Earlier my husband and I were talking about the d-word....No, not divorce, that has never been an option to even think about, less much discuss. No, I'm talking about the other d-word: debt.
I had seen a plasma t.v. and made a joke saying that we should buy it. My husband laughed and said "Yeah, like we would ever do that." You see, our old tube-type t.v. (how's that for a technical word) is still working just fine, and it doesn't need replacing. We just really don't do upgrades.
We started talking about our earlier years, when we had credit card debt. Back in the day when we lived differently than we do now. When we made different decisions than we do now. When we could "afford" to use our credit card. When we made some poor choices, and "paid" for it later, in more ways than one.
We never were extreme in any one area. We charged some clothes, but never a whole new wardrobe all at once. We never charged a whole roomful of furniture. We charged a vacation (after several years of marriage we felt we deserved one!). We financed cars, not new, but still we had to make payments on them. We had some car repairs. We charged Christmas. We charged meals. We didn't plan, we didn't have a budget. We never got into a huge mass of debt but for us, it was scary.
We never gave a lot of thought to charging. It was before kids so we were both working and figured the money was there. We used our credit card as if it were cash in the bank.
I do think what they say about instant gratification is true. It's so nice and easy to just whip out that credit card and get what you want. And wow, you can even get your payments deferred for awhile with some purchases! Wow, what a "deal."
It is so easy to spend plastic. It is so easy for me to walk into a store and use my debit card instead of cash. And it's so easy to spend more money that way. Don't have cash? Hey, whip out the debit card. Woohoo! "Free" money!
At the beginning of our marriage we had an agreement that we would never spend more than $100 without talking to one another about it first. We both had to agree to the purchase. That kept us accountable. We couldn't do things like buy a new car, an expensive coat or a motorcycle (like an ex-coworker's husband did and let me tell you, she wasn't pleased) without the other person knowing and agreeing. Now, with me being home and the kids and all, we wouldn't spend anywhere near that amount without talking about it first.
We felt like we could "afford" to use our credit card because we weren't to concerned about paying it off. After all, we were just buying that one $30 thing....right? It's not like we couldn't afford the $30. Well, after one to many of those our credit card bill started going up. Then a few car repairs went on it. We took a "much-deserved" vacation. More debt.
Pretty soon, we had more debt than we could reasonably pay off that month. That's when it all starts. You can't pay your debt off that month, but you're not worried because you can make the monthly minimum payment, right?
It's a trap, people, to view our purchases that way. To view using a credit card as if it's the same as cash. To view something you can't afford and say that it's o.k. because you can afford the minimum payment. That's how you get into trouble. That's how we got into trouble.
I know alot of people do it, we've done it, and if you are comfortable living that way then please do not take offense at my words. They are just meant to encourage you and provoke thought, not offense.
If you're feeling a little uncomfortable with your debt, even if you can afford the monthly payments, then perhaps you might want to consider not putting anything on credit for awhile (even if you really, really want it). Don't buy the item and apply that money to your debt instead. You're not going to get out of debt if you keep adding to it.
The next time you're tempted to put something on credit, ask yourself how long it will take you to pay it off. Ask yourself what you want more, that item or to be debt free. Maybe it won't be worth buying after all.