Single and Settling In

Single life has its own unique challenges, personally and financially. Hear how these bloggers are making the single life work for them.

Paper or Plastic?

Rate This
  • Comments 7

How many times do you get asked that question?  Usually not a really tough decision to make, unless it relates to your finances.  Just over a year ago, it was time to decide….paper or plastic?  Cold hard cash or credit?  I chose paper – best decision I ever made.

It took me a long time to get to a point that I could let go of “the plastic”. 

I am soon to be 34, single, never been married, no kids.  I have always had good jobs and in my early and mid twenties I got paid very good money, but had no idea how to manage it.  It isn’t like I was raised to live beyond my means, my parents were very conscious with their finances and always spoke about financial responsibility.  

My father was famous for saying “never rely on a man or anyone else to take care of you, always be prepared to take care of yourself”, my mother – “it would be in your best interest to not open a credit card, just trust me”….but I can still remember the day I used my first credit card, the day I chose plastic.  I was right out of college, walking through the mall and saw a pair of boots to die for.  Looking at the price and the fact that I had no job at the time, I knew I couldn’t afford them, but as I walked away I remembered a credit card that sat in my wallet un-used – the activation sticker was still on the front. 

I got the card because the telemarketer convinced me that it was the way to go and with every purchase I made, I got points for a free cruise.  Really?  A free cruise?  How can you say no to a free cruise?   Didn’t realize that that free cruise would be about 1,000 purchases later and cost a small fortune. 

When the new card came in the mail, it was unchartered waters for me and felt almost sinful – so it sat in my wallet, until that day in the mall.  With sweaty hands and a racing heart, I peeled off the sticker, called the activation number and within minutes I walked away with my new boots.  Wow, that was really easy – I just bought something that I wanted and I still have the same amount of cash in my wallet and my checking account balance has not changed…..that was it – I was hooked.

For years, I convinced myself that as long as I had a good job and could continue to pay my bills on time and my credit was good,  then I didn’t have to worry about my debt that was rising– it would eventually go away if I kept paying on it.  Problem was, as I was paying on it – I was adding to it.    So,  as my balances grew and bill consolidation loans were taken out,  I started to tell myself that  as long as my life insurance policy covers the cost of my debt so that no one has to take on the burden if I die, I was good. 

Yeah, I would say there was a problem. 

I was on a high.  I lived the life I wanted to live, not the life I could afford to live.  I bought what I wanted, when I wanted it without remotely considering the consequences.  If someone said I had to have it, I bought it.  If friends were going out after work, I went and paid for drinks.  It was easy.  My credit limits kept increasing and my spending limits went the other way….there was none.  I was unrealistically trying to keep up with the wealthier people that were in my social circle. 

It didn’t work.

So, it took awhile, but eventually I stepped back, or actually was forced to step back when options started to run out, and looked at my life and what I had, or more accurately didn’t have to show for my spending habits, and realized that right now, it was about taking care of myself and planning for my future as a single person, it was time to grow up and become active in understanding my financial status.  So for the last year, it has been paper only. 

It is no longer a question of what I want, but what I need to get by.  It became budgets and cut backs, creativity and hard work.   But I am doing well and not relying on anyone to take care of me. 

I am planning for a solid future and will welcome a significant other in when that time comes, but for me right now being single and in debt, means that paper is the only way to go – plastic is just a thing of the past! 

  • What a great article.  I think we have all been in that position and one point in our lives.  Being young and fresh out of college makes you feel like you deserve all those shopping sprees and that when you do find the job of your dreams, you will pay it all off.  Well, I found myself in a similar situation as you.  With debt rising and rising.  It's almost like pandora's box.  Once you use the card, it gets easier and easier to pull it out when you know you shouldn't use it.  I am on the 'paper' kick now as well.  If I don't have the extra funds in my checking account, I wave goodbye to those shoes, clothes, purses, etc.  It's getting easier and easier as the days go by.  I am focused on the day when I can scream that I am 'DEBT FREE'!

