Thursday, March 10, 2005

Why I will never be debt-free...

...because, sometimes? I am Too. DUMB. To live.

TDL. It's my favorite expression for those times you want to slap yourself. Hard. "How could I DO that?? I am too dumb to live." It's a wonder I haven't killed myself in a freak toaster oven accident or something.

I have messed up my credit on and off for the past, oh, 10 years. Basically as long as I've had credit. I do well for a while, but I always, always fall back into bad patterns.

Sometimes though it isn't my fault. When I had my son Ethan, things got a little messy. I didn't expect six weeks of bedrest, lower paychecks, a son in the NICU for a month. Things got forgotten. My bills sat unopened for weeks. On top of that, I had changed my credit card bills from paper to electronic. To save paper. To save them from sitting unopened for weeks.

So instead, the email reminders sat unopened for weeks. Or months.

So I got two months behind on my credit cards. I paid them up to date as soon as I could! And I called the kind-hearted, people-person credit card company, and explained the situation. Could they help me out? Could they remove my bad ding from the credit bureaus? Please, please? I had a sick child!! And of course, they said: NO. It was already done. There was nothing they could do about it. Then they said the worst thing to say EVER, yet somehow all customer service people are trained to say it:

"Is there anything else I can help you with ma'am?"

Um, NO. You could HELP me by taking the 60 dollars in service charges off my credit card. You could HELP me by lowering my interest rate that just doubled because of this. You could HELP me by removing by bad credit rating that will cost me thousands of dollars in the long run. You could HELP me by removing some of the stress in my life. Can you do that? Can you? No? Then how, exactly, do you plan on helping me?

So... I got better. I paid things on time. Once in a while, though, I messed up. When my youngest son was born, I missed a payment again. Only by a few days, but it may as well have been a year. Again, 30 dollars in late charges. Again, a higher interest rate. And again, an instantaneous note to the credit bureaus.


So I started a new routine. I marked all of my bills on my Outlook calendar at work. I have reminders a week ahead of time. "Pay cable bill!" "Pay school loans!" I immediately go in, pay the bill electronically, and breathe a sigh of relief I have made it one more month in the "good credit risk" column.

I thought things were really turning around for me. I got one of those "preapproved" letters from a credit card company for 0% interest for one year. I thought I'd never qualify, but why not try? And I DID qualify. Yay! I transfered the balance from my super-high-interest-rate credit card. I was starting with a clean slate.

I kept getting the reminders for my old credit card, which I ignored, but didn't delete yet. I kept the account open - *just in case*. You never know when you are going to need an extra cash line.

Then the other morning, I got my reminder again. I haven't used this account in over 3 months, but I thought I'd sign in and check. See that "0" balance and dream of the days I'll have that on ALL my accounts. So I typed my account name and password. Got to my statement and saw:

Balance: $68.93


My heart dropped. I went to the statement detail and saw only a $30 service charge. For what? I went to the last month's statement and saw another $30 service charge. Still, no reasons I could find. Maybe there was a mistake. Maybe someone in the credit card company messed up! Maybe they had accidentally charged me late fees for a zero balance. Yes. Maybe!

Then I got to the December statement. It had a 9 dollar charge on it. From Mary Kay.

Damn that Mary Kay.

My cousin DJ is a sales girl for Mary Kay. (She will sell anyone Mary Kay for that matter, so let me know if you're looking for a hook up.) Thinking waaaaay back, she had called me in December. She was putting in an order and needed a little more to push it over. I said sure, throw in a cleanser or moisturizer or poofer or whatever the heck you call those makeup thingees. And that was the last I thought of it.

I pay for EVERYTHING with my debit card. I never never never use my credit card, except for emergencies or big purchases. I always know when I use my credit card. Except this time. I forgot Mary Kay doesn't take my debit card, for whatever reason. The last time DJ tried it, months ago, it wouldn't go through. So I gave her this card's number. And she just assumed I wanted her to use it again. And I never thought to ask.

Cause I am TDL.

This time, I didn't bother to call the company. I just paid it off quickly. And pounded my head into the desk for a few minutes. Then got dressed, and went to work. And fumed. All. Day. Long.


Sixty dollars in service charges for a $9.83 make-up thingee.

I don't know if I've learned my lesson. I know I will be checking ALL of my balances every month from now on. I know I should cancel the card. And I probably will. Someday. When I get around to it.

The saddest part of this whole story?

I don't even really wear make-up.

Sometimes, the irony in life amuses me. Not to the point of full fledged laughing, but just to the point of "Hmph". This was definitely one of those moments.

Only someone as TDL as me could be dumb enough to pay 69 DOLLARS for an item whose name I can't even remember.

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