Credit Card Debt Free...At Last!
September 5, 2002
After several years of hard work and determination, every last one of my credit cards have been paid off. I am now officially free of all credit card debt forever! You don't realize how good it feels to be able to say that. Woo hoo!
When I finally realized I needed to do something about my credit card debt in the mid-1990's, I had already accumulated over $12,000 on several credit cards. What is most amazing is how quickly I had built that debt. More on that later.
Let me preface this by saying that I have always been a sensible person when it comes to spending money. When I entered college at the impressionable age of 17 years old, I resisted every credit card offer thrown my way (and, if you have been to college, you know that there were plenty of them!). Interestingly, I didn't even have a banking account until after I had finished college! It's too bad that common sense economics is not taught to students before they enter college. Our high schools should take the lead on this by offering a mandatory course that goes beyond a simple economics class. Apparently, this is sorely needed.
Recently released statistics show that credit card use among college students is running rampant. Sixty-four percent of college seniors have a major credit card in their name. In fact, cash payments only accounted for forty-two percent of total expenditures by all college students last year. Students like the convenience of paying with their debit, credit, ATM and college IDs.
However, convenience can be very dangerous, though. Most young adults do not grasp the concept of budgeting, interest rates and living within their means. Their mind is on having easy access to get the things what they want. Period. It takes several years of making payments on those credit cards with the balance never going down to realize the trap they have fallen into. By then, it is too late.
The situation has become such a growing problem that the U.S. Congress began hearings today on the marketing of credit cards to college students. Something must be done to prevent credit card companies from tempting incoming college students with the illusion of financial independence.
To make matters worse, most college students have the additional debt burden that comes with taking out student loans. Again, I was able to avoid having that debt since my undergraduate education was paid for with grants, scholarships and several part-time and full-time jobs. This causes an enormous amount of stress on students that will affect their lives for many years to come. Overwhelming debt adversely affects our economy as well as society in general. The number one reason for divorce in the United States is because of stress over money.
Of course, the credit card companies like to throw out all-too-typical responses to the criticism they receive. They all claim that they are simply providing students with the opportunity to learn financial responsibility. Some even claim that they provide materials to students to educate them on managing their money (how many students do you think actually READ this material?!). The big kicker credit card companies like to use is when they claim they are helping the students establish good credit at an early age which will help them later in life when they go to buy a car or house. Since most college students do not have a job while taking classes, it is absurd for them to carry a credit card without having a means for making payments. Does anyone else see how ridiculous this is?
Credit card companies don't care because they know that parents will most likely end up bailing out their children to prevent them from having bad credit. The vicious predatory cycle repeats itself each and every year. Credit card companies are the only benefactors in this grand scheme!
Getting back to how I got into credit card trouble, it began when I entered graduate school. After taking out an enormous amount of student loans to pay for my private school education, I decided it was time to get a credit card. I worked 6 jobs at the same time while attending school to help pay for my family's non-education expenses, including housing, food and living expenses.
I used my credit card to make purchases that I knew I could not afford. At the time, I rationalized that the items I was purchasing on my credit card were needs that had to be paid for. Pretty soon, I maxed out on my first card and decided to get another one. Then another. And, then...well, you get the picture. It really didn't take long to see the mess I had made for myself.
In the end, I racked up over $12,000 in credit card debt in just 3 years!
In 1995, I decided that it was time to do something about it. One evening, I pulled all of my credit cards out of my wallet, stacked them on top of each other in a pan, put them in the oven set at 450 degrees and baked them for the next 10 minutes. When I pulled this glob of plastic out of the oven and let it cool overnight, the next morning I examined what I had done. All of my credit cards had merged into one big mess. It was pretty much a physical illustration of my financial condition at that time. I decided to put the credit card glob on my coffee table to constantly remind me that I would no longer use credit cards.
Obviously, I did not make any new purchases after what I had done. But, after a year of making a little over the minimum payments to various credit card companies each month and noticing that the balances were not going down as fast as I would like, I decided to contact Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) in Atlanta, GA. I had heard stories about the services they offered to help people who struggled with credit card debt through Larry Burkett's Money Matters, a radio program focusing on finances. CCCS was able to get the interest rates on all of my credit cards lowered to below 5%.
Had I continued to make the payments I was making to the credit card companies, it would have taken over 45 years to pay them all off. Thankfully, through the help of CCCS and a disciplined focus to only spend money that I had, it took less than six years to get rid of that credit card debt! We made our FINAL payment in August!
FREEDOM!!! That's what I feel. A tremendous burden has been lifted off my shoulders as I am no longer a prisoner to the credit card companies. While I still have my mortgage and graduate school loans to pay each month, there is no greater feeling than to be able to say that you no longer have any consumer debt.
If you would like more information about CCCS, then you can visit their website at http://www.cccs.org. Or, you can call them toll-free at 1-888-577-2227. They have friendly, professional financial counselors ready to provide you with the highest quality customer service you deserve.
If you are having money difficulties because of credit cards, I HIGHLY recommend you contact CCCS as soon as possible. You will not regret it!
You'll be credit card debt free just like me!