Saturday

Five Signs You’re Not Trying Hard Enough To Ruin Your Life With Credit Cards—College Edition

By Maxime Rieman

In these competitive times, many of us are pursuing lofty goals with a drive and determination that would make Aesop’s tortoise look woeful. After all, who doesn’t know someone who’s training for a marathon, writing a novel, or traveling the world? These days it seems like everyone is working on something big, and the bar for what constitutes “accomplished” keeps getting higher and higher.

While there are a lot of worthy aspirations out there, many Americans are working on a very specific endeavor, one that could potentially have long-lasting consequences—ruining their lives with credit cards.

Millions of people in the U.S. are destroying their credit and running up thousands of dollars in debt; they’re maxing out their cards, buying tons of junk they don’t want and can’t afford, while only paying minimums month after month. But the truth is, many of us who are trying to destroy our financial lives with credit cards simply aren’t doing enough to make sure that this goal is reached and we are not maximizing the example we’re setting for others who will soon be prey privy to the wonders of credit cards. Try as we might, we’re behaving far too responsibly with our cards and we need to put forth more of an effort to make sure that we’ll never get out from under the weight of consumer debt.

So how can you tell if you’re not trying hard enough to mess up your personal and financial life with credit cards? Here are five signs you could be doing more to reach your goal:

You’ve Never Gone Over Your Credit Limit
This is probably the most obvious symptom: if you’ve never had to pay a fee for going over the credit limit that your bank set for you, you really need to consider charging more. The interest and fees associated with going over your allotted credit could be all that’s standing between you and financial ruin, so if you’ve failed to purchase enough with your credit card to exceed that threshold, it’s time to hit the mall. A credit limit is really just a suggestion anyways.

You Don’t Obsessively Check Your Available Credit
If you feel comfortable enough to keep charging your day-to-day expenses to your card without worrying that you’ve run out of available credit, you’re definitely falling short of driving yourself into financial ruin. People who are really committed to letting their credit cards take them off a financial cliff are the ones you see in line at the grocery store obsessively checking the banking applications on their smart phones to be sure they can get out with their gluten-free pasta. Take a lesson from their desperation and make a bigger effort to eat up all of that available credit with mindless purchases. It might seem tough at first, but you’ll find that once you really make a commitment to buying useless crap, it gets easier over time.

You Can Sleep At Night
Every real credit card junkie knows that putting the goal of ruining their lives with their cards requires sacrifice, and one of those sacrifices is a good night’s sleep. If you never (or only rarely) lose sleep wondering how you’re going to pay your bills, you’re definitely not going to achieve the objective of total monetary devastation. Take it as a sign to start charging more if you’re getting a full eight hours every night, and remember that if you’re in a pinch you can always start putting your fraternity/sorority dues on your card. Do whatever it takes to get those balances up!

You’re Not Getting Random, Threatening Calls From Collections Agencies
One of the most persistent reminders that you’re really going the distance towards meeting your objective of ruining your life with credit cards is the unexpected and brash calls coming from collection agencies at all hours of the day. This is basically a commendation for not paying your bills, no matter how much the person on the other end might be encouraging you to cough up the cash. If you’ve never been awakened in the middle of the night—even though you were probably up anyways—by a bill collector threatening to tell all your future colleagues you’re a deadbeat, consider this a sign you’re being far too timely and responsible with your bill payments.

You’re Thinking About Buying A House
One of the hallmarks of financial responsibility is homeownership; so if you’re considering buying a house after college, kiss that goal of messing up your financial future goodbye. If you feel that in a few years you can take on a mortgage, you’re obviously been much too careful with your cash. Worse yet, if you actually qualify for a home loan, it’s really time to buckle down and start swiping that credit card.

Getting into a financial bind may seem hard at first, but with a dash of college-freshmen-ignorance, a pinch of giving-into-peer-pressure-and-keeping-up-with-the-Jones-Kardashians-everyone-else and a pound of prolonged-bill-opening-avoidance, you’ll achieve it in no time. Take these signs into consideration to gauge your progress periodically and remember: never let a trip to the Apple Store pass you by!

Maxime Rieman wishes being an adult weren’t so hard. Luckily, she works for NerdWallet, where she found cheap auto insurance, learned the ins and outs of credit cards and generally, how to be more financially savvy.

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