A reader pointed me to at post a Violent Acres. “You Can Learn a Lot From a Rich Girl” [profanity] is a cautionary tale of how anyone — even the wealthy — can find themselves struggling with debt.
Driving home from the bar one evening, my friend Marilyn confided in me that she was afraid. In six months, she would be graduating from grad school and her parents were going to cut her off financially for the first time in 26 years. Marilyn works twice a week (eight hours total) waiting tables to pay for pot and shoes, but everything else from her rent to her groceries has been paid for by her parents. Marilyn, at 26, doesn’t know how to balance a checkbook and has no idea what a gallon of milk costs. On top of that, she managed to secretly charge up some credit cards to the tune of $12,000 and that debt alone was overwhelming her.
The author had been in a similar position before. When she entered college, she maxed out eleven credit cards purchasing “things like lattes, kegs of beer, and plastic Jerry Garcia bear beads to decorate my apartment”. The debt became overwhelming, impossible to track.
I sat down with all of my bills and a calculator and struggled to figure out the damage. I didn’t understand simple concepts like interest, over-limit fees, late fees, or annual membership fees, so it took me a while. The end result was that if I put forth every spare cent of my spending money towards paying this debt, I would be free of it in 24 years.
To conquer this debt, the author resorted to drastic measures: she sold nearly all of her possessions, sublet her apartment, went homeless, and worked multiple jobs. She paid off her debts. Then she opened a savings account, moved into a small apartment, and lived within her means. Now she has advice for those college students who are falling into the credit trap.
I’ve spoken to a lot of college kids lately who regularly spend $200 for a pair of blue jeans. When I ask them how long it takes for them to earn that kind of cash, the answer usually falls in the realm of a week or so. At this point, I will stress that not even the very wealthy spend an entire weeks worth of salary on one article of clothing. College kids disagree because they’ve seen wealthy people wearing more expensive clothing than their jeans. So I explain that while they may wear more expensive clothing, that it doesn’t constitute a week of their salary.
Reading these stories, I was reminded of my own experiences in college, using new-found “free money” from credit cards to buy fancy clothes, a new computer, expensive gadgets, and more. I didn’t understand that I was sacrficing my future for a fleeting lifestyle.
If you choose to use credit cards, use them responsibly.
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