A letter from the bank led to my slide into credit card debt. Here’s how I got out of it
The program, Dollarmites, was organised by the Commonwealth Bank. [The 90-year-old Dollarmites program was discontinued in 2021].
Michael when he was a nine.
It seemed like a well-intentioned program designed to develop regular savings habits and promote financial literacy. As an adult, I can now see its hidden agenda. I can see beyond the cartoon characters’ booklets and fancy yellow cheque books that were given to me as a child.
I had no concept of what it meant to earn money or how the economy and banking system worked
Little did I know that this would become the start of very poor financial choices that would keep me in debt for years.
Michael when he first got his credit card and bought new sunglasses.
I wasn’t stupid; I understood that I would eventually have to pay the money back at some stage. But being so naïve and having access to such a large amount of money I felt like there were no consequences.
Copying the words that my father once said to me, I’m not angry, just disappointed. I’m disappointed at the bank because they had all the financial information to know that I was sinking. They knew I was only earning $44,000 after taxes and HECS debt, but each time I would reach the maximum credit limit I was pre-approved for a higher limit.
I was hooked. I got what I want when I wanted it and I paid little attention to developing wealth.
The credit card trap didn’t stop for me until I wanted to save for a property. I sat down at my desk, crunched the numbers and truly realised the extent of my erratic and stupid spending. Forget about saving for a home loan deposit.. It would take me three to four years to pay off my debt and only after that could I even start to think about saving.
I was embarrassed and ashamed. I remember thinking “how did I let things get this bad?” I had no excuse. I was fortunate enough to have a job and yet here I was struggling with money.
I knew there were financial support services available to me but I was too stubborn to admit my errors to anyone. Instead, I researched everything I could about money and the message was clear and simple, “spend less than you earn.” Something that I hadn’t learned with the option of credit.
I was embarrassed and ashamed.
I still have my credit card, which might be a shock to some. For me, it’s my way of giving the middle finger to the bank. Because I pay it off in full every month, which means that somewhere there is a file on me that shows they haven’t earned a single cent from my wallet; and for me that is priceless.