Einstein was quoted that, “The most powerful force in the universe is compound interest”. I had no idea how right he really was until I maxed out my first credit card. And the chances are, neither will you until you rack up a few thousand dollars on your very own little bi-polar piece of plastic. One day that card can be a life saver and your best friend and the next, it will be a magnet striped curse striking at your sanity.
We’ve all seen morality play sitcoms, and we’ve all gotten the requisite ‘credit talk’ from our parents. But trust me, until you’ve actually accumulated even a few thousand dollars in debt, you will have no idea how awful it is to pay off your first big debt.
That said, if it’s possible to pay off your balance every month, then a credit card is a fantastic way to build up your credit rating, and that can lead to a car loan when you’re finally done the academic grind. Of course, this takes discipline, and let’s be honest, discipline is not exactly what every co-ed develops by the first time they’re away from home. It can be very easy to slip your credit spending habits from ’emergency gas money’, to ’emergency late-night pizza run’ to the impulsive ‘large ticket video game’ purchase.
And I’ve seen the terrifying aftermath.
But I’ve learned a few strategies in my senior year that helped get my spending under control, and my arduous repayment underway.
1.Keep your credit card in your room.
This only really works if you have a trustworthy roommate. But if you don’t have that card on you when you’re out of the house, you will cut down your impulse purchases down dramatically. And it’s these small impulse purchases that, if left unmanaged, will lead to debt.
3.Get a credit card buddy.
You won’t go to pick up at a bar without a wingman, why would you whip out your credit card without someone to remind you to spend responsibly? It never hurts to have a like-minded friend to gently remind you of your situation. Plus, watching out for your friend is a great way to remember your own goals as well.
2.Send the bill to your home address
Yes, I know. You’re in college, and you’re finally away from the long, nagging arms of your parents. The last thing you want, is for Moms and Pops Bringdown to interfere with your financial business. But your parents know about the potential dangers of credit, and while their words of wisdom have become increasingly obnoxious with time, there is no better deterrent for frivolous spending than an annoying parent.
Although you do give up some privacy, I found it very helpful to let my parents in a bit more on my financial situation to keep me focused on my credit card goals. Also, parents will occasionally be awesome and pay your bill for you. Just don’t let them know that you know that.