A Grin at the End: Dangerous plastic

January, 2012 Posted in Columnists & Opinion

By Carl Sampson

I’m not one of those “Occupy” guys.

All I want to occupy is my La-Z-Boy at the end of a hard day of tapping on a computer keyboard. Better yet, I’d rather occupy the La-Z-Boy while I was tapping on the keyboard.

That’s why I’m so frustrated.

While the Occupy crowd doesn’t seem to be able to do anything right, they do have a point. They don’t like big banks. Me neither.

I completely understand that banks keep the economy rolling. They lubricate the wheels of progress, and all that jazz.

What I don’t like about banks is how they try to jam debt — in the form of credit cards — down my throat, and yours.

Have two days ever passed when you didn’t receive a credit card offer in the mail? As I write this, I’m looking at three that arrived today.  The pitches are many:

“50 percent More Cash Back!”

“3 percent Cash Back!”

“No Annual Fee!”

Here’s what they don’t say:

“Spend Yourself into the Poor House!”

“Buy Stuff You Can’t Afford!”

“You’ll Owe Us Forever!”

I mean, really. Credit cards have a place — in the garbage can — but they are the most dangerous pieces of plastic you can possess. If you allow yourself to believe the credit card pitch that you’ll actually receive money for using credit cards you will be in deep trouble before you know it.

Last year, my wife and I went to a university — Financial Peace University. It’s the one radio financial guru Dave Ramsey offers.

It was also one of the best things we’ve ever done. For the first time in 26 years of marriage, my wife and I are on the same page financially. We have a budget and, most importantly, the only money we owe is the mortgage to our house.

Ramsey teaches several steps to financial peace. Among them: Build an emergency fund, pay off your debts and set up a budget.

The key to achieving all of that is not using credit cards. He recommends cutting them up with scissors. I prefer running them through a shredder.

Before, if we needed something, we’d whip out a credit card and end up paying for it — and some extravagant amount of interest. I once got a letter from a bank that it was raising the interest rate on my credit card to 22 percent. I called the bank and said I might be stupid but I’m not crazy. I never used that card again.

We just started a new year. I’m hoping 2012 will be the best year ever. Now that we have our money situation under control, I know it will be.

I have another hope, too. I hope that Congress and the president —whoever is elected this year — learn how make a budget. In that budget, we should begin to pay down the massive debt we’ve run up as a nation instead of adding to it.

The next time some Congress dude says it can’t be done, just remind him that it’s something every household does.

Carl Sampson is a freelance writer and editor. His book, A Bushel and a Peck, is available for $2.99 at Amazon’s Kindle website.

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