Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Getting out of debt- part 2

It's a familiar story. You're in college, maybe you've got a work study job, maybe your parents send you a little money from time to time. In 1988, $100 was a lot of money and I could usually make it stretch as much as 5 or 6 weeks. I was on the "meal plan" so I didn't really have to pay for food. I had a car in my last two years, but I didn't really have to drive any where. When I was in college, if you were lucky enough to have a car, you had to put gas in it, but still, the biggest problem I faced was where I was going to go to the movies that weekend, or whatever it was I was doing. I never worried about how to pay for college in the middle of the semester. I just knew that when I would come back the next term I would just sign another one of those little papers and they would let me stay again. There was great comfort knowing I didn't have to pay back student loans until after I graduated... that seemed like such a long time away.

I don't even really remember the first offer I got. Rocky Mountain National Bank I think it was. A mailer in my box alongside the usual campus notices, C+ papers, notes from my mother and other typical college mail. I'm usually the type of person that trashes junk mail without a second glance, so I'm not sure what caught my eye. Again, this was 1988, and the credit card industry was not even then what it is today. (Side note: for a great documentary, watch this: The Secret History of the Credit Card ) I can only imagine what must have caught my eye, and it was in all likelyhood something like this- "You are PRE-APPROVED for a Visa card with a credit limit of $1500! Just sign here and mail this in! This was language I could understand.

I likewise do not remember what the first thing I bought on credit was. If I had to venture a guess it was probably gas for the car (the make and model of which even escapes me now). I'm sure my logic, well thought out as always, was, "if I only buy gas with it, I can save all my cash for dates and stuff".

From there the details become pretty fuzzy. I have vague recollections of getting the first bill in the mail at school and discovering I spent $130 in gas the first month, or something ridiculous like that. I do not remember at what point I realized that credit cards could be used also to purchase goods and services... and food... and a bunch of other stuff. I quickly figured out, due in great part to my tremendous reasoning skills, that I could not keep using this credit card forever, or I would use up my available credit. It was not going to be a very good idea to not have a buffer, a security blanket at my disposal, especially with things like Christmas break and stuff like that coming up. I could not believe the simplicity of the solution. All I had to do was fill out another credit card application, and wait for more money!

Next: I Discover bondage.

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