Jan 14, 2011

The battle with credit cards

There are a few fundamental points in caveman history when it comes to money.
1. The invention of currency
2. The invention of banking
3. Founding of the visa corporation
4. The partnership of the banks and Visa, to screw people over.

While the invention of money is a great way for the caveman to exchange his skills for goods and services, the use of a high interest debt vehicle to pay for things was not such a good idea. Or a genius one, depending on your shareholder level in Visa corporation...

One of the goals of Project Caveman is to reduce and simplify things, with money it's about eliminating pointless debt, all of those fucking 2 year contracts, and above all - credit cards. This post is about how I got rid of my credit cards, and what it's like to live without one. as they on Twitter - #firstworldproblems

I'm not sure when I progressed to having a credit card, when I became deemed enough of a responsible citizen to earn a role as a cash cow for Visa Corporation and my bank. And it seems like everyone has one now, when previously only a select few were permitted to by the banks. Cerainly growing up I don't really remember anyones parents having one or anyone talking about their credit card debt?

It was originally my then girlfriends idea, to put bills on it then pay it off at the end of the month, and I think that's how we all get sucked into the concept. And for some reason I was supposed to care about frequent flyer points, so it came with that, along with a vague uneasiness.

And things were generally okay, but recently as a student again i racked up the limit while the bank still thought I was gainfully employed. And I used it more and more while I was a student. I didn't think it was that much but it kept maxing out, and became an issue with the monthly repayments a few times. While I resolved them, they were stressful and enough to keep me perpetually paying them off, never quite making it. Trapped like a fucking rat on a wheel, running faster and faster to stand still.

At one point last year I had a 14 grand limit and had it maxed out regularly, which sets you back about $500 a month, which was most of my post - mortgage income. More than it in fact! Not cool, and during this time, my anger of the concept grew. The amount of fucking time I spent stressing over credit cards and the amount of money I spent on the things is just plain stupid and insane, in hindsight.

So i set out last year to rid myself of this cancer, and escape the clutches of the Visa corporation. Eliminating the credit card was actually a long and difficult process, there were procedural delays and in the end they offered me $150 not to close it for a few months, coerced me with "just keep it for emergencies" and the like. Sneaky muther fuckers. I got angry on the phone a lot.

After a few weeks of stuffing around I finally did it, and it's had quite an impact, with budgeting and the like. I get about $1300 a pay, pay out $1000 on rent and live on the rest. By keeping it simple, it's pretty easy to get by, and it enforces frugality in it's very nature. Advertising washes over you when you have no money to spend. All those little compulsions to spend just evaporate. I feel free of the expectations of modern living, free of societies expectations to spend, help the economy, try to impress people i dont like with stuff I can't afford.

I get to keep all my money, small though it may be, and I don't have to give any of it to Visa or the bank! Every paycheck I receive, this continues to feel immensely satisfying, you have no idea.

Having a limited budget changes your priorities and your focus in a big way. You rapidly learn to hoard and save, and appreciate what you have a lot more, both in the material and also the non-material sense.
Like The other day I went to the bank to complain about $5 per month fees, and had a win, getting like $30 back from them. Laughable I know, but satisfying nonetheless, and I can do a lot with that $30 right now, so fuck it I'll gladly do an old man and complain at the bank!

So yes, its a mild struggle in the scheme of things, and full of first world problems, but in the first world context of things, it's been interesting to escape the more disabling parts of the setup, to regain some control over my money my soul and psyche. So, no big deal, just one step closer to Project Caveman and my story on how I eliminated credit cards from my life!