By Karolina Linares
Recently, I read a report called “The Plastic Safety Net: The Reality Behind Debt In America”. This report is all about Americans using and building up credit debt due to life emergencies and trying to keep up with standard cost of living expenses such as rent, utilities, medical care, tuition for children and even food. Furthermore it makes it seems as if people who have gotten into debt, especially low to mid income citizens, are victims and have very little control over why they have gotten into debt.
It is very well researched and has a lot of eye opening truths and facts in it that I must agree with, mainly because I’ve been there and done that as far as being in credit card debt myself.
To jump ahead, I will tell you my happy ending now. After being in almost $14,000.00 in credit card debt alone, at the age of thirty… I made a plain, distinct decision, that no matter what, I would pay it all off – without adding more to it and enjoy my life without ever getting into that kind of needless debt again.
I paid off the entire amount in about 4 to 5 years, all on my own. It took dedication, discipline and all out self control. I now live a life where I do not use credit for anything, anymore. My whole financial philosophy has changed. I have learned the hard way, that saving the money first is far easier than getting into debt. Learning skills for saving money, plus a little determination has so many personal benefits. When a person saves money towards a worthy goal, it gets easier as time goes on and the money is actually growing by adding to it. If an unexpected emergency happens, it doesn’t hit that hard. There is some money saved, that can be used. Striving for the goal of saving a certain amount of money and becoming successful does wonders to a self-esteem level. There is control over planning a budget of how much can be saved from each paycheck. It’s very basic stuff. Now, using credit does the exact opposite. It’s a form a self-destruction because, the main thing that happens is hopelessness. Credit bills start piling up and the payments HAVE to be made every month, with interest added. There is no control then. Since it’s already bad, feeling worse by adding more to it becomes mute. It’s easy to fall into an indifferent mode. Self-esteem gets torn down because in reality, you are failing financially.
Now granted, I was a young adult -on my own without a family to support. But here is my message. It fits in with why many people, no matter what circumstances or backgrounds they come from, get into this trap of credit card debt. They really think it’s easier than saving money first. It all goes back to self-indulgence and instant gratification. For many people these habits don’t start when they are in dire need of financial help when a life emergency occurs. It started way before that, when they obtained their first credit card in college, possibly. Before they got married, before they had a house, before they had children. It’s easier for young adults to use credit to obtain new things they want, right now. The habit starts with something that simple.
When an individual allows themselves to fall into this trap, I can’t help but to say it is like a drug. Soon after acquiring all the great “wanted” items that feel good on credit, it snowballs. It becomes a trap because you have added bills (most people in credit card debt have an average of 6 to 8 credit card bills per month) and you are then forced to use credit cards even more just to survive. Like paying for rent, utilities, medical expenses, vehicle payment and maintenance, and of course food. Let’s not forget, what happens when a special event or a yearly holiday comes around. It’s all self perpetuated and it does become a vicious cycle. I was a prime example of this cycle as a young adult, on my own. Looking back, I can easily say that if I had learned better budgeting skills and not used credit lines haphazardly in the first place, I would have been able to afford to live very well on the income I was earning, in the career of my choice.
It is possible to get through emergencies without going into further debt. I had three major unexpected emergencies happen to me while paying off my debt and I did not go into further debt because of them. I used my brain, skills, resources, and further commitment to get through my unexpected emergencies. My car got stolen, after I had just paid it off. Then, I got into a car accident with my brother’s car. I was let go from a job, where I thought I was very secure. These emergencies all happened to me in the course of about 6 months of time. Because of a weird turning of the universe, these kinds of problems usually happen for most people almost all at once.
As far as people paying for their children’s tuition… and yes, this is an American dream to be able to put a child through a great learning establishment and then into a good college….etc… but if a family can’t afford it, then public school is always still there. A child can be conditioned to learn they will need to become responsible enough to pay for their own college education if that is what they are striving for. Plenty of successful adults have put themselves through college, by working and staying committed to their goal. Families earning two incomes, yet paying outlandish childcare fees are fighting a losing financial battle, because they are not willing to cut costs on everyday items to make ends meet with one income of who ever is the bread winner. They are not willing to own older, yet reliable vehicles. They can’t live without cable TV or cell phones. Though they are not splurging on expensive vacations or going to high cost events all the time, they still believe there are everyday services and products they can’t live without. There are so many ways to save money on basic food items a family needs to survive, it could make your head spin, but it takes effort that many people would rather avoid. I believe this is the deep seeded truth as to why millions of Americans are suffering with major credit card debts.
Millions of Americans can stop the insanity of living the way “The Plastic Safety Net” describes simply by making what I call a personal attitude adjustment. Being debt free is a goal that can be accomplished. For the people who say “I can’t” … it mainly boils down to “I don’t want to.” They live with excuses for nearly everything, so why not their debt problems. I had this problem and I made a commitment to change it. The new attitude has changed my life 100% and it can happen for millions of other people.
“The Plastic Safety Net” report in a PDF download.
Karolina V. Linares is an inspiring new author located in Baltimore, MD. She has also been a graphic artist and sign designer for nearly twenty years. Her message is to help the young adult culture break free of credit card debt, gain wisdom in budgeting, spending and becoming self sufficient financially. usecashtobuyit.com
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