Saturday, May 1, 2004
quote du jour:
"If money be not thy servant, it will be thy master. The covetous man cannot so properly be said to possess wealth, as that may be said to possess him." -- Sir Francis Bacon

I'm guessing that it's the buttons on my pants hitting the inside of the dryer that's causing the occasional gun shot noise in my bathroom. I'd investigate further, but I have Cowboy Mouth cranked up on the CD player and Robin chatting with me on Yahoo! Messenger. I don't feel like leaving either.

It's all a distraction from the check stubs and paper in the floor next to me. Oddly enough, it's the tangible stuff that I can ignore. The intangible -- the handful of Internet payments I just made to my various creditors -- is harder to forget.

I'm not broke... but I'm not financially secure, either. And it's dawned on me that I've managed to go nearly two years as a quasi-adult without creating a solid budget. The money comes in. The money goes out. The ends always meet, but I'm to the point that I don't quite know how they do it.

The last hour or so has been spent putting things in order. I'm trying to make an actual list of due dates, minimum payments & average balances to refer to. I'm guessing that this would work better than letting the e-mail notices pile up in my inbox and the paper statements collect dust on the kitchen table. Fortunately, my income tax refund was nice. I might actually be able to pay some of the people on this list I'm making.

If the principal of my old high school asked me to return and give the commencement address, I would have one message. When you see the credit card guy on your college campus... RUN.

Okay, so that won't happen. The principal won't ask me to return (honor students speak at my high school's graduation) and if he did, I certainly couldn't keep my speech on just one topic. Also, regardless of what I said, most of them wouldn't be able to flee. If you build it, they will come... And if you offer college kids a t-shirt or CD or key chain, they'll sign the credit card application. The idea of a FREE shiny new platinum metallic gold MasterVisaExpress card is sometimes too much to resist.

I was in my first semester of college when I stumbled across the Visa man. The lure that day was magazines, I think. My high school civics teacher was the real reason I signed on the dotted line. He said that having a credit card was a good idea. Seriously, he said that having the card, charging a few things to it & paying your balance every month would help establish credit. I listened to him. Well, to that part where he said getting a credit card was a good idea. I pretty much ignored everything else.

If you charted the story of Fletch & the Visa card, you'd have a whole bunch of squiggly lines. The balance would shoot up for a while. The balance would drop for a while. Of course, with age, there were more ups than downs. With those growing balances came growing interest rates. It's easy to overlook the fine print that says your introductory APR expires three seconds after you receive your card. Somehow, it's even easier to overlook the part where they indicate the rate will then jump to 978.9%.

After seven years of battling the Visa card of my youth, I had a plan. Well, not really. I won't lie. I got drunk one night at an Arena Football game and signed up for a Discover card. Hey, they were giving away t-shirts! That beats the hell out of magazines.

After I realized my deed, I decided to transfer the balance from the evil Visa to the Discover Card (which had an intro. rate that lasted days instead of seconds). I figured that I could then cancel the Visa, pay off my debt with a better interest rate and live happily ever after. Drunken t-shirt give-a-ways aside, that was a pretty good plan. I probably should have followed it.

My Visa was free & clear, Discover was happy with the Insta-Balance I brought with me and all was well in the world. Then, Jessie & I took a vacation together...

Hotels? Let me put it on my Visa!
Rental car? Here's my Visa!
Hookers & blow? Visa!

Before I knew it, I managed to have two credit cards with balances. In fact, that's the story as it stands now.

In college, I saw people with thousands of dollars in credit card debt. One girl on our newspaper staff owed $5,000 on a single department store card alone. Fortunately, I'm nowhere close to that -- yet. After two years of living on my own & having my own job, it's time to buckle down. Either I've gotta stop making financial decisions under the influence of $6 arena draft beer... or I've gotta learn to stick with 'em when I make them.

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Copyright © 2004, Thomas Fletcher. All Rights Reserved.