Credit cards are indentured servitude

4 Sep

The devil wants you to wear Prada you can’t pay for.

“I can’t really afford this,” friends say to me about everything from their monthly rent to a handbag. “But oh well! I DESERVE IT”

Because overspending is so rampant in our age group, the only acceptable response to this seems to be an approving chuckle, as if to say, “Hey, everyone’s doing it.” Carrying a balance is now the norm.

But that can we’re kicking down the road is VERY real, and getting rustier by the day. Full disclosure: I have never not paid my balance in full — I’m a “deadbeat” in card-company lingo — but I have had to loan myself money from savings to tide myself over from too many swipes of said card. Paying myself back with 0% interest (and losing interest, as said money is supposed to be in savings) is hard enough. Paying some corporation to lend me money? No thanks.

Here are some sobering numbers from a NY1 story that ran recently:

According to Sallie Mae, the average college student graduates with over $4,000 in credit card debt, with most of them at an interest rate of 14 percent. That means should they only make their minimum monthly payment, they’ll pay over $5,000 in interest alone before that debt is cleared.

Five grand is a heavy price to pay when we feel we “deserve” a lifestyle we can’t pay for. With your permission, these companies are getting rich off our lack of self-control. I am not anti-credit card; I am just anti-using it for stuff you can’t afford.

And once you establish a lifestyle that depends on spending more than you make, oh man is it hard to cut back. Just ask my friend who makes more than twice my salary and is approaching $10K in debt. When you make so little, this kind of thing is baffling.“How can that much money not be enough?” It’s about habits. We say we’ll save more when we have enough left over to save. Hear me clearly: YOU WILL NEVER HAVE ENOUGH. Enough is arbitrary — ask your nearest bankrupt celebrity.

Frivolous credit card debt — which I am defining to mean debt incurred by wants, not emergencies — happens because we feel entitled. Entitled to have a bigger apartment, to party harder, to wear labels. And it’s slavery. I truly believe being cash-poor is a character-building exercise; so is living beneath your means. Without these skills, how can one ever appreciate real wealth when it happens to us?

Achievement means more when you’ve come up through the ranks, not when you’ve been placed there.


One Response to “Credit cards are indentured servitude”

  1. Marnie 09/24 at 2:28 am #

    As someone who has struggled with credit card debt, I can attest to the deep penalty of buying now and paying later- paying again…and again- can take on a person. I had to work extra jobs, live at home, do all kinds of things I didn’t want to to pay off the debts, and looking back, the feeling of “oh I deserve this” was nowhere near as lasting as the long hours of toil to pay off the debts.

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