“Wow, dude,” says my best friend, “you’ve actually beaten my record. Not even I’ve gained $7000 of debt in three days.
My best friend – who I’ll call Martin Bashir – isn’t someone who could really be described as responsible when it comes to finance.
“Dude, to be honest, I’d rather take out, like, $11,000 on cash advance from a credit card and spend it on cocaine and prostitutes in Los Angeles for a weekend than not have that experience.”
“I had $11,000 worth of debt, dude”, says Martin, “and the only punishment you get for it is that they call you up and say ‘you can’t have any more credit, no more credit for you’, which, when you have $11,000 worth of debt isn’t really a punishment at all, it’s exactly what you need.”
Even when Martin’s mum paid for his credit card debt in it’s entirety, he immediately went out and spent another $3000.
When the bank offered him a personal loan to pay that card off, he accepted – and when he realised that they hadn’t closed the original credit card account, maxed that one out again.
“Dude, to be honest, I’d rather take out like $11,000 on cash advance from a credit card and spend it on cocaine and prostitutes in Los Angeles for a weekend than not have that experience, like, I’m happy to just pay the minimum of $40 for the rest of my life, like it’s just $40 a month, who cares?”
“And as long as you pay that monthly minimum they never bother you, because that’s exactly what they want. Not paying your debt in full doesn’t even give you a bad credit rating if you’re paying your minimum. It’s what they want.”
Until a few weeks ago, I thought I’d never have a credit card, or even a loan. My parents have always been a very generous source of interest free borrowing, and I high-and-mightily looked down on the rest of the world.
But when my computer shat itself and died, I was in dire straits. I decided to finance a new fully upgraded $4500 iMac with Retina display and a 3.7ghz quad core i7 processor through Apple’s financing scheme, which is essentially a credit card with 12 months interest free – totally affordable for me.
Okay fine, it was a necessity, but once I’d done that, something clicked in my brain. Without even really knowing I was doing it, I was on the phone to ANZ, letting them sign me up for a proper actual credit card.
I’d gone to the dark side.
Before I knew it I was $2900 deep into my $3000 credit card limit, bringing my total debt to $7400. And weirdly, I don’t regret it.
My justification was that it would be useful for paying for rent, groceries, etc, in the days before my paycheck came through, and that any minor debts I incurred I would pay off within the week.
That lasted for about four hours.
There’s something incredibly exciting about paying for dinner with a pretty, shiny white credit card, as I discovered the evening that my card arrived.
But that was it. A single $100 with my girlfriend was totally within my means, and I wouldn’t go further than that.
Except the next night was Valentine’s Day. Gotta get flowers. $66. Gotta go to Quay Restaurant. $700. Gotta Uber there and back. $100.
It begins.
And for a recording musician with a serious case of Gear Acquisition Syndrome, a credit card means the difference between sadly sighing over late-night analogue synth online window shopping or manically typing in the magic digits that get you audio interfaces, microphones and high end audio plugins seemingly for free.
Before I knew it I was $2900 deep into my $3000 credit card limit, bringing my total debt to $7400. And weirdly, I don’t regret it.
But he sort of has a point. As the pink haze lifted, a part of me realised that over the three or four months pay off this debt (if I’m a very, very good boy), I’m working for the bank. I’m a slave. And all my freedom cost was a dinner at Quay Restaurant and an Apollo Twin thunderbolt audio interface.
Luckily, despite the picture I’ve painted so far, I’m pretty financially responsible – I keep a meticulous budget and account for every cent I spend, so I’m not too worried about falling down the rabbit hole of interest on interest for the rest of my life.
And that’s where I think credit cards are most like illegal drugs – fun, stupid, and totally fine when used responsibly.
William Colvin – star writer
will@sneakymag.com
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