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Posted By iamincontrol | October 7, 2014
Last month we asked you guys:
Do you have a credit card?
You guys strongly related to “I don’t have one yet, but I’m going to get one as soon as I can.“
Credit cards can have benefits if you understand and are experienced with them, but they can be dangerous too. It’s easy to overspend, and Rachael’s story below perfectly illustrates that. Read on to learn how she got into (and then out of) credit card debt.
I got my first credit card when I was 18. I can’t even begin to explain the independence I felt. I had already moved out of my parents’ house and had been supporting myself for nearly a year. Getting my credit card really made me feel on my own. At first, I was going to use it for small purchases like gas or groceries. That changed completely when my friend invited me for a weekend getaway in a nearby city. I thought, “How exciting! I can feel like an adult visiting friends!” We decided to put everything on my credit card and when the bill arrived we could split it 50/50.
Our mini-vacation started, and we were so excited. I started using my credit card for everything: the hotel, gas, snacks, the groceries for a friend’s cookout, and of course, shopping. Everything was great. The weekend went perfectly, and I had so much fun. Then the bill arrived. It said, “Credit card balance: $659.45.” My mouth dropped, and I immediately got a stomachache. I called my best friend and told her the amount. I reminded her that we were going to split it. I could tell she was upset about the amount also and gave me some pretty bad news. “Uhm, I don’t have $300 to give you, I’m sorry.” I hung up the phone and didn’t know what to do. I was embarrassed about the situation. I didn’t want to go to my parents or family for help. All I could do was start making my payments and hope I could pay it off.
Each month I made my payments, but only the minimum. In August, I started college. Being a full time student and not having a job made it really hard to make payments on anything. I started missing payments and getting a lot of late fees. I was completely out of money and still owed a lot to my bank. Not only was I negatively impacting my bank account, but I was ruining my credit score, which I didn’t even know about. No one explained what a credit card or credit score was. I just knew I could use my credit card to buy things and then pay it off later.
It’s now four years later, and I have finally paid off my card. That was the real feeling of freedom. I don’t feel tied down to my debt anymore. What started off as a weekend getaway cost me thousands and thousands of dollars. What could have been a really good credit score ended with many declines of car and school loans and years of feeling depressed and hopeless because of my financial situation.
My advice to you is to ASK FOR HELP! If you don’t know what a credit card does or how it can affect your credit score or impact your financial life years later, ask! Get the facts before you sign for anything, and make sure you understand it. Don’t feel embarrassed about these questions. I would trade my frustration and bad credit score for answers to my credit questions any day!