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How Insomnia and the Internet Worked Together to Ruin My Credit Before My 21st Birthday

September 13th, 2010 | Small Business | No Comments »

Hello, all! (Or “Hello, none” – whatever the case may be.) My name is Isabela and I’m the newest member of the KikScore team. I am a sophomore at the University of Maryland, majoring in Waitress – uh, English – and an avid football fan. I mention the football because my Redskins kicked off their season last night against the Dallas Cowgirls. It was ugly, but it was a win, and if this first game was any indicator of the season to come…. See you all after the Superbowl. Consider this a disclaimer.

I’d like to kick off my relationship with all (or, again, none) of you by telling you a little story about my personal history with online shopping. Let’s entitle this one, “How Insomnia and the Internet Worked Together to Ruin My Credit Before My 21st Birthday” (which is in 5 months and 25 days, in case you were wondering).

I have never been good at sleeping. My father is an insomniac – sneaking out in high school was not an option – so when I stopped sleeping through the night sometime in my early teens, I didn’t find it unusual. Daytime was for wandering drowsily among the living, while the night was for reading, watching TV, and perfecting the preparation of the Velveeta grilled cheese sandwich. When, at age 16, my parents bought me my first MacBook computer, everything changed. I discovered online shopping. I used my hard-earned waitressing money – deposited into checking almost as soon as it was received – to buy things. I bought clothes, makeup, gifts –even a Wondermop (an impulse infomercial purchase at 4am on a Tuesday). My checking account balance frequently dipped into the single digits, but all my new toys provided easy consolation.

At 18, during a particularly late shopping session, I made a new discovery: financing. That’s right, folks. Did you know you can buy things and not pay for them? Two weeks after my 18th birthday, I filled out my first credit card application. Two weeks after that, the plastic arrived in the mail. I was more excited about that envelope than I had been about the one that let me into college just a few months before – this one came with goodies. Days later, I filled out a second application, and days after that, a third. And then I used them. I was vaguely aware of the existence of a thing called interest – that is, the tax you pay for the privilege of making a purchase you can’t actually afford – but what did that matter to me? All my interest was 0%! So I bought things, and it was so, so, so, so good.

Two years and some months later, I am under control. Hard work and the fear of God instilled in me by America’s financial crisis have kept my credit card balances to a minimum (compared to, say, Citibank) and I keep telling myself that one day I’ll make the shift to cash-only. I share this anecdote not as a horror story about credit – there are those whose experience has been far more damaging than mine – but simply as an example of just how easy it can be to get wrapped up in the consequences of financial decisions made on the Internet, where nothing actually exists. Don’t get me wrong – online shopping is good. It’s the future of retail and it allows informed buyers to make decisions with their banking information in front of them – a practice I support (and wish I had adopted). But for those members of my generation who are considering accepting those low-interest offers that have just recently restarted their trickle into our inboxes, my advice: take it slow. Your Capital One will still be there in the morning, and PayPal can wait. Soon, I will begin my move back to cash-only, letting my cards sit in a drawer gathering dust while I happily type my debit card number into the computer (on trusted websites only, to be sure). Yes, one day soon I’ll start to stick with cash. But not just yet. My birthday’s coming up, and I’m going to Vegas.

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