Tuesday, February 1, 2011

ON FUN ~ Give Me Some Credit...

Image courtesy Andres Rueda via Flickr

At the age of 45, writer Regina Brett wrote a column for the Cleveland Plain Dealer listing 45 lessons that life had taught her thus far. As a breast cancer survivor, many of those lessons were learned the hard way. Five years later she added five more lessons rounding her list up to 50 and turned her popular list into a book called God Never Blinks. I found her list to be entertaining, inspiring and thought provoking. I thought I would go through each of her lessons learned and write about how that lesson has or has not come up in my own life, now that I am 40 and feel old enough to have finally learned something.

"Pay off your credit cards every month."

When I was 23 years old, I met the cutest guy. Granted, I met him at a bar while playing darts, but that was my scene back then so where else would I have met him? I had not had a boyfriend in a loooong time. This cute guy was very polite and sweet and repeated my phone number his whole way home until he could get to a piece of paper to write it down. Ah, the world before smart phones. He called me the next day and we soon became an item. My roommate thought he seemed like quite the keeper.

When he lost his job I felt bad for how poorly his boss had treated him. When his mom and sister and niece moved out of the apartment he shared with them and he lost the lease, I invited him to come live with us. He found another job and contributed to the rent. Life got a little crammed in that apartment with us and my roommate and her boyfriend all together. I was sure that was the cause of our recent bickering. So the two couples moved apart into our own places. Everything was exciting and new.

Mr. Wonderful lost another job. This wasn't his fault either. He always seemed to be suffering at the hands of everyone else. He was insulted that I tried to line up a job interview through a connection - couldn't I see that showed I had no faith in his abilities to take care of himself? "By the way - we're out of groceries and beer - pick those up, will ya?" Couldn't I see that he had too much pride to take a retail job in his hometown? "You should take that job to bring in some extra cash instead, babe."

This lazy asshole bled me dry - emotionally and financially. I stayed with him as long as I did because he owed me so much money and I thought there was no way I'd ever see that cash again if he was not in my life. I couldn't pay our utility bills. I barely had enough for our rent. I charged whatever I could for the things that we needed and hid the cards from him. He lounged on the couch, drank beer and accused me of cheating on him when I didn't come home after work and went out with friends instead.

I escaped this nightmare because in a drunken, jealous stupor one evening he decided I wasn't worth his awesomeness and proclaimed he was breaking up with me. My get out of jail free card had been granted. Before he could realize the free ride he'd just given up I accepted and kicked him out of the apartment. Then I called my parents and did something I had never done before. I asked them for money so that I could get back on my feet.

The first thing that I did with that loan was to set up a payment plan with all of the companies that I owed money to. I had maxed out my minimal credit on my cards but I never missed a minimum payment. I knew that my future credit rating depended partly upon timely payments. I took some of that money my parents lent to me and began to pay down those credit card balances.

It took a long time to crawl my way out of debt. I found a new roommate and fought to keep my financial issues from impacting her. I hated men for a little while and enjoyed freedom for a change. And eventually I was able to pay back my parents in full. In a moment of extreme irony, I also found out that my roommate's sister's new boyfriend was none other than my former Mr. Wonderful. She met him at a temp job and thought he looked spiffy in his work clothes - a wardrobe I had bought and paid for. I laughed my head off, warned her never to lend him anything or let him live in her home. He took her for a smaller ride than he did me so I feel that I least I spared her some pain.

That jerk taught me a lot of lessons about myself. Because he treated me so poorly, I was able to see just how many awesome things I deserved. So when my good friend Andy snuck a smoock at a party one night, I took the plunge and began dating the nicest guy I knew. Because I deserved it. I also learned that you can't always do it all by yourself. Sometimes you need to suck it up and ask for help. And also, even in the depths of financial crisis, paying your credit card balances will afford you the ability to have a wonderful life later on down the road when you find your way back to financial stability. Mr. Not So Wonderful broke my spirit for a while, but he never screwed up my credit.


cash advance california said...

The use of credit cards from time to time isn't bad as long as you can pay for it on time. If you don't have enough to pay for the credit card, better purchase items with cash instead.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Yeah, well, we all should have at least one of those Mr. Wonderful guys in our lives, just so we can learn valuable lessons. Unfortunately, they do leave their mark on our psyche. My Mr. Wonderful never took me on a financial ride (he lived with his parents who were well off...) but he took me on more of a mental abuse ride. Live and learn! We never carry a balance on the credit cards ever. It is the wisest lesson anyone could ever learn.

Anonymous said...

I was a prolific dater but never dated one of THOSE guys. Lots of other kinda jerky guys, but not one that bled me dry. Before I met Jason I had a few thousand dollars in credit card debt. After he proposed and I said yes he paid them off for me saying that he might as well do it since soon it would be our finances, not just mine. Is he a keeper or what?!
I'm glad that you found your keeper as well :)
BTW, Jason charges everything. I've seen him charge $2 and change for donuts! But we pay it off every month.

lovesmukiwa said...

Good lesson to learn!
I made some credit mistakes in my youth - not having forsight, but we have worked hard to have an awesome credit rating now and I sure sleep better at night!

Kathleen said...

Hmmm, this Mr. Wonderful sounds suspiciously a lot like my ex-husband!

Susan said...

Did you date my son-in-law? Oh, no wait, he's too young for you. I've called him many names in the eleven years my daughter has known him, and asshole is one of the mildest. Yeah, it's never his fault either.

So glad you decided to let Andy kiss you. You are one smart cookie.

Adelle Laudan said...

I applaud your tenacity to climb back out of financial hell. It is no easy task. I think we all know someone like Mr Wonderful, they come as Ms. Wonderful too. *wink

Janet said...

ahhh, the things we do when we are young!

caite said...

good story...with several good lessons.

Paying off your credit card is perhaps the best. There is so much easy credit available and it is so very easy, especially at a young age, of getting yourself in a hole you will never get out of.