  • The best part about paying for everything with cash is that ALL you pay is the cost of the merchandise. Once you hand over the cash, and you get your goods, they are yours, free and clear. With credit you pay for the purchase, plus the card's interest rate, plus, if you are late for your card pymt, a late fee. And you may spend months paying for one dress or pair of jeans. Definitely not worth it. It has been a while since I have been out clothes shopping, but every piece of clothing in my home belongs to ME! (Well, except for my husbands clothes, they all belong to him.)

  • Definately can relate.  Actually I am a college student now who fell victim to the allure of credit cards.  My problem was I was making decent money waiting tables until the economy began to suffer and effect people's spending habits.  Thus, less tips and less people dining out.  Bummer because I still had to pay for my cell phone and gas.  Eventually it got to the point that I was literally only able to pay for gas just to get to work.  I was wasn't able to pay my monthly payments.  Before I was able to put down $100 or more on my credit cards and I almost had the balances cut in half.  Then my income was reduced and my employer cut employees hours.  Next thing you know they stopped adding me to the weekly schedule and said they would call me when they needed me.  Major bummer!  Eventually I was jobless and was unable to get a job and that's when the interest started racking up because Capitol ONe and Bank of America raised their interest rates and I was always making my payments on time.   Then I didn't have any money to make payments.  Now I'm trying to consolidate my debt.  Its crazy how over months my debt went from $1000 to over $3000.  The economy sucks!

  • I knew that there were folks out there going through the same thing that I was and am!  It is hard out there right now and going to get harder for awhile, but the good news is we all recognize(d) the issue and want to do something about it.  You have to admit though, once you chose paper some of the stuff you used to "need" and relied on the plastic for seems pretty frivolous now doesn't it?  Funny how that works.  I will continue to write about my thoughts and challenges and hopefully we can pool our resources and experiences and stay on the right track.  Don't get frustrated MeciaJNev!  You are lucky, you are being smart and educating yourself early before it gets really bad!  Stay tuned, with the help of CareOne, I think I can provide some encouragement and tips.  Thank you for your comments!

  • It's good to have a place where pretty much everyone is in the same boat. My story is more of "Fresh out of high school, hello Capitol One" and now I can't get the loan I need to go to college cause I already wrecked my credit. It is a sad story how bills can catch you. What is worse is I make less now than I did then.

  • Look at some options to help your credit.  There are some legal organizations or even non-profits that will explain your rights and help you improve your credit score.  It may cost a little up front and be some work on your part, but in the long run it pays off.  I had 1 problem on my credit that I couldn't get off that was not even mine and I had a legal agency get involved and it was off wiithin 30-days and my score was back where i needed it to be.  Worth looking into.

  • Personally, I got "tricked" by a mortgage company.  I was up-to-date and paying our mortgage on time every month, but have an ARM and was looking to refi.  Well, the mortgage company said they wouldn't even consider modifying my loan unless I was in their "repayment plan".  I said ok, so let's do that!  What they DIDN'T tell me was, those "lowered" payments every month while they worked on my refi were being reported to the credit agencies as partial pmts, and so I was getting farther and farther "behind" on payments, even though I was making every payment they wanted on time!  Then my car broke down and I tried to trade it in, and got all but laughed out of the dealership, when we've never had trouble with a car loan before.....I started looking into our credit reports, and lo and behold...shows me as 120 DAYS LATE on the mortgage!  Called the mortgage people and they basically said "too bad. most people have no choice and are already so far behind, this doesn't make any difference"  and had NO sympathy when I remided them that I had NOT been behind to begin with and had I known what they were going to do to my credit, I might have made a different choice.  They plain old didn't give a darn, and now I am stuck with a broken down car because I can't get a loan for another one, and crappy credit scores, all because I was TRYING to stay ahead of my mortgage!

Page 1 of 1 (7 items)