So yesterday I went to the mall in hopes of finding some shirts for fall. After five hours of shopping, I drove home $15 poorer after buying only a bracelet and a pair of earrings (because jewelry is one size fits all!). Shopping for clothes at 140 pounds is vastly different than when I weighed 100 – I have a horrible time finding shirts that don’t make me look like a cow. The jewelry, while cute, was a perfect example of emotional spending – I felt like crap because I couldn’t find clothes, so I bought other stuff to make myself feel better. Not a good idea!
Anyway, while I was trying on clothes and feeling disgusted, I noticed a hole in the side of my bra. Like, a really big hole. I tried to remember how long I’d owned that particular bra and couldn’t. I have about 7 of the exact same one in different colors – they’re from a (now discontinued) Victoria’s Secret line that I absolutely loved. In college. Like 10 years ago. Okay, I told myself. Time to break down and replace these things before they disintegrate.
When I got home, I logged into the Victoria’s Secret account I haven’t touched in years and started looking for new bras that might be as comfortable as the old ones. I found one that looks promising, so I added it to my cart. If it works, I can slowly start replacing my old ones (SUPER slowly, because they’re expensive!). Then of course I couldn’t pass up the 5/$25.50 deal, so I added 5 pairs of underwear to my cart as well.
During the checkout process, I got a popup telling me I was preapproved for a Victoria’s Secret credit card. Honestly I was shocked – back when I had a billion credit cards (and good credit), I couldn’t get approved for one to save my life. I couldn’t help but allow them to run a credit check to see if I would actually get one.
Approved! $250 limit.
But you just paid off your credit cards!
Yep, and I don’t intend to take on any more credit card debt. But more available credit will help my crappy credit score improve, so I did accept the VS card and use it to purchase my stuff. As soon as the card arrives and I’m able to access my account online, I’ll pay off the balance and put the card away.
Store credit cards are among the most evil devices ever invented. The interest rates are ridiculous. They use underhanded tactics (deals for cardholders only, reward points that give you ten bucks after you spend hundreds) to get you to keep using the cards. The limits stay low in hopes that you’ll max out the card and never pay it off.
The thing is, I’ve played this game before. At the peak of my spending frenzy, I had probably 15 store cards and carried balances on all of them. I actually played card roulette – I would close my eyes, shuffle the cards, and choose one. Then I would go to that particular store and spend money just because I was “bored” or wanted some new stuff. It was madness.
But the difference now is that I know the dangers and I’m not tempted to buy things I don’t need anymore. I mean, I’m only buying new bras because mine are so old they’re falling apart – it’s not like I’m suddenly going to spend hundreds of dollars on underwear. And I will use the card periodically to buy what I need (nothing more), then pay it off. If I don’t have the money in the bank, I won’t be buying anything no matter how many holes are in my bras.
I’m finally learning that credit cards can work for me. But this is only possible because I FINALLY figured out that credit cards aren’t free money. If you’re using credit to pay for the things you need because you can’t afford them otherwise, that means you can’t afford them. Period.