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New Credit Card

October 2007

My main credit card expires at the end of the month and I just got the new one in the mail today. It expires 10/10.... As in 2010. I mean, I know that year is close, but the fact that I've got something now that is specifically tied to that year (and way late in that year) is a little wild. While I don't expect us to have shuttles to the moon base and insanely smart (and just plane old insane) AIs by then, we do have some pretty cool shit. Like HDTV which makes football games even more awesome to watch when you aren't at the stadium. Another interesting number on the card is the "Member since". For me, that number is 1994. I graduated high school in 1993 and start college in the fall of the same year. I can't remember exactly, but I think that I actually signed up for the card late in my first semester, but didn't get it till January of 1994. I've mentioned before that like a lot of people, I had no idea how to properly handle a credit card at that point. I quickly maxed it out and was just paying the minimum each month until they would bump my credit line up a bit in a few months. Rinse, repeat. 1994 means that I've had a credit card for well over 1/3 of my life. Luckily, I figured out quicker than most how important it is from both a financial and basic mental health perspective to get to the point that I wasn't carrying a balance from month to month. I don't remember exactly when, but it has probably been eight or nine years since I had a monthly balance that I couldn't pay off. I've had a good job for several years now, but I think that it's important to point out that I actually got to where I was paying off the balance each month while I was still in college. It's a critical point that the reason I was able to get out of credit card debt was not because I got a good job, but because I figured out at some level how I was wasting a ton of money by paying interest to the credit card company and cut down my spending to the point where I could chip away at the debt until it was paid off. Before this clicked in my brain, I went thru two other credit card paradigms. The first was after I first got my card and it was just a neat way to get stuff (mainly photo stuff) without it seeming like it was costing me extra. It felt like, I could simply get something that I wanted and then pay it off over time. While this is, of course, true at the top level, the fact that I was paying interest for this priviledge and exactly how much that interest was costing me were way below the surface of my thinking. The second major thought pattern happened when I started to realize how much I was paying in interest. From that point, I start to rationalize that the reason I was in debt was because I was a poor college student and that when I got out and got a Real Job, I would pay it off. While I might have been able to pull this off, it would have been harder to do if I had kept piling debt on. And frankly, I know several folks with really good paying jobs that still struggle to pay their bills each month. That is much more the rule than the exception. I got lucky and got out early, but if you haven't had a chance to pull that off yet, I would really encourage you to take a step back and run a few numbers to see how much more you are paying for things if you tack on the interest of a credit card on the purchase. For me, it was a tough process at first. It's not unlike trying to focus your thoughts on an aspect of your personality/relationships/body/life that you don't like. It's not fun, but if you can give it a good go and make a change based on it for the better, the reward from both a personal satisfaction as well as a financial perspective are great.

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