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Define instant gratification – I cant, it sucks

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Sunset Shopping 2 Saturday afternoon. I was sitting on the train promising myself that I am going to only spend X amount of my hard earned money in Warehouse (yes I got that 20% voucher in Metro!) then my eyes fell on the woman opposite me and I found myself staring and staring so hard that she shifts uncomfortably under my gaze.

To be honest, I must have been staring for about 6 minutes (a long time on the tube!) and I have no idea what she looked like. I was paying attention to her magazine. It was one of those gossip ones that I’d never be caught dead (or alive) buying. I mean do I really care what Cheryl Tweedy thinks of Lily Allen (or whatever!). What caught my eye was a cover story that read “35,000 in debt trying to look like Colleen” and a picture of a girl overloaded with shopping bags and smiling smugly at the camera – smiling at her silliness!
35,000 in what! DEBT! To look like who? Weren’t they calling her a chav a minute ago? OK so we’ve all been there, or at least most of us have. You just had to have those shoes because if you weren’t meant to, they would not be staring at you in the perfect size. Then because they are so hot, they need a matching bag and seeing as how it is 3 weeks till payday, Mr Visa/MasterCard/American express (pick your poison) will pick up the tab and we’ll pay for it in full in three weeks. No harm. No foul.
Only that this wonderful sensation ‘instant gratification’ stimulates us for more. I mean if you don’t buy that great top to match the shoes and bag (where I come from some people call it ‘Yoruba girl syndrome’) the outfit would look silly so SWISH goes Mr Visa card.
When the bill hits your doorstep 28 days later, they are being so sweet as to tell you that you can pay 3% of the total bill. For real? Just 3%? That means more money in my pocket. WRONG! OK we are being a tad bit simplistic here but stats show that less than 18% of credit card users pay the balance in full each month. Why? Because of the convenience of the deferred payment. Pay out less and keep more in your pocket so to speak.
So you pay the 3%, satisfied that you are a good customer because you’ve paid on time and there is still money to blow in your bank account so everyone wins. Not quiet – sure you’re a great customer. Sure you’ve got money (for now) but that little weekend indulgence means that at approximately 16.9% APR, you might be paying for that bag for 3 years by which time, that bag has been relegated to the ‘what was I thinking/drinking?’ part of your closet.
So you understand why I am flummoxed at why somebody is in 35,000 of debt and is smiling – unless her father is Bill Gates or she is making more than she owes AFTER TAX. This is no laughing matter and seeing as how it was on the cover of Heat/Now (whatever it was called), I can safely go out on a limb here and suggest that this is not the case. Not because Heat or whatever indicates you are poverty stricken but because if she was paying it off with ease, it wouldn’t be a story MUCH less a cover story!
Now I might sound smug but I’ve learnt my lesson with that beautiful piece of plastic that made me feel all grown up. No longer was I shopping when the folks sent me money, I was burning money when I felt like it and at 18 it seemed free. SWIPE SWIPE SWIPE and then as long as I paid it back (minimum payment), they ‘kindly’ increased my credit limit. I was 18 years old and Mr Barclaycard Visa had given me 5K. I can smile now because I soon became hip to the 0% balance transfer at the beginning of every New Year – wasn’t I smart? Err no because the fine print I always failed to read was that this bad boy was probably charging me WAY more than the previous one.
Long story short, I finally smelt a rat and toiled to get myself out of credit card hell. Working two summer jobs on my gap year to hit university knackered when all my mates were coming back tanned and refreshed. They had seen Rome, Morocco, Switzerland. I had seen overweight women trying to relive their glory days in tight Miss Selfridge clothing and trendy teems who thought that pots of eye-liner on their eyelids, ripped clothing and dirty looking hair was a hot look. It wasn’t but I paid my dues – and thankfully my credit card off to.
The minute I paid it off, they couldn’t stop bothering me. Offers of platinum cards (university kid!). I mean it’s like holding a red flag to a bull. Luckily I wasn’t to be tempted but they made it too easy. You walk into a store and the pesky assistant is offering you a 10% discount if you open a store card. Now that makes sense surely because it makes your outfit even cheaper and means you can buy in bulk and get a discount simultaneously. WRONG! That little plastic poison pill comes with a hefty 30% APR chain.
So in 6 minutes, this was my thinking – ‘35K in debt, WOW, how silly. How very very silly – poor girl. And to look like whom?’ Then the woman shifted and I realised that I had been staring, forced one of those silly grins and then I looked away.
Now I like to shop as much as the next person but surely 35,000 is a TAD steep. No? I mean what if this lady wants a house and Mr HSBC (or whoever she probably has a credit card with) sees her monthly financial status. They would decline her a mortgage or a car. Not that I advocate debt of any kind but at least make it useful. You can sell a car and get good use of it until you do. I mean the ‘what if’ scenarios are wide reaching. My point being debt and instant gratification suck!
The greatest way to shop is to spend your own money. At least that way when it is gone, you can sit down and feel silly in the corner. Yup! Much rather do that!
So I got off the train smiling smugly. Yes I’ve learnt and learnt the hard way so I can sympathise and only use this poor girl’s situation (for me, the politically correct term would be TRAVESTY! but I don’t know her personally so…) as motivation to not dance with the devil. That would be debt people. I hope that by sharing just a snippet, I can encourage others not to do so too because at the risk of sounding like a broken record, instant gratification sucks in the end. It really does!

One Comment »

  • John said:

    Ever notice it’s the bitches who are shopaholics.

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