That 8% interest I ignored when I received it in the mail? Yea that. That all caught up to me. Not only was I accruing more of a balance due to spending, but I was adding to my balance in addition to the spending because of the interest. I got in way over my head. And instead of buckling down and looking at my part in it all, I just continued swiping. I ended up with over $10,000 in debt.
To this day, I still have financial insecurities. I managed to pay off all my credit card debt by busting my ass and am now very, very, careful with charging credit. However, I am so fearful to end up where I once was and the accessibility I still have, that I very rarely will charge things. The only downfall is that I have added to my warped mentality of money. Not only did I have limiting beliefs regarding money from childhood, but I added years of abusing money and the consequences I had, to my opinion of it. I have really worked on changing my mindset about money. I realized my fears and insecurities regarding it held me back in several ways. On top of that, I was tired of having the weight of financial insecurities weigh on me.
Money is such a taboo topic, no one wants to talk about it. Unfortunately, left to our own devices and experiences, it causes so many of us to have poor relationships with money. Just like anything else, we have to figure out how we feel and decide whether it’s working for us or not. I know for me, the way I felt about money wasn’t working, so I had to take action to change.
Toodles, Becca Jane 🙂