While it does interfere with the comfortable digestion of my breakfast, I usually watch the morning TV news for twenty minutes or so, just to see if anything important has happened in the world…and I have to watch carefully, as most morning TV shows just consist of cute exchanges, truncated conversations with important people, or the rehashing of stories that have minimal significance but maximum power to pull in an audience. Recently, though, I watched a story about how credit card companies are raising their interest rates to 30%, and how that might border on “usury” – which is supposed to be illegal.
As a young adult, I didn’t even have a credit card. I got my paycheck, put it in the bank, and used checks against what I actually had in my account in order to pay bills. If there was anything over at the end of the month (and if there was, it was very little, as I was making only $11,000 per year as a college professor), I considered it “splurge money” and used it on something stupid. Today, I’ve got lots of credit cards, but never pay any interest, as we pay off the bills in full the day they arrive. Admittedly, in between being a young adult and today, there have been some stupid and/or disastrous times when the use of a credit card put us in debt, and it took effort and pain to pay it off.
I say all this to make it clear that I’ve “been there and done that” like everyone else. And ultimately, I think the answer is: don’t use a credit card unless you have every cent in the bank to back it up. Don’t consider it a credit card at all – consider it a cash card. In fact, you might consider only having a debit card, which means it can only be used in relation to what you have, and not what you wish you had. That way, you won’t have credit charges which can rip apart the fabric of your life.
Here’s another idea: take the time to earn what you want – that special car, a home, jewelry, a vacation – instead of having your folks give you a down payment for a house you can barely afford. Take the time to build your foundation, and when you can finally afford the next step in your life, you’ll feel much more accomplished, proud, special, and downright happy.