Home > Challenges, Money, Uncategorized > Daddy, I Want My First Credit Card!

Daddy, I Want My First Credit Card!

Ah, yes. The ultimate request from someone looking to start their own spending. I myself didn’t receive a credit card for my own use until I was in college, and even then, I could not escape parental wrath. They were seeing and receiving statements, and therefore knew exactly what type of spending problems I could get away with.

At first, I used it sparingly – staring at it like some sort of H1N1 flu carrying entity in my wallet – right alongside my NYU ID Card and my license. Then, it became amazing. Did you know that you can have sushi every night of the week? Did you know that you can pay someone to bring you toilet paper from around the corner at the deli?

In New York,  it is all possible. At the end of my sophomore year of college, I had a formative money experience. I went to the ATM machine at the local market, and when my receipt came, I peered over the edge of the paper – afraid at what I would see. There was something I had never seen before: zero was the balance. Not $10, or even a more respectable $100. Zero. But it had given me the money anyways! I was so confused.

Being the Einstein that I was at the time, I called my  mother frantic.

The conversation went like this:

Me: What does it MEAN when it says you have zero??!

Mom: WHAT?!

Me: I took out 20 dollars and it gave me a zero balance. Did I have exactly $20 in my account?!?!

Mom: IT MEANS IT’S OVERDRAFT! I JUST GAVE YOU MONEY! THIS IS INSANE! WHAT DID YOU SPEND IT ON!?!

Me: Bad static, gotta go.

….in any case, it was bad news. It was the first time I realized the following 2 lessons:

1) It is better for banks and credit card companies (for the most part – bankruptcy not withstanding) when you tend to spend more than you have. This means you will incur a fee. A fee that when paid, goes directly into the profit pile.

2) Unless you have a lot of money, a job usually is required.

The second part may seem like DUH do you – but really, my 19-year-old head was just not caring about those things. I had gotten into my favorite school, was out every day in my favorite city, and those pesky things called “bills” simply weren’t on my plate.

Little did I know that my college was paid for all in loans that we are now paying back, and the money that my parents gave me at the time came out of whatever money my mom worked 60 hours per week to make.

Allow me, blog readers, to make a point – I know that I sound like a spoiled brat. And I was. I wasn’t caring about consequence, and I was trying to live the life that my rich Long Island friends could live that I could not.

My mother has a great job – a job that puts her in a bracket among many people. But she definitely couldn’t afford to pay for my irresponsibility.

Now, I know some of you must be saying – “But it was college! We were all dumb!” It’s definitely true. But those lessons really made me learn the accountability and control and freedom that can come from making your own money. No, it is not as fun. No, it is not as much. Yes, I struggle every month to pay my bills on my nonprofit salary – but that day was the last day I ever took money from my parents without realizing what it meant.

I got a job babysitting, began interning, and volunteered at a homeless shelter – a decision that ultimately led me to the nonprofit sector.

Today as we watch many people who took mortgages they couldn’t afford, had credit card bills they couldn’t pay, and even more debt accumulate around us, I think back to that day. There are times when I am stretched very thin, but I have become an anti-borrower. I hate lending, even when people classify it as “good debt.” It leaves me with a sour taste in my mouth.

As I grow and learn more in this industry, and ultimately, in this global culture, my relationship with money is ever-changing.

So, thanks Mom & Dad. I really liked the Sushi, but I am becoming a better cook. Lessons learned.

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  1. Celso
    November 3, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    “I really liked the Sushi, but I am becoming a better cook” I LOVE THIS STATEMENT.

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