Today I did something that felt dirty and explicitly wrong.
I applied for a credit card.
I know, that sounds crazy, doesn't it? How does a grown woman feel like a kid sneaking a cookie by simply applying for a credit card? Like any other good mental hang up, this one has a back story.
When I was just barely old enough to drive, I started getting credit card offers in the mail. And like most dumb kids, I opened a bunch of credit cards. Like, a whole bunch. And while I was responsible in that I paid the bills (well, the minimums) each month, I surely didn't track how much I was spending. Which led to my ultimate mortification of having my Carson's card turned down when I was buying a gift for my now husband. I stood there, defiantly telling them to check it again, when they finally said, "You've reached your credit limit, miss." I spent YEARS paying off those damn cards.
Later, I was married and had a decent job, and started opening credit cards again. You'd think I'd have learned my lesson. This time it was two if us opening credit lines like there was no tomorrow. Thousands of dollars later, we entered a credit counseling program to pay off the cards. Strike 2! After some time, we were able to clean our shit up and buy a house. Cool, right?
Know what comes with buying a house? Furniture and repairs and broken appliances. Leaks and breaks galore. And when you run out of case for these things, you open up a Home Depot account. And a Lowe's account. And a Wells Fargo account. Then you take out a loan to consolidate, but end up opening more account afterwards. Then one day you take a look at your monthly bills, and all of a sudden a ton of seemingly small monthly payments adds up to eat away at a major portion of your income. Ouch. So you enter credit counseling. Again.
A few years ago, stressed to the point of death by a job I hated, my return to school, parenting Thing 1 and Thing 2 and caring for my mother through her cancer diagnosis and treatment, I may have forgotten to pay a bill or 6. Like most households I know, I, the wife, managed the bills. Our cell phones would get cut off because I'd forget to pay them. Our car insurance lapsed. It's not as if we didn't have the money to pay them, it was simply that I was so overwhelmed that I couldn't think straight. So I took Jesus up on his offer of taking over the bills for Martinez, Inc.
Back when I managed the bills, I's sit up and night and worry to the point of physical sickness. If I was late paying the day care, I'd draft letters in my head to the director, asking for one more week to get caught up. I'd call our car insurance guy and beg for an extension. I was missing payments, overdrawing the bank account, double paying the cable bill. It was terrible. I'm so glad a responsible adult stepped in! Now, I don't even look at the bank account. I'm not even 100% sure when I get paid. Or when the car payments are due. All I know if that since he took over, we've actually had car insurance and cell phones. And he manages to pay for things like our new fence, and the sod that finally made our house look like a real house and not the scary dirt covered mess of a yard that it was before.
My contribution to all this? Not using credit cards. (Let's not discuss my $40K in student loan debt just yet, ok? And the Bloomingdales account which is really for charity anyway....) I figure if he's managing the ins and outs of our money, the least I could do was not add to the balancing act. It's a little embarrassing at times to not have any credit cards. For my recent business trip, I had to go tell my boss that I don't HAVE any credit cards for booking travel, and so the company would simply have to do it for me. Yeah, way to be a professional adult there. Or when we had a collapsed pipe and didn't have any credit cards on which to put the thousands of dollars it was going to cost to fix. Yeah, had to go ask a friend, and we're STILL paying the monthly payment on that account. And probably will be forever (as I said, I do understand interest.)
So what prompted me to open a credit card? Especially after chiding a co-worker for her recent credit fueled shopping spree? Simple. Christmas is coming, and my dear husband manages our bank account. There's no possible way for me to buy him a christmas gift - which he tells me every year not to do, but really? - without him seeing exactly what it is and what was paid for it. And besides christmas coming, what if something happens and my kids suddenly outgrow everything they own? They are boys afterall. What if I need emergency shoes or coats or whatever for them? I can't exactly go to Bloomingdales for the essentials, now can I? Sure, that's my justification. It's rational. But it doesn't make me feel any less dirty.