On Credit Cards and Free Shirts

While strolling through campus on a gorgeous day I was distracted from my fruit smoothie by someone offering me a free t-shirt. Since t-shirts comprise 75% of my wardrobe I stopped to learn more. I quickly found out that I would more or less be paying for this t-shirt for the rest of my life in the form of a credit card. With my budget, I know that if I can’t afford something now, I probably can’t afford it when the bill comes due next month. And I am absolutely sure I can’t afford it plus 8% the following month.

Now, I could have filled out the form, gotten the t-shirt and not used the credit card. I’d like to believe that I am responsible enough for that. In fact, I am that responsible. I have a couple of credit cards on me right now. I can’t remember the last time I used them because they are only for emergencies. Luckily, I live a disaster-free life and never have to use my credit cards.

There really is no such thing as a free lunch, or free t-shirt for that matter. On every campus across America there are dozens if not hundreds of students who have been lured into staggering credit card debt by the promise of a free shirt, alarm clock, or coffee maker. Not every student understands the finer points of credit. Not every student understands how interest rates and late fees can raise the price of a cup of coffee from $4 to $400 by the end of the year. Credit cards are great if you have a stable income from month to month. If you know with absolute certainty you can pay the credit card bill at the end of the month than by all means use it. But, if like me you are on a limited budget and drinking free coffee at work in the morning, keep the plastic at home.

To sum up, there are some three great cliches that ring true here-

  1. There is no such thing as a free lunch (free t-shirt)
  2. Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing (NOBODY just gives things away without an ulterior motive)
  3. Don’t borrow from Peter to pay Paul (which is what you do when you use a credit card. Peter is far meaner than Paul and charges ridiculous interest rates)

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