Monday, August 11, 2008

Debt Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

I claim artistic license in the unabashed plagiarism in the subject of this post.

I also claim artistic lameness in using a lightsaber duel to symbolically represent the war we all fight with our debt. Darth Vader=Debt. You get it.

When last you read, I had spent the month after graduation from college relaxing on my couch, taking up smoking as a hobby, living off of cash advances from my Discover card and beginning to sense that the credit bubble would eventually burst if I didn't have some method of making the minimum monthly payments that were now appearing in my mailbox at the rate of 3 different bills EVERY single month. I never missed one of these bills, and was actually kind of proud of filling out the little payment coupons and writing out the checks. I didn't mind the housekeeping of paying the bills, but I was slightly annoyed at having to send these places money. Still a $25 dollar per month bill was a pretty small price to pay for being able to spend up to $1000 or so at a moments notice if I needed to. I felt pretty self-secure and self important.

It was a GREAT deal as far as I was concerned. These credit card companies entrusted me with a card, and they did not at all dictate what I used the card for, and all I had to do in return was make a $25 dollar per month payment. I mean, really this was very doable. $35 dollars a month was not going to be a problem. Especially when I got a job a $45/month payment was peanuts to me. Making a $150 average per show I was doing with my sound business, I could churn out 3 $55 payments without even blinking an eye. Hey, wait a second...

And so it came to be that I decided I needed a job. The short version of the story was, I knew this guy who needed help in the bookstore at my alma mater, which as it happened was only 4 miles or so from where I slept, and didn't open until 9 am. It was perfect. The salient details of how I stumbled my way into the bookstore job and backed my way into the bookstore career are fodder for later stories. The only detail I really remember from the time was me saying that I was only going to be in this job for about a year while my sound business was "building up". In June of 2009 I will get my 20 year service award from the company. That's actually a happy story, but that story is not really a part of this one.

With a regular income I was now able to handle $150 in credit card payments per month. I decided that I could discipline myself not to take cash advances from the Discover card anymore, after all, I wasn't earning the "cash-back" points on cash advances, and thereby missing that incredible opportunity.

I found myself fascinated with other people's credit habits, and what cards they carried, what interest rates they had, and other various perks that came with the territory. I noticed that several of my adultier friends had a card that I didn't have... something called American Express.
Huh. Better look in to this, I thought.

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