It can happen to anyone. You get out of college and you can’t find a job. Meanwhile, the bills keep piling up. Before you know it, you’re using your credit card to pay for groceries. You know it’s wrong to spend money you don’t have, but it feels so right. It feels like you deserve this money—after all, you’re just using it to survive—and so you think between it and living on the street, you’re picking the lesser of two evils.
You start using your credit card for other things too. Your bills, costs of repairs, even recreational activities. You think of it as an investment, and suddenly find yourself charging bar tabs and sushi dinners. Before you know it, you’ve racked up several thousand dollars worth of credit card debt and are receiving anxious calls from creditors who want you to up your monthly payments. You continue on your way, charging your way through your twenties. Why? Because there’s no other option.
While this may sound like a horror story, it’s a cold hard reality for many graduates, or anyone taking on huge expenses beyond their means. It seems the cost of living has gone up while wages have straight-lined. Similarly, the cost of education has skyrocketed while assurances of post-graduate employment have plummeted. For many people, the credit card is the only option during financial crises. In fact, our whole country charges its expenses, the government and banks alike, borrowing money from foreign lenders and mortgaging infrastructure without any realistic way of repaying.
Some people adopt a philosophy of small concessions on a regular basis. Less glamorous weddings and requests for gifts in the form of honeymoon donations; simple lifestyles without an abundance of expensive gadgets or groceries; living with parents rent-free (maybe chipping in on a bill or two); working out of a home office furnished inexpensively by used office furniture dealers.
More and more people are realizing the dearth of jobs in advance and are opting for less expensive college educations while the economy recovers. Still others take jobs for which they are massively overqualified in order to chip away at their debts. Whatever works.
There are ways to defeat debt, but you’ve got to pull yourself out of the malaise of thinking you’re doomed. Create a budget, a timetable, and an ethos of positivity. Chop your expenditures in half and consolidate any savings into paying down high-interest debt obligations. Downsize your expectations for a big house and a fancy car and instead live in the hope that you will find happiness and financial independence. The first step to that is embracing the cold hard reality of credit card debt and facing it head-on.
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