Thursday, August 27, 2009

Things That Drive Me Crazy

(and yes I know I don't have far to go.)

by Joyce

One of the many things that irritates the hell out of me are the commercials on the radio to erase your credit card debt. You know--the ones that begin, "Do you have over $10,000 in credit card debt?" There's only one that I can listen to without steam coming out of my ears, and that's the one where the debtor actually has to pay his debt.

I heard a new one yesterday, though, that made me want to scream. It begins the same way-- with the $10,000 in debt thing--then some guy says, "I beat the system!"

Wait. It gets worse.

A woman comes on next and states, "The credit card companies are doing everything in their power to KEEP YOU IN DEBT! We'll eliminate your debt and you won't have to pay anything to the credit card company!"

Silly me. I was under the impression that if you bought something, you paid for it. I was taught that you should live within your means. If you can't afford it, DON'T BUY IT!

Boy, am I stupid.

When I was a kid, my mother had one credit card--back then it was called a Charge-o-plate. It was for the Gimbel's department store. We used to take a bus to downtown Pittsburgh and we only shopped in Gimbel's basement--where the bargains were. I don't think I realized until I was a teen that Gimbel's even had an upstairs. I don't know if my mother ever had a balance on her Charge-o-plate, but my guess would be no. She was the Queen of Frugal.

I realize the interest rates on credit cards are ridiculously high. You know what my solution is? Everyone get a pen and write this down.

I'll wait.

Ready? Okay. You only charge what you can afford to pay off when the credit card statement comes. I know--I'm a genius. You never pay any interest this way. And if you're like me, and have a certain card that shall remain nameless, you get cash back. In other words, they pay ME instead of the other way around.

Why is it that instead of rewarding people for doing the right things, we have to keep bailing out everyone who is irresponsible? Take the Cash for Clunkers B.S. I know it's helped the car dealers, but really. We're rewarding the wrong people here. We're rewarding irresponsibility. And does anyone else wonder what's going to happen a couple of months down the road when some of the people who bought cars figure out they can't make their car payments? Some of them were driving clunkers for a reason.

But at least the car dealers can repossess the cars. Credit card companies don't have that option. Maybe they should.

That's my rant for the week.

Does anyone agree with me? Are we rewarding people for being irresponsible? What would be your solution? Feel free to chime in and tell us all what drives you crazy, too.


Annette said...

I miss lay-away. Remember that? You paid for something a little at a time, only you didn't get the item until AFTER it was paid for.

What a concept!

PatRemick said...

I was pretty opposed to bailing out all those people who thought, hey, I can buy a house with nothing, pay nothing and still live in this beautiful neighborhood -- AND the government will help me stay here....

But then I figured there were only so many things I could rant about (bad drivers, irritating children, husband, etc) before I lost all of my energy to do things that really impacted me -- like working to pay the mortgage or keep my credit cards in check!

Joyce Tremel said...

Annette--good news--K-Mart brought layaway back!

Joyce Tremel said...

Pat, don't get me started on the mortgage mess.

Even when we bought our house 28 years ago, the lender told us we could afford a much larger and more expensive house than we wanted. We told them we actually wanted to be able to furnish it and buy groceries, which we wouldn't have been able to do if we had a larger mortgage payment.

Karen in Ohio said...

Joyce, that's my philosophy about credit cards--we pay them off every month, too. However, one of the relatively untold issues of heavy credit card debt is twofold: high unemployment, and a full one sixth of Americans without health insurance. Both of those problems have caused some (not all) of the serious debt of the kind that leads to acts of desperation like declaring bankruptcy and falling for those late-night debt erasing commercials.

Sure, there are many irresponsible people who spend more than they can afford, no matter what their situation is. But a very large percentage of those in trouble right now are in that predicament because of issues out of their control: Their companies stopped paying for their insurance and they don't have a prayer of being able to afford it themselves. They lost their jobs altogether, but still have not been able to find a new one. They had runaway health care costs and had no other recourse but to charge them. Etcetera.

I've been on both sides of this issue. When I was growing up my dad could not hold a job because of his drinking (and then he died when I was 17). My mother worked, but in the 50's and 60's women were paid a fraction of what men were, and she had a terrible time trying to hold the family together on what she made (less than $3,000 a year, to support five people after my dad passed away). Fortunately, none of us got sick; it could quite literally have sunk us.

Joyce Tremel said...

Karen, sounds like we have a lot in common. My dad died when I was 2 and my mom raised us on only his Social Security benefits.

While certainly some people use credit because they have to, I still think most of those targeted by these ads are the ones who have no intention of ever paying off their charges. And that's not right.

If someone is truly in financial trouble, there are REAL credit counseling services that will assist them in making payments.

Jenna said...

Bless you, Joyce, yes of course I agree with you. If you buy it, naturally you should have to pay for it. We pay off our credit cards every month, too. Our only real debt is the house; we always buy used cars. Had a car payment once and decided 'never again.'

Being in the real estate business - DH is still a realtor, even if I've retired my license - the thing I wish people would understand the concept of, is the starter home. Nobody's looking for a 2/1 starter these days; it seems to be a foreign concept to most first-time buyers. They need at least 2200 SqFt, a minimum 3BR/2.5BA, an office, granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances... if you suggest that they consider an under 100K (now) starter home and actually live within their means, they look at you like you're crazy. And then decide to keep renting until they can afford the behemoth they want... Grrr!

Joyce Tremel said...

Part of the problem is that everyone wants instant gratification. They want what they want, and they want it now.

We bought our house as a starter house, and we're still here. And I'm glad we are. We've remodeled every room--several times, built a sunroom on the back, did extensive landscaping, etc. I can't imagine leaving it now. I'm SO glad I don't have a big house to clean!

Dru said...

Joyce, I agree with you 100%.

When I was laid of 6 years ago, my saving grace was that I carried no debt and was able to live off my unemployment (which paid my rent and utilities) until I found a job.

What happened to saving your money until you had enough to buy the merchandise?

queenofmean said...

I agree with you, Joyce, about the instant gratification. We worked for years to be able to afford the nicer things in life. A lot of the younger people want it all now.
Another ad that drives me crazy is the one for erasing your IRS debt. "My tax debt was reduced by $10,000!" Well, good for you, but it's your debt. You should be paying if off, not passing it on to the rest of us.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Oh, most definitely, Joyce. The sound you hear is my applause. Well said!

NL Gassert said...

I think most of the IRS ads are scams, in that the people portrayed probably shouldn’t have had that debt to begin with. Their situation and subsequent reduction in debt isn’t representative at all (think child who “inherits” parent’s bankrupt business or estranged spouse who’s suddenly burdened with school loans s/he didn’t incur). I really dislike those ads.

Anonymous said...

These commercials don't make me mad because I don't believe them. They are not going to get people out of their credit card debt. They are only trying to snare stupid people so that they can make money from them by false promises to help them out of debt.

I knew a woman at work who was a compulsive shopper and created a huge debt. She was so in-over-her-head that she had to hire a legitimate debt reduction company. Her paychecks went straight to them, they made payments on her debt, and they sent her an allowance.

Pitiful that an adult needs that, but that's how they really work.