Monday, September 17, 2007

Money Matters

They say that in the Marine Corps, the pay is mighty fine,

They give you a hundred dollars, and take back ninety-nine...



-Marine Corps cadence


Back in the day, there was a lot of talk about how poorly the Corps paid it's Marines, but if you were to go outside to just about any main road on most bases, you would stand a good chance at seeing a few things. Pick up trucks had lifts, tint jobs, and neat paint schemes. You would see crotch rockets and cruisers rumbling by. You would probably even see the import cars, with the lowered bodies, tuned engines, and stereos that you could hear from 3 counties away.

Pay was ok, it was how it was used that (sometimes) was the problem.

I have had my issues I suppose, like most others when it comes to money. There have been times when I spent too much, saved too little, or just bought junk on impulse (usually on the wimmens, but it was worth it). For the most part though, I would say that I did ok, up to a point. While it never got really out of control, it is an easy beast to lose a proper hold on. Credit Cards actually helped me get control of the whole situation, believe it or not.

Now, this isn't a story of tens upon tens of thousands of dollars of debt, but just example after example of situations where I constantly wondered what was the point of the credit cards, to the point where I about decided to wash my hands of the whole situation.


I got my first credit card shortly after starting to work, back in high school, and for the most part there were no issues. My father made it pretty clear that I was making my own money and it was up to me to use it wisely. No problem there, I know everything.

Moving away to school and out in the big world on my own was still not too much of a big deal. I was pretty good at keeping the balance (1 card) down to a reasonable level. I might not have paid it all off every month, but it wasn't an amount that was out of control. Kind of funny how those amounts (and number of cards) grow, huh...


While I am on the subject, JP has some interesting ideas on how to deal with unwanted credit card offers, much more original than just shredding (and you should shred anything with your info on it), those offers.


I once had about $5,000 transferred to a new Bank of America card, and then failed to make payments on that balance. Late fees were assessed, rates skyrocketed, and nasty-grams were sent. The only problem with the whole situation was, I did not open that account, the information (name, social, just about everything but an old address) was misspelled and/or incorrect, and in fact I was out of the country at the time of the account set-up and funds transfer. I didn't even hear about it until 3 months later, when the mail system finally bought a clue and figured out that I didn't live at that old address anymore.

Ok, fraud. No real problem, right? Right?

Right...

Even though I wasn't the one who, ya know, opened the friggin account, no one other than me could call, write, or e-mail BoA to close it. Kind of a hassle considering the fact that I was somewhat busy with the whole deployment thing, but I got it taken care of. Two months after returning home, I started to get more nasty grams, threatening collection agencies.

*sigh*

More phone calls, letters, and whatnot, and the issue was finally resolved.

Right...


Moving on through the years, I started to notice more and more those little 'amendment to credit agreement' papers in the mail. Anybody read any of that stuff? It's a pain in the neck, but it is worth it to plow though it every once in a while. It basically states that the customer agrees to bend over, drop trow, and take it in the pooper at the whim of the credit card company. Changes can take effect with no further notice, and if you aren't aware of any of the fine print, well, too bad, suckah!

Default rate increases. WTF, over? Honestly, I haven't really had any issues with this, I do remember scrounging around for an old bill once, copying the address to a blank envelope, and mailing a check just to avoid late charges. I did eventually get that bill... two days before the due date. Now that one might have been worthy of pissing and moaning about the USPS, but that's another post... Long story short, got that bill paid in time, paid others on time.... still saw some rate increases. Not up to 30%, but high enough to notice.

mumblegrumblemumble....

A couple of years back I decided to really get organized in the arena of savings and debts. Charts were devised. Plans were made. Goals were set. One of the things that I wanted to do was to transfer a few balances to a card with a lower rate, and gradually get those balances down to a more manageable level. I called up the company to explain the situation and to inquire if it would be possible to get a lower rate for moving several thousand dollars to their card. Their service guy was quite polite, very helpful, and assured me that there would be no problem with lowering the rate to thank me for my continued business. I switched the money over, and made plans to really start paying it off....

