Howdy folks. In my first blog post, I said that I do not borrow money. (It’s something I used to do, I don’t do it anymore, beyond a small mortgage on my house). Easier said than done, I know. Plus the Internet is littered with articles and listicles and tip sheets and empty platitudes about why debt sucks. (It’s a ball and chain around your leg, it’s slavery/serfdom, it’s painful, yadayadayada. We have heard all of that before.)
But maybe you haven’t heard this one before. Over the next several days I will post some true anecdotes from my debt-ridden past that will illustrate why I no longer borrow money. Here is your first taste. I did all of this, people. Even when I was educated enough to know better.
My Debt Sucks Major Ass Story #1 (I have several of these. This isn’t even the worst one.)
I was 28 years old. It was the height of the post-9/11 recession. I had lost my job six months earlier and my savings and severance pay were long gone. I had $47,000 in student loan debt in the early 2000s (that would be like $70K today), no car, and nothing of value beyond a CD collection and an amethyst ring that was worth maybe $150 on a good day. My only income came from sporadic temp work. And I had just been kicked out of my apartment because my boyfriend dumped me and just changed the locks on the door suddenly, without warning, rather than try to work things out like civilized people.
I ended up standing on a street corner, holding a fanny pack, with no wallet or ID, because he had the locks changed while I went jogging. I had to go crash with some friends for the night when he wouldn’t let me in the house.
My bank account was overdrawn. The student loan bill for the month was still due the following week. ($454). Suffice to say I hadn’t made my share of the rent that month (or any month, really—this is why The Boyfriend had kicked me out, natch.) I’d already filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy the year prior to discharge $35,000 in credit card debt, so suffice to say I didn’t have a credit card.
What do you think I did for some ready cash so I could eat and pay a lockout fee to my now-ex-landlord so I could get my freaking wallet out of my now-former crash pad?
Guess. Just guess.
Here’s a hint. It involved a pawnshop that doubled as a payday-loan center that charged 785% APR on week-to-week loans.
It only gets worse from here. (More to come, folks. Stay tuned).
Here’s the moral (I will be repeating this across multiple posts): Debt is a drug, just like cocaine. People get addicted to it. The only way to overcome an addiction is to decide that the pain of doing it is worse than the pain of stopping. Most people don’t get that far.