Sunday, October 2, 2011

Don't buy stuff you cannot afford

I've been reading a lot of blogs recently regarding a certain scam brought upon the anthro blogging community.  Along with the posts about the scams, many people are posting information on finances and spending habits, noting what they do to stay afloat while still spending their hard earned money at Anthropologie.  I felt compelled to respond as I was a little shocked with what I was reading.  While I respect all those that posted honestly about how they spend, I was surprised that a simple lesson hasn't been learned.  I wanted to provide you all with a story.  This is my true story of how I learned that you simply shouldn't buy stuff you cannot afford.

Many many years ago, I was a poor college student.  Like many college students, there was a lot of stuff I wanted, but didn't have the money to buy it.  I wasn't working and I lived in a dorm.  My parents gave me a little money each month so I could go out to eat every once in a while off campus, but this would never be enough to buy that adorable black blouse from the gap or the skinny jeans from Urban.  I thought about this stuff constantly, trying to figure how I could spend my monthly stipend and still eat.  Little did I know, help was on the way!

One day, I was walking back to my dorm room after class when I was approached by a random student, who asked me if I wanted a glass of lemonade.  Now, I know what you're thinking....lemonade?  I went to school in Texas.  As many of you know, Texas is very very hot.  Lemonade is the perfect thirst quincer for any student walking around campus in 100+ heat.  I happily accepted the lemonade offer, not realizing what I was in for. 

I followed the student to a table that was set up right outside my dorm.  On the table were dozens of neat little freebies:  university t-shirts, frizbees, name any piece of free crap, they had it and I wanted it.  The student told me I could have one of each and I only had to apply for a student credit card.  Up until now, I didn't have a credit card so I thought, maybe it's about time I get one...for emergencies only.  I spent the next 30 minutes, filling out the application and talking about the terms of the card, none of which actually made sense to me at the time.  When I finished, he handed me all of my goodies and I went back to my dorm.  That was that.

Seven days later, a letter arrived to my dorm.  It was hard to tell where the letter came from, as it had very little information on the outside of the envelope.  It wasn't until I felt the little piece of plastic that I realized it was my new credit card.  Without hesitation, I opened it up and there it was, looking back at me with a gold gleam.  I immediately activated the card and put it away in my wallet.   There is sat, in my wallet for weeks without getting used.  I told myself that I wouldn't use it unless it was an emergency.  Well, that emergency would soon come.

It was a few days after my birthday and my parents had sent me a little extra money so I could go shopping to buy something special.  I went with a friend to a local mall to find that 'special' outfit.  Within 10 minutes, I had already spent the money my parents gave me and we had barely started our shopping venture.  I went to a few other stores, holding back the temptation to try on clothes that I knew I wouldn't buy while my friend made many more purchases.  As we left the last store, I froze.  Just a few feet away, I saw the perfect pair of jeans.  I went over and looked at them; I knew I had to try them on.  I didn't even look at the price, just grabbed my size and headed towards the dressing room.  When I walked out to show my friend, her immediate response was 'you have to get those jeans.  They look amazing.'  I smiled with afirmation and walked back to my dressing room. At that point I noticed the price.  Ouch...$159 bucks!  I stood in the room for a while, debating my options.  I could take back the stuff I bought earlier and get these instead, but then I realized the new blouse I bought would look amazing with these jeans.  I just couldn't bring myself to do it.  It was with little hesitation that I took the jeans up to the cashier and pulled out my shiny new credit card to pay for the purchase.  I felt a little guilty putting the jeans on credit, but it also felt good.  I felt on top of the world knowing I had this money at my disposal.  From that point on, my spending would get a little more out of control and spiral down hill.

I credit (no pun intended) this moment as the moment when I let my finances get out of control.  Not only did I buy those jeans, but there were many other purchases and many other cards to follow. 

After several years of making 'minimum' payments, I realized I had to get my shit together.  I knew I had to make the sacrifice and stop buying stuff.  It was hard at first, especially when you have friends that loved shopping.  I didn't know what their financial situation was.  For all I know, they could have been worse off than me, but I did know one thing, the minimum payments did not make a dent in that debt.  

Several years ago, I was watching Saturday Night Live and I came across a skit with Steve Martin.  The skit was a parody on spending and 'buying stuff you cannot afford.'  I couldn't help but laugh and find this skit enlightening.  It's such a simple concept:  If you don't have the money, DO NOT BUY IT.  I've taken those words to heart and worked hard to ensure that I never end up in that scary world of credit card debt and mimimum payments.  If you've never seen this skit, I've posted a link to the video on below:

I posted this story because I wanted you to know we're all human.  We all have our vices and it's fair to say, things can sometimes get out of control. While we all want beautiful clothes, at what price? The stress of having to pay off credit debt at 13% - 23% interest? Keep in mind that if your interest is higher than the amount going into your savings each month, you're not really saving. You are actually giving creditors more of your hard earned money. While I'm no financial expert whatsoever, I do want to encourage you all to spend and save wisely. I have definitely learned this lesson and feel less guilty with my frequent Anthro shopping sprees :).


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