I Get All Oprah on You

Oprah is re-running the Debt Diet this week, and you know I am on that like a duck on a junebug.

So here's the thing: I have had my own problems with finances, yes I have. I got in some trouble due to some impulse buys and several moves and multitudes of credit cards.


For the first time in almost ten years, I AM ONE HUNDRED PERCENT DEBT FREE.

Oh, but Oprah didn't have anything to do with that.

My biggest and best piece of advice to everyone, but especially college students, is this: when the credit card people are outside your cafeteria, or at Busch Stadium, or behind the counter at JCPenney, and they offer you a free tshirt or a free Cardinals blanket or 10% off your purchases, DO NOT FALL FOR THAT.

No amount of free crapola with make up for the fact that you are setting yourself up for bankruptcy. Balance the $0.65 they pay for those shirts against that $5000 credit limit and ask yourself if it's a fair trade.

I've been there. I've been all, "Wow, I totally need a 34 oz. travel mug, sign me up!" And I've gotten the 10% discounts and the blankets and tshirts and then I've gotten the bills. Because you know I was always telling myself, "I'll just cut up the credit card when it gets here," and then I DIDN'T.

I got very good at lying to myself. "Well, I'll just use this for emergencies," I'd say, and then my next emergency would involve the new Stephanie Plum novel and a cute pair of sandals. Life or death stuff like that.

Compared to the families on Oprah's show, I got off relatively cheaply; my highest debt was about $12,000, as opposed to their hundreds of thousands. But to tell the truth, it just might as well have been in the hundreds of thousands, because it felt like I was never going to see the LIGHT at the end of the tunnel, let alone the end of the tunnel itself. That was a long tunnel, y'all.

It took a long time--A LONG TIME--for me to pay that crap off, and as I look around, I realize that I DON'T EVEN HAVE ANYTHING TO SHOW FOR THE ORIGINAL PURCHASES. Like, what did I buy that put me so far in the hole? I have no idea. Nothing that's lasted. Nothing that I held on to. Nothing that was so important that it had to go through four moves with me. Let me tell you, the Goodwill has benefitted mightily from my destructive spending habits.

So today, I do not own a credit card. I do not want a credit card. I am afraid of credit cards. I have a bank account and I check it almost every day. I have become one of the most stingy frugal people on the planet. I decide I want to do something or buy something, and I make a plan to save up for it, and then I do the saving, and then I spend my money on something that is going to MEAN SOMETHING.

Sometimes I think Oprah talks out of her butt, but she is right when she says that the majority of people live life unconsciously. We just blow through the day without thinking of the consequences of our actions.

And here's the thing: sometimes a new television is not just a new television. Sometimes it is more work, so you can pay for it; or less family time, so you can drown yourself in The Simple Life; or more stress, because you can't afford it; or more tension, because you hate it when other people ask if you can really afford to buy a new tv.

But we don't think of that when we pull out the credit card. We think, "Ooh! Shiny!" and then we sign ourselves over to the Plastic Devil.

I didn't mean to get all preachy with this post. I started out just to tell you the good news of my own debt freedom and to compare myself to Oprah.

I just get so riled up on the subject of credit cards, because I have known first-hand how they can consume you--not in a good way--and how they can make your life into something so different from what you wanted--again, not in a good way.

And now that my debt is paid off, I have been getting about a jillion offers for credit cards in the mail. I'm pre-approved. The credit card companies approve me!
Surely that should appeal to my sense of self-worth!

Well, their approval means squat to me, because I don't approve them.

1 comment:

jeanne said...

So, how did you DO it?? HOW????


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