Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A Call You Should Make

Between graduation and getting this current job, I was unemployed for two and a half months. I'm hoping I don't ever have to go through that sort of encroaching deadline again; I had my second interviews before graduation, I thought I'd make it by the skin of my teeth, but it just didn't work out right. I'll admit that I didn't get one of the jobs at a prestigious yet slightly tarnished government agency because I was a bit of an all-knowing ass, but the others were just normal, "You're highly qualified and we wish you the best of luck in your search," emails.

So, my credit card. I got a credit card before I went to study abroad in Europe as an emergency backup and also to build credit by random purchases which I would immediately pay off. Responsible credit card use, as outlined by many friends who were in thrall to theirs and wanted me to avoid that fate. I used my debit card for everything else.

Then I became a graduate student and I was only making enough money for rent, but not books and food. This meant automatic credit card by necessity for two years. That must be what taking that first snort of coke feels like: "Man, with this degree I'm going to have a job so damn fast, I'll be able to retire in five years and work on exotic engines like I've always wanted RUN THAT BITCH UP I WANT A BEER FOR ME AND THIS TABLE OF LADIES!!!" Fiscal irresponsibility, which is a stupid thing to have when you're already taking out student loans, was just about in my grasp. Thankfully, I wasn't a total idiot. I could have stretched my food budget a bit farther, but I didn't buy clothes for two years. I didn't buy any new computers, which is like drowning for me. Then the unemployment hit and all my real money had to go into rent and christ jesus did my credit card debt get big.

At this point, I had some options. I could have just cut myself off and crashed on couches. I feel really lucky that I had offers to do so and could have rotated around so that I wouldn't have become too much of a bother; maybe people like the way I cook? I definitely could have asked my parents, but I had too much pride and I don't think they had quite enough money to cover themselves, my younger brother, and rent in Northern Virginia. Instead, I just went into deeper debt because no matter how much I told myself that I hated it, I was also secretly hedging my future against my failure like any canny, mildly retarded gambler ought to.

My new job let me start chipping away at it, but then my student loans came out of deferral and that was just one more bill (or three, as the case was...) to pay. Add in Christmas, car trouble, bike after bike getting stolen, and a bon vivant lifestyle to uphold and that bill wasn't evaporating quite as much as I wanted it to. I won't say how much I owe, because I'm embarrassed by it, but I will say that I was paying 24% in finance charges, which is embarrassing enough. Apparently you can do worse, which is even more disgusting.

The internet looked down on me and saw the plight of its supplicated and devoted believer and led me to worship at the altar of consumerist.com every day at lunch. They mentioned that the credit card market is such that you can actually lessen the bonds of slavery by threatening to be someone else's slave. Ayn Rand would have loved credit cards; you actually get to assert your independence by threatening to take your crushing debt elsewhere in the market. I called up my credit card company and said I was going to cancel my card because I'd had an offer of a better rate at my company credit union. I am unsure as to whether we have a credit union.

I am a liar.

I am also now down to a finance charge of 5% for the next nine months and 5% over the prime after that. If that's gobbledygook to you, the Pope couldn't get a rate that nice from God.

If you're in the same level of credit card debt that the statistics indicate, making that call can save you hundreds of dollars a month. Please do it before everyone else does and the customer service reps start to catch on.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so proud of you, Josh darling. Now if you can tell me how to get rid of my $225K student loan debt in a fashion that won't kill me in interest when I come out of law school, I'd be forever grateful and will do your taxes from now until eternity.

7:23 PM  

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