“Debt Load,” New Era, Apr. 2001, 36
Melissa got her first credit card when she went away to college. Her parents, who helped her apply for the card, told her it was for emergency use only. At first, Melissa followed that advice closely, usually consulting her parents before she made any purchases on the card.
“At first, I didn’t use my card all that much,” she says. “The problem was, my parents didn’t really explain how credit worked. In fact, I saw my mom use her credit card all the time to buy things at the store. She never thought to tell me that she only bought things she knew she could pay for in full every month when the bill came.”
Married while she was still in college, Melissa and her husband soon longed for the comfortable lifestyle they had enjoyed at home with their parents.
“We felt that we deserved most of the things we purchased with our credit card. We never stopped to consider if we could afford it.”
Soon Melissa and her husband were charging necessities like groceries and gas for the car on credit cards because all their available cash was used up paying the minimum balance on several credit cards. Finally things were so bad that Melissa sought help from her parents.
“It was really embarrassing to have to go to my dad and tell him what we had done. We were really lucky that my dad was in a position to help us.”
But even with help and new knowledge about how credit works, it hasn’t been an easy road, says Melissa. In addition to having to check in with her dad for several months after he bailed them out, paying the loan back to her father has meant several years of a very restrictive budget. But Melissa says the sacrifice has been worth it.
“I felt like I was in prison before. Now, even though I don’t have as much money to spend, I feel a real sense of freedom. Getting out of debt is worth whatever it takes.”