First bill I got after the transfer, the rate had increased, not decreased.

mumblegrumblemumblegrumble...'Get it in writing' is not just for a few of those recruiters, I guess.

Yet another transfer, this time to a new credit card with a 0% apr. Commence OPERATION: SCREW THAT! I started paying down the balance, little by little.

The reason behind the organization push was that I had decided it was about time to get into a house. I wanted to set myself up financially so that I wasn't struggling when it came to paying for it all. I wanted to be able to pay the mortgage, take care of the bills, and still have some money left over for fun stuff.


I got a few credit reports.

Wow. Nothing like black and white numbers to tell you what's been going on with your credit history. It actually felt kind of good, to look at all the accounts that had been paid off and closed. I even managed to find out about 2 cards that I had shredded and apparently never closed. A few phone calls later and that was resolved. About 6 months later and...

Everything went great with the house. I kind of figured that it wouldn't go as smoothly as it did, but I was pleasantly surprised. Of course, I am positive that because it went pretty smooth, that is a sure sign that I got screwed somewhere, but I can chalk that up as a learning experience. I did think it was kind of funny when they told me that I was qualified for something on the order of a $200,000+ loan. "Yeah, right. I'm looking for a lot less house than that, and will be putting a nice chunk of change down, thankyouverymuch. Yes, a large down payment."

Continuing with keeping an eye on money stuff one day I pulled out the credit check used for the closing table on the house. One of the cards (that I had closed twice, the second time about 6 months before getting into the house) was still open. This was, of course, a card that had been bought out by my old favorite BoA, and there was one 'delinquent report' that I had completely missed. Reading further, I found that it was for non-payment of a bill. A $5,000 bill. From, you guessed it, Bank of America.

?!?!

My payments to credit card debts increased after that. I went from $100 over the min, to $250, to $500, to whatever I had left over at the end of the month without biting into my 'cushion'. I wanted to take a well earned time out from the credit game. I figure I've earned a little breathing room. I'm in my house, my cars are running fine, I have some cash in the bank -enough for a few hard months, so... I'm out. I'm taking my ball and going home now.

I don't just hate BoA, I hate 'em all. They can all lick my sweaty nu-er... checkbook.


My last payment of $985.14 was cashed on the 12th of this month. My balance now is zero. Zip. Nada. Nothing. Cars are paid off, I owe on nothing but the mortgage. I will now have a lot extra cash floating around that used to be going to sever all ties with the credit companies. Most of that is going into savings, to pad that rainy day fund. I have some plans in the works...



But damn, that motorcycle I keep seeing, the one for sale... it sure looks fun.



5 comments:

SpeakerTweaker said...

Congrats on being in the black! We're working diligently toward the same.

Hate to be biased...

Loves me some 2-wheelers...

But...

GUNSGUNSGUNSGUNSGUNSGUNSGUNSGUNSGUNSGUNSGUNSGUNSGUNSGUNSGUNSGUNSGUNSGUNSGUNSGUNSGUNSGUNSGUNSGUNSGUNSGUNSGUNSGUNSGUNSGUNSGUNSGUNSGUNSGUNSGUNSGUNSGUNSGUNSGUNSGUNS

Buy you some firepower!!

you know you want it...

But that's just me...


;)



tweaker

Kaerius said...

I know well how big a trap credit card debt can be, my mother has been in it on and off for as long as I can remember.

So when I started getting bank cards, I consciously made sure they were NOT credit cards. I have no credit at all. That's just the way I want it.

Murphy said...

ST: Guns just goes with out saying! I'm talking about what to get with the money after I've taken out for my 'new toy' fund...

Kaerius: Here's to keeping my 'oh shit' fund healthy, so I don't have to go back to the devil's plastic!

Ssssteve said...

Your preaching Dave Ramsey stuff. We are following his plan and the future is looking bright!

Murphy said...

He definitely has some good stuff. It was kind of funny, when I first heard of him, to realize how much stuff was similar to what I had eventually (by much trial n' error, pain n' suffering) come around to.