I faced my first real bill when I was 18 and held a power in my hands I never knew I had: the power to bring down the man, or more appropriately, the power to bring down Blockbuster.
Now, I am not saying that I am solely responsible for Blockbuster’s demise, but avoiding paying my five dollar late fee certainly did not help.
It began when I thought it would be a hilariously cruel joke to make my boyfriend watch a season of Gossip Girl with me, a joke I did not get then, nor do I get now. The key to my deception against my neighborhood combination McDonald’s Blockbuster was the fact that I paid cash and never rented from there again. Consider it a ding-dong-ditch, I signed up for my membership the same day I subconsciously terminated it. Without a card to charge my late fees to, they were only left with a phone number to collect through. I dodged calls while simultaneously dodging the beginnings of my adult responsibilities.
Over the course of two years, my life had taken a turn for the opposite. I had developed a strong phobia of debt and my parents had to force me to apply for a credit card. The credit building was great, but the simplicity of a single swipe was what had me worried along with the fact that you just cannot dodge a credit card company like you can a dying movie rental chain.
I applied for the card through my bank and got it (they obviously had not heard of my stint with Blockbuster) with a low cap. My frequent swiping got the best of me and I maxed my card for the first few months, but over time I calmed down and made my expenses minimal.
Formal budgets are wonderful for some, but rules and structure have never sat well with me, making me create my own system which would probably be chaos to someone else. My version of a budget I tuck in the back of my mind, and to describe it as simply as possible, roughly keeps track of my spending while reminding myself of priorities and saving. I also figured out what type of payments worked best for me to use on which expenses. I split amongst cash, debit and credit to make the check I write to MasterCard smaller and therefore lower my resentment towards my check book.
It is a responsibility that I am adapting to slowly and the fact that it is now unavoidable only makes it easier to grow into. For now I will stick with Redbox, but who knows, if I stay on this track I may promote myself to a Hastings membership (another dying video chain store).
It is of utmost importance that everyone pays attention to the following: America is a society built on credit and debt with the latter being the majority of what most people use to scrape by month to month. Credit cards are a great way to build your credit so one day you can get a car or home loan but they are also a very cunning and dangerous. Too many people do not understand how credit cards work so let me take a second and give a quick explanation.
Credit cards allow the user to purchase items whatever they may be (hey I do not judge) without actually having actual tangible currency. The company trusts that you will pay them back in full upon receiving the bill. The tricky part is that these card companies do not ask for the full payment. Instead, they allow you to pay a minimum amount to cover you for that month. Then they charge you an insane amount of interest that will leave you in so much debt that your great grandchildren will be paying it off.
So the lesson here is to only charge what you know you will be able to pay off in full and no more. Credit cards are good for emergencies and should not be used as a way to pay for that new purse or game console that you really cannot afford.
It is crucial that you get your bills paid on time and not wait until it is too late to try and salvage your failing credit score.