My Personal Battle With Credit Card Debt
Why I wrote this article
When HubPages held a contest in January of 2011, called Money Grows on Hubs, with a focus on personal finance, I wrote several articles that many people told me they found helpful. I debated whether or not to even write this hub, not wanting it to be seen as an article about 'getting out of debt' which would get it flagged and deleted by staff, but then I decided that if I could inform people with my own personal story, it would be worth writing. I had many emails and messages sent to me thanking me for sharing my story. People were glad to know they weren't alone, and I was glad I could help. This article is not about getting out of debt, it is about making sure you are aware of the risks of credit cards before applying for one.
Two years ago, I was in the bank doing a routine transaction when the teller asked me if I had ever considered applying for a credit card. I said no, because quite frankly, I didn't think I made enough money to qualify for credit card approval. The teller encouraged me to make an appointment with one of their financial services representatives, who would walk me through the process and be able to tell me whether I qualified or not.
I was surprised when a couple of weeks later, I got my letter of approval and a shiny new credit card in the mail. I put it in my wallet immediately, not with the intention of using it, but simply because I thought I would have it in case of an emergency. At the time, I thought my job was fairly secure and that I would be working for this particular employer for years to come. Within a few months of getting my credit card, I quit my job because of my foul-mouthed tyrant of a boss and didn't know what to do. You see, I've always been self-employed - as a teenager, I worked as a house-sitter, a house-cleaner, and a babysitter. After college, I worked for several years as a nanny, then a personal support worker, and did a few freelance tutoring and editing jobs on the side.
I've always been good at saving money and making a dollar stretch until it screams, so I had a nice chunk of savings when I quit my job. I decided it would be the perfect time to pursue my lifelong dream of having a career in writing. My mum, who has always been my biggest supporter, was behind me 100%, knowing that writing is my passion and believing that it would eventually pay off.
Unfortunately, some unforeseeable events happened which pretty much depleted my savings and left me using my credit card simply to live between measly paychecks. At first, my credit card payments were a mere $10 a month - definitely manageable. But when I ended up taking a number of cash advances to pay other bills, I soon ended up with an overdrawn account. Currently, my interest payments are only about $10 less than my actual monthly payments. The overdrawn fees are $25 a month, and for the last few months I've found it impossible to catch up with my credit card bill before they stick on another overdrawn fee. So far, I've only missed one payment in the entire time I've had the card, and they were very understanding when I explained that I'm self-employed and had just started a new endeavor.
Sometimes I wonder if I knew then what I know now, would I still have applied for a credit card? Part of me wants to say a resounding NO, but then another part of me knows that it wasn't foolish spending that got me into credit card debt, it was the expense of day-to-day life, and if I hadn't had the card there would have been times when dinner wouldn't have been on the table. I do wish I had taken the time to think things through more carefully though and to have had things better explained to me. In hindsight, knowing my low income, along with my age, the financial representative should have suggested a different card with a lower interest rate and/or lower fees. If I had known more then, I wouldn't have gone along blindly trusting someone else and I would have chosen a card that made more sense for my own personal financial situation. But, like they say, hindsight is 20-20.
My financial situation is slowly improving, and my outlook on life is improving along with it. I'm living my dream of being a writer, and even though there's a possibility that I might never make huge amounts of money, I'm doing the thing I love most in the world - how many people can say that? I realize how lucky I am, and believe me, I don't take it for granted for a second. I have faith that things will continue to get better and that I will be able to dig myself out of this mess. It's a mild debt compared to that of many others I know, but I'll admit that at my age, it worries me that the problems I'm having now will affect my credit rating in the future.
My point, and the moral of this little tale, is to really think carefully and consider all your options before applying for a credit card. Read the fine print, ask questions, know the facts. If you do these things, hopefully your story will be much different than mine.