In Which I Learn How Credit Cards Work

Some days I sit down to write a blog post and I notice my nails have ridges on them. Isn’t that a sign of poor health? Bad diet? Terminal cancer? I’m so fucked.

But at least I learned that it’s important to pay off your entire credit card balance every month. I may die in two weeks, but I won’t die feeling like Prometheus strapped to the rock as ravenous bank-vultures rip and tear at my precious intestinal-money every day. I’ll just die normal.
I didn’t receive my first credit card until I moved to Wisconsin and started my big boy job. I suppose there was a good reason I didn’t have one before then – finances are hard. The entire credit industry is based on turning imaginary money into real money and then asking for more real money in return. Why did alchemists try so hard in the Middle Ages to turn random shit to gold? Banks do it every day and have for eons. Like a wild, pre-evolutionary ape-man thawed from the ice after 10,000 years, I was terrified of the very concept of credit. Why not just pay for things with the money I have? Why wait until the end of the month or longer? Waiting sounded dangerous, possibly a trap. Maybe all the fine print associated with credit cards turned me off as well. I didn’t want to accidentally relinquish my first-born son or six of my best toes, but I also didn’t want to read a bunch of lawyer gibberish. After all, I dropped out of law school for a reason.

But being a grown-up means it’s time to stop paying for things with the cash at hand, apparently. Being a grown-up means being graded by how well you master credit card debt – your credit score. I still don’t understand that aspect of the game and I never will. All I know is that somewhere, the corporate fatcat who came up with the concept is stroking his suspenders and grinning around a thick stub of a cigar. Like a monument to excellence in banking, he hasn’t moved for fifty years. Occasionally, Wall Street types pass through his office to give his bald pate a rub for good luck.

Unfortunately, my depraved imagination couldn’t come up with a dream scenario for credit cards themselves. Where those were concerned, I’ve drew a complete blank. Being a Scot, I’m naturally stingy. My first inclination is to not spend money, and after that I’m inclined to either spend less¬†money or to save money. Regardless of the path I take, I am inevitably cheap as hell. So, when confronted with paying off my credit card, I must have been subconsciously drawn to the idea that I didn’t have to pay it all off at once, thereby “saving” my precious dollars. It’s not like I couldn’t afford to pay off my entire credit card bill, or that I was making a particularly good return on investment with my savings account. I was, quite simply, delusional. Perhaps the truth is I thought that returning my balance to $0 would cause me to spontaneously fire off into space.

Now I know better. My father, wise creature that he is, informed me of the various interests and fees that I have no doubt been incurring. Like some shamed fool, I simply nodded in response. For a supposedly “grown man,” there still appear to be vast swathes of life about which I know very little. As a desperately money-hungry individual, it terrifies me that my financial well-being is more than encompassed by one of these swathes. If I ever end up selling bead lizards from a van down by the river, at the very least I can claim I saw it coming. Felled by financial illiteracy.

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