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I got into some bad credit card debt, making bad decision after bad decision that seemed like a good idea at the time and paying no mind to my future. I really I wish someone had given me money saving tips these back then. About two and a half years ago, I was issued a credit card with a limit of $1500 — five times as much as the current card I had that I used for gas or groceries or whatever and always paid off at the end of the month. For a year I had been trying to save up to buy a laptop computer, with it just never quite panning out. I decided, then, to get my laptop with this new credit card, under the assumption I would pay it off in about four to six months.
As it turns out, about three weeks after I bought the laptop a lot of stuff in my life changed, I had to move 3000 miles across the country with no real job prospects at all. I ended up jobless for about three months, unable to pay the credit card company anything. I finally did get a job, but it barely got me by financially and I still couldn’t really put a dent in my credit card bill.
This went on for about two years, never making enough money to pay off my bill. Since then, I’ve racked up an additional $700 in over-balance fees and late fees. Today I’m finally getting into a comfortable place financially, and I’m paying this debt back in large chunks. All of this, though, has taught me a very important, yet very expensive lesson about credit cards. My $1000 laptop ended up costing me over $2000 as well as two years of stress and harassment from the credit card company.
Lesson learned: If you need to borrow money to buy something, chances are you can’t afford it, and should not buy it. The best way to know if you can afford it is to use a free online financial calculator and do the math. That is what I live by now. I hope to be able to get another low-limit credit card like I had previously, for gas and groceries, because it was always easier to plan on that $300 as a fixed amount. My credit is so messed up right now, though, that I don’t know if I will ever get another credit card.
Train Wreck Tuesdays are a weekly post of horrible financial mistakes. They are posted anonymously. Submit your story; if you’re selected, you get a free personal finance book. The best comment gets the same prize! Check out past Train Wreck stories here.