12 12 2012
What is college supposed to be about? It depends on whom you ask, but most credit card companies would say college is about creating new customers and getting the students’ parent’s money.
I fell into the college credit trap during my first year in school, but I didn’t get there alone. I was sixteen years old, and made my birth date on the Visa application illegible, so that they would have to make something up, which they did. With my new Visa card and a $500 limit burning a hole in my pocket, I just HAD to go buy something.
At the time, I had an old sports car, and the radio was original. It must have been 10 years old, and didn’t have a cassette player that worked. So, the logical thing for me to do was buy a car stereo with a CD changer and some sub-woofers. That was worth my hard-earned credit, right? The whole setup cost about $450, and I was the happiest kid on campus. When I got my first bill, and it said that my minimum payment was $18, I nearly jumped for joy. I could afford $18 a month for this fine piece of electronic wizardry. The problem was that my credit card was already nearly maxed-out. I needed another.
Before I could make my thought a phrase, I saw another credit application table in the student center where Discover, this time, was giving away hats and tee shirts to anyone who applied for a credit card. Why not, I thought. I needed some new clothes and a computer to do my schoolwork. The computers in the computer labs were totally infected with everything from the common cold to mono. Plus I needed a new car. My car wouldn’t always start, and I had to be able to get around.” Pay attention… this is the pivotal part of the story. I went to the car dealer who had sold my mother her last three cars, and the sales person said to me “whatever you’re doing, keep doing it. You have perfect credit.” While she probably didn’t think so, that was absolutely the wrong thing to say to me at that time.
So I had a new car and new clothes and a car stereo (from my previous vehicle), so the girls on campus began to take notice. But I couldn’t invite girls over to my off-campus apartment when the centerpiece of my room was a twin bed I had since I was three. I had to get a department store card for a new bed and another department store card for the mattress and box spring.
At this point, I was in debt up to my eyeballs, but I was still able to make all the payments, even paying more than the minimum balances. I would have been able to pay everything off in about three years, including the car. Then I got the kiss of death… a girlfriend.