I like to surf over to eBay to check the going prices for vintage items that I may wish to sell. While I’m there, I sometimes “window shop”, looking at cool stuff that I’d like, but don’t have the room to display or to store. I glanced at an announcement that said special prices are offered for buyers who take advantage of their credit plan. I thought of all the folks who have apps on their phones that allow them to shop eBay anytime, anywhere and now with a credit plan.
I don’t have money to throw away, so I only enter a casino to go along for dinner with a friend. My pal has a strict limit that he budgets for gambling. He purposely leaves his credit and debit cards at home. So, when he blows his casino share, he’s finished then we can eat and return to Norfolk. I was shocked to see provisions for credit card use on the individual gaming machines as well as ATM machines in various places within the casino.
I’ve known people who have been crushed under mountains of debt. I can’t help but think about them whenever I see examples of easy access to credit card use. I can see a shop-aholic filling up a virtual shopping cart with stuff while on his smart-phone. I watched a woman place her credit card into a video gaming device at the casino. I suppose she completely used up her cash advance limit. I felt like I was witnessing a bad train wreck. It was so horrible, but I couldn’t resist rubbernecking.
Personally, I only use my credit card when absolutely necessary. My Internet provider requires it. And when travelling abroad, a credit card is a lifesaver. Whenever I do use it, I always pay the complete balance when due, I make a special effort to never carry over any balance.
I’m not a complete redneck about credit. I realize that utilizing credit is a wise business practice. That is, to use credit prudently and with a fair amount of foresight. Wise use of credit is what built western civilization. It’s when I see our nation become enmeshed in the economic mess we find ourselves in, that I know something has gone very, very wrong with the credit system. When I see acquaintances purchasing daily necessities on credit, I feel a sense of dread. It’s the misuse of credit that brings about unhappiness and financial ruin.
I don’t think that credit users should be taken by the hand and babied whenever they whip out their cards. I just believe that only bonafide responsible parties should be granted credit. I don’t care if the responsible party is John Q. Public or if it’s Jane Q. CEO. Irresponsible use of credit has a real trickle down effect on the entire global economy. The same goes for responsible use of credit.
This seems obvious. But we forget it and sometimes think we are the exceptions to the rule. We often get caught up in the fantasy of brand name culture. It’s ubiquitous. I’m a fan of the San Francisco Giants. It’s easy to forget that the team is a for-profit corporation. Marketing is their number one mission.
A similar mindset that I find somewhat amusing is how people become attached to a brand name. The Chevrolet versus Ford game has been going on for years. Drivers of one or the other brand have been known to get into fist fights related to brand loyalty.
We see this absurdity in relation to sneakers, blue jeans and fragrances. Some folks think of themselves as superior because they wear Aeropostale shirts and Axe body spray. Oops, maybe those brands are already passe’? If so, we need to grab the credit cards and go shopping.
We’re schooled by sophisticated marketing experts, using hip techniques and cool celebrities. We’re told that it’s patriotic to go shopping. It’s good for the economy. We rationalize that we’re only doing our part. We want to be a part of the crowd. Even when we get into financial trouble, it’s hard to get off the treadmill. The credit mill has become a socially acceptable habit.
What’s the solution? Taking personal responsibility for our choices. When we stop mindlessly following the marketers and start thinking rationally, we’ve started down the right path. A healthy skepticism will serve you very well. A skepticism that is not cynical and passive is best.
In 1971, I got into some trouble. I was 19-years-old and had racked up about $200 in debt on my gasoline company credit card. I couldn’t seem to pay it off. $200 was a lot of money back then. I finally bit the bullet. I cut up the card and adjusted my budget so I could pay off that debt within a couple of months. I was so happy to get that monkey off my back. I vowed to never let my credit get out of control again.
I realize everybody’s situation is different, so I only use my own experience as one example. At least you know my take on easy credit.
The Blue Jay of Happiness is ineligible for a credit score but works day to day to stay alive. That’s OK.