Feb 152011
Authors: Shane Rohleder

In one of those time warps where an hour seems to vanish in the blink of an eye, I realized I needed to stop swiping my credit card at convenience stores and start teaching myself how to pay for things up-front again.

You see, I had been tangled up in a state of mind that perpetuated irresponsible spending.

Whatever I wanted I bought, regardless of whether or not I had, or ever would have, the money to pay for it. And time went real fast for a while, and I lived blissfully ignorant, paying for life with the fresh, untarnished, ripe meaty letters of my name that the credit card companies had so long salivated over. They waited patiently for someone like me, like a new product from Apple: the iShane, another American consumer finally matured enough to be sterilized and destroyed, is now available for testing.

Tested I was. For six months, beers and burgers, Moleskin journals and magazine subscriptions, expensive toilette paper and Schick Five razors all constituted “needs” –– as “needs,” such things constituted being charged to my credit card.

Inevitably, and with the relative ease of a shaving nick, I casually walked into American debt. I racked up roughly $3,000 in debt at an interest rate of nearly twenty percent in only half a year.

School started, the warm months grew cold, and with the cold came the collection calls. I put off answering them for about five months before it got to the point where at least twelve messages a day would be left on my phone from the collections agency, all saying: “urgent attention required.”
Until now, I hadn’t realized the effect these calls had on my life.

I learned, when you’re in debt, and it’s a bad debt, your lender owns you. It doesn’t matter if you’re as hard-headed as an ox or as playful as a spider monkey, the lender will saw off your horns and take your bananas, and they can do it. It becomes a spiritual battle between borrower and lender, and you begin fighting for your soul more than your paycheck.

Questions like, “am I a bad person,” start to surface the longer you dodge your responsibilities, and those types of questions don’t rest easy on the backburner of the mind.

Before long they start to simmer, and if left unanswered, boil over into your personal life, which is what happened to me.

I started leaving my phone at home because I didn’t want to answer questions like, “Who keeps calling you,” from people in my 8 a.m. classes. One day the collections agency called my workplace and a co-worker had to call me at home to tell me that somebody from my credit card company was trying to get a hold of me. He gave me a number that I didn’t bother to write down because it was saved in my call history a hundred times already. How truly embarrassing it was.

Part of what I want to tell you is how it is human nature to learn empirically. Credit cards can be helpful if used well by responsible humans. But for us irresponsible ones, credit cards are like tanning beds: The longer you stay in, the better chance you have of getting burned.

So, I advise against them. In college, it is better to be poor. Save your cash, eat brown rice and black beans when you have to, and for the love of god, do not bring your credit card out to the bars with you.

Shane Rohleder is a senior communication studies major. His column appears Tuesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 4:16 pm

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