Late April, my dad sat me down at the kitchen table, eager to discuss my future plans. I was less than eager because discussing my future plans is a regular Tuesday night in my household. To my surprise this time differed from the rest; he wanted me to get my very own credit card. In shock, I thought to myself, “Does he really think I’m responsible enough to take on my own credit card”? Well he did, and two weeks later it came in the mail ready for me to use.
The time leading up to me getting the actual credit card was spent having long conversations with my dad. We talked about interest rates, paying on time, and how debt can hinder my future. Repetitive as ever (sorry dad), he kept saying, “Whatever you do, do not max the thing out. It is for emergencies, not for buying a cute shirt.” In the moment, I thought I understood. I reassured him that I wouldn’t do that, because I was so familiar with the negative effects of debt. Once I received the credit card, it sat in my wallet untouched for a week. I found myself feeling scared to use it. Finally, I made my first purchase at a gas station, which was a big deal for me.
From that point on, my fear of using the credit card subsided, and I began making purchases. Clothes, gas, food, movies, concert tickets— you name it, I bought it. I wasn’t careless though. I would make small payments that I could afford throughout the month, to decrease the amount due at the end of my statement period. Setting aside money from each paycheck, I paid that off. Phew! First statement down! I was proud of myself and confident that I could easily get the hang of having a credit card. Well, that confidence relaxed into carelessness. I began using my credit card for everything, which became a problem, quickly.
Before I knew it, my credit card was maxed out. Confused and angry, I tried to remember all the things I bought. I could remember maybe three, which angered me even more. How could I be so careless? Why did I buy things that I didn’t really need? After the confusion and anger, came fear and anxiety. How was I going to pay for this? I had concerts coming up, an oil change for my car, and cell phone data overages I had to pay. In that moment, I looked back to all the valuable information my dad was telling me, especially to not max out my credit card, and he was right.
I had to pay off my credit card so, I returned some of the things I bought, took small jobs, and sold old clothes. Those helped pay off about a quarter of what was owed. Unfortunately, I am still dealing with this situation today. I am hardheaded, so I had to learn the hard way. I had to feel what it was like to owe a substantial amount of money. I had to realize what it was like to not be able to afford things that took a higher priority than my own personal entertainment. I had to realize the importance of budgeting and why it is so crucial. And most importantly, I had to come to understand how hard it is pay off the amount I owe.
My experience taught me how easy it was to spend money I didn’t have, but it also taught me how hard it was to come up with that money after the fact. From that point forth, I adopted a budget where I now note every single thing I purchase. Based on what I make each month, I divvy up an estimate of how much I can spend on food, clothes, entertainment, etc. Budgeting even allows me to save some money for ACTUAL emergencies. It can happen to the best of us, especially if you don’t enforce a budget for yourself. For those of you in a similar situation to my own, or thinking about getting their own credit card, please take my story into consideration. Try to learn from my mistakes. Remember, a budget, whether it’s on your phone or even written on a piece of paper, can be a lifesaver in these situations.
If you feel like you’re spending has gone too far, I urge you to utilize iontuition.com, and go to ionManage, where you can create a simple but effective budget. This is what I use, and not only has it helped me to successfully manage my money, it has also helped me prevent a situation like this from repeating itself.
Sometimes, learning the hard way is the most powerful lesson of all. And power is a good thing, when it comes to personal money management.
As Blogger and budget aficionado, Tara K. helps students across the country enhance their knowledge about money management and everyday life. She is constantly looking for new ideas to transform into great advice for you. Pursuing a journalism major, Tara K. has a passion for the art of inquiry, which is conveyed through her writing.