Financial Decay- Confessions of an Irresponsible college student

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Notice how there are almost as many bowling tokens as there is real money. Photo by Ethan Hanson.

Los Angeles, Calif- Credit card debt. It travels with you everywhere. It’s there at your bed when you sleep at night. It follows you around at work and school and grasps onto you during your most intimidate moments. The realization I am coming to now as I struggle to pay off the debt owed to the bank. 

How did it get to this point? I could easily point out the day after Christmas of 2018 when I went over my credit limit. Or to two days ago when I figured out I had gone over it again. That was despite intentionally tossing away my credit card and thinking I could easily stop spending. I was wrong. But when did my problems really start? They started in 2013 when I received my first card.

To answer the most obvious question, a credit card is a form of payment given to a user by a bank. The intent is to buy a good and then whatever is owed the user pays back to the bank plus interest. The idea is clear enough but when your mind is child-like, you don’t begin to think about these sorts of things until the trouble begins.

How does that trouble start? By not keeping track of what is owed. Instead of paying back the $500 dollars spent on , you become comfortable and developing habits. Habits such as buying a smoothie for $7 dollars every day and thinking that the amount is so minimal, why worry? Slowly but surely $7 dollars on one day becomes $49 dollars the week. Pretty soon that money spent morphs into $196 dollars per month. That’s over a smoothie that could have been made at home, with cheaper ingredients, less time and would be more cost efficient.

My problem was a mixture of three things: a need to fulfill people’s expectations within a social environment, eating out and my fear of driving.

The social problem was simple to fix. Don’t go out, handle your business and the success of hard work will take care of itself. But the desire to eat was a behavior that became uncontrollable. Being a journalist and covering games is enough of a draw without the smell of delicious barbeque, nacho cheese or being a block away from diners and fast food. Instead of bringing carrots or a sandwich, I relished not only in the satisfaction of a full stomach, but the social aspect that came with meeting friendly people.

Ultimately the cost became part of my problems. Time to do some math. If I’m spending $9.00 on a burgers and fries plus a $3.00 on a drink add 10% tax and another 10% on tip and that equals $14.40. Add that times 4 and that’s $57.60 per month.

What became the vampire of my existence was Uber.

For years I have avoided driving. It wasn’t a fear of the travelling itself and whenever I am playing video games like Mario Kart or go Go-Kart racing, I am in my own joyful element. My problem was overthinking the entire process of worrying about buying the car, insurance and the occasional nightmares of hitting people. My lack of trust in myself meant I had to rely on others and slowly but surely Uber became my addiction and solution to my live’s problems.

InNOut

When a game seemed far? Take Uber. When I missed the bus at school? Take Uber. When I wanted to go basketball practice even though my time was voluntary and practice is 20 miles away? Take Uber. When I was running late to class and missed the bus from home? Take Uber. Whenever one of my buddies couldn’t drive me to our latest engagement? Take Uber. When I went on a date and was too ashamed to admit to a girl I couldn’t drive? Take Uber.

Uber essentially became my drug. How much of a drug? In the last four years I’ve take 792 trips ranging anywhere between $3 dollars to as high as $118 dollars and sometimes going between two states. I took an Uber from Mobile, AL to Biloxi, MS and back. $65 dollars each way and I wasn’t getting a dime of it back because what I was doing was an internship. Forget the fact I was doing work, it is not a blame to anyone else. My fear of driving was beginning to take control of me more then ever.

My latest round of being overdrawn my credit led me to a banker at Wells Fargo. She explained to me based on my financial account that I was spending roughly $1,000 per month on Uber. $1,000 times 12 equals $12,000 dollars. That money could have been used to save up for a used car, buy insurance and become an Uber driver myself to pay off the debt and make money on the side.

USAA

It turns out that I am not alone in my plight and that credit card debt affects a large portion of the United States. 31 percent of college students have maxed out their credit cards and it seems I am one of them.

So here I am a self-admitted spending addict who is ready to change the  behavior. To once and for all conquer my fear and become responsible and take control of my life. A life where I dictate the elements, not the other way around.

Well here it is. Time to turn this thing around.

Written by Ethan Hanson

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