I know something about the danger of buying stuff on credit. I went bankrupt — twice — by maxing out credit cards and then hitting hard times.
When you buy something promising to pay for it later, you’re gambling that you will always have enough money on hand to pay at least the minimum payment. The catch is that bad times happen — you lose your job, you get sick or injured, and the money will still be due.
Then there’s the interest thing. If you pay for a major purchase a little bit at a time, that nice $1,000 toy can end up actually costing you hundreds more. Better to wait until you’ve saved enough to pay with cash, so you can spend those hundreds on something else.
And when hard times hit — it’s not an “if” — the credit card companies will run you through a gauntlet of embarrassment and humiliation that borders on inhuman. All those scenes in movies where the slimy thug threatens the guy who doesn’t have the money to pay back the debt? They’re based on credit card collectors’ real-life tactics, except Visa, MasterCard or Discover won’t threaten to break your legs.
Sometime after my second bankruptcy — I’m a slow learner — I got tired of paying interest on credit cards, which essentially is spending money on thin air. I finally cut up my cards and set my sights on paying the balances down to zero. It took about five years before I could finally start earning interest instead of paying it, which I promise you is more fun.
The eight words that changed my life are something I learned through hard experience. It’s very much like a gambling problem: It was so hard to stop betting that I would always be able to pay back the debts. It’s like knowing instinctively that the house always wins but laying your money down anyway.
The eight words?
DEBT IS NOT A TOOL. IT’S A TRAP.