In response to a friend Re: Credit Card Companies

about this rant

I have had more than my share of financial problems. It is horrific to be faced with a cascading series of overdraft fees or late payment fines. Totally overwhelming. Yet, it was still my responsibility. Did it suck? Yes it totally did. The credit cards spelled out the penalties and the interest maximums though. Using them if I couldn’t afford those penalties was a choice I was making, gambling on things not going wrong. In my life, gambling on things not going wrong is usually a bad bet.

I basically hate most laws. They cost us money and don’t do what they were supposed to do and are rarely the answer to anything. If people were properly taught personal economics and then made the effort to actually put into practice what they learned, the fucked up card companies would not get enough customers to stay in business.

What I have learned from personal experience is most important for me is, DO NOT PLAY OSTRICH. If things are going poorly it is probably not even one wrong move away from a rapid downhill slide, it is probably going to be a lack of any action, a pause, a beat to be pissed off or feel sorry for myself, that is going to start the cascade of doom. If somebody raises a rate, a quick call can often lower it right back down, same with a late fee. That is assuming that a fuck up is rare. When you have a history of doing it right, that goes a long way.

I do my best to remember that money is not mine unless it is in my hands. I don’t care what people owe me, if I count on that money as if it is actually mine and spend ahead, then I need to be prepared to accept the consequences. (Hell, money may not be mine even after it is supposedly mine. Remember last year, when ING ate all of my money and left me, well not penniless since we have that jar of change downstairs, but damn close. Man, I hate ING.) If I owe money, and cash comes into my hands, that cash is not my money either. If I buy a cup of coffee with money I have in my hand, while I am carrying debt, then I am borrowing for that cup of coffee.

I immediately stop with all purchases that are not absolutely necessary (and I need to be disciplined about what constitutes necessary). Either admit to my friends, “Sorry, I can’t afford that.” or make up something about being too busy. I refuse to just go along for a dinner or an event and go further into debt even though it is more fun to go, and less embarrassing. I do my best to avoid rationalizing myself into going because “I already said I would”, and quite frankly because I would love to be distracted from my financial woes. Immediately tell people that I need more work and then take the work. Cleaning toilets for money is not beneath me, and pretending that I can’t do it because then I might miss out on my search for the right work would just be an excuse for me.

If I am going to need to do the hideous, and ask somebody to help me out, admit it sooner rather than later. Warn them ahead of time so they feel less pressure to say yes because I still have time to look for other options. Do it before I have stacks of late fees. Most importantly if I am going to do it, be honest and ask for enough that it will actually stand a decent chance of halting the avalanche, all of course with an upfront schedule and plan for how it is getting paid back.

Anyhow, it is absolutely not a matter of not being familiar with both financial hardship AND financial irresponsibility, but credit card companies were not the root cause of my fuck ups. I was.

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