I felt it last week: the temptation to get a credit card.
It all started in a harmless way. In anticipation of summer, I was thinking about how nice it would be to escape the Texas heat and go visit family in the temperate Northeast. The girls and I have a very flexible schedule in the summer, and we love quality time with family.
The problem is that we live several states away from them. Going to visit family requires either a two-day drive or an easy three hour flight. Of course, our mad dash to save for a down payment means forgoing luxuries like air travel. Or does it?
Enter the timely mailing from Southwest Airlines reminding me that we are frequent flyer members. It tells me that I can earn more miles by applying for and using their handy Southwest credit card. In fact, when I am approved for the card, I will automatically get enough points to cover two round trip tickets to any where in the Continental US!
I imagine stepping off the plane in Pittsburgh and feeling fresh and energized with two happy children rolling their suitcases in tow.
Poof! A little red demon complete with pitchfork and pointy beard appears on my left shoulder. His voice is smooth and reassuring.
“Don’t worry,” he says. “You can pay the balance off each month. You won’t even accumulate debt. You’ll just earn frequent flyer miles while making regular purchases.”
“Wait!” an angel on my other shoulder shrieks. (The angel strongly resembles Andy.) “What are you thinking? You’ve been through the credit game before, and you know that most people don’t win.”
I remember the credit card debt that I quickly accumulated as a college student. (You can read the full story on this post.) That credit card made it easy to buy without being aware of how much I was spending and how much I owed. Before I knew it, I had maxed it out.
The demon presses his pitchfork into my shoulder. “Don’t listen to him. Think about all of the visits that you can take to see family. Think about skipping all of those hours in the car and flying in comfort.”
“Think about the hidden fees,” the angel rebuts. “Think about the non-usage fees. Think about the credit card companies getting rich on people’s poor financial decisions.”
Poof! The angel and the demon disappear, and I come back to my senses.
The angel is right. I can’t resist the temptation to overspend with a credit card in my wallet. The credit industry is a multi-billion dollar industry that is built on the understanding that people will buy what they can’t afford or don’t realize they can’t afford.
This summer will not bring easy, breezy flights to visit family, but at least I won’t be stressed out over spending too much on credit.