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What Charge Started $37,000 in Credit Card Debt?

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My relationship with credit cards started when I was a freshman in college and I completed an application in return for a candy bar. Not too long after getting that shiny credit card in the mail, I used it.

I don’t remember what that first charge was, but with a little digging I was able to find a copy of my very first credit card bill. In all, during that first month I charged $125 and my card had a $500 limit.

So what was that very first charge? Did I go bonkers and treat my friends to Pizza Hut? Did I go on a clothes shopping spree?

I…paid…a…bill! My telephone bill at the dorm!

I thought for sure my first purchase would have been something very irresponsible for an 18 year-old with a new credit card. I have to admit – I am very surprised.

But wait – eight days later, the shopping spree began. The next two charges were to a local card shop. I know exactly what those charges were for…Magic the Gathering cards. I spent quite a bit of money on those cards and so did the people I played the game with.

The next charge was for a little over $30.00 and was made at K-Mart. I probably bought some clothes. Another charge for my telephone bill and a charge to the campus bookstore for some supplies rounded out the rest of my very first credit card bill.

I plan on digging up more old statements and taking more trips down debt memory lane. As I come across interesting tidbits, I’ll share them here. I think Cleverdude is right about writing your autobiography through spending.

In a way, I’m a little nervous to look through the old statements. I often think that you need to let go of your past mistakes and move forward. But I have a strong urge to dig into our past spending. I almost wonder if it is because we are getting closer to paying off our debt and I want to make sure that history doesn’t repeat itself once our cards are paid off.


24 Comments

  • Reply Bradley |

    my first card was applied for on my college campus. organizations used to do credit card sign ups as a way to earn money for the organization. (should that even be legal?)

    no idea what my first charge was, i am sure those statements were shredded years ago. however, that debt has gained steam and been transferred from card to card over the years.

    this year, i have decided to start reclaiming my money and my life. i am currently looking for a part time job in which all my earnings (100%) will be applied to credit card debt. as cards are paid off, they will be cancelled.

    it is not going to be easy or fast, but it has to be done. on top of that, all extraneous spending has been halted. do i really need all that crap anyway?

  • Reply Tricia |

    do i really need all that crap anyway?

    Bradley, I have a feeling I will be asking myself that A LOT as I go through our past statements. Even with the Magic cards I bought – I have no idea what happened to them. I don’t have them anymore.

    It sounds like you have a good plan in place. I wish you the best!

  • Reply jaye |

    I agree; confronting one’s mistakes is the way to make sure you never make them again. I shudder to look back on credit cards from only a year ago. It’s amazing to realize how self-delusional we’ve been.

    I’m so impressed that you’re doing this. Thank you for inspiring the rest of us!

  • Reply S/100/30 |

    What an interesting exercise. I can only imagine how sheepish I’d feel if I had my collge CC statements still around to go through. My guess would be a lot of charges at Anthropologie and a lot of pizza!

  • Reply Frugal Dad |

    This is a great exercise! I bought a Sony Playstation (not a 2 or 3, I’m dating myself here) the day they came out when I was in college. I charged it, and figured I would just “pay it off later.” Over a decade later, I’m still paying for that thing in some form or fashion!

  • Reply Mary |

    I remember the first thing I charged. A yellow blender in 1970 and it was charged on a department store credit card. I was 19 and newly married. It cost $25 and I remember I had a hard time paying the first payment of $5. I also remember needing a $1,000 loan from a relative two years later to pay off debts. I got a night job working for a temp service to pay off that loan.

  • Reply Jim ~ mydebtblog.com |

    I’m going to have to see if I can dig up my college statements on my oldest card. The funny thing is I never carried a balance on my first credit card until I got to college. I got the card in high school, would make a purchase with it I had the money for anyway (my parents suggested building my credit) and then pay the card off. It was pretty easy with a $700 limit at 18% APR. Costs of college like overpriced books and cheap entertainment piled on. I have taken out student loans and ‘paid it off’ before, but the balance came back when the money ran out. It seems so stupid to me looking back at it, but we all live and learn. I’m paying for my mistakes now though, pun totally intended.

  • Reply Mrs. Micah |

    Interesting how innocuous it was. Of course that’s the thing…baby steps get one into debt and they get one out of debt. I’d bet most people get into debt in such mundane ways.

  • Reply arduous |

    This is weirdly fascinating. It’s also interesting to see how far you’ve changed. If the new you is shocked by the money you spent, I bet the old you would be shocked by how little you seem to need now.

  • Reply Matt |

    I think its interesting to see what our old charges were and how pointless the actual expenses were. I got a fair bit of magic cards myself back in college and now I think I don’t have a single one of them.

  • Reply Nathaniel Scott |

    haha! i believe i too was offered a candy bar for an opportunity at my first credit card. somehow i resisted a snickers. i think it is a great idea to dig up the past when it comes to spending so you can be on the lookout for bad habits!

  • Reply dawn |

    I remember our time getting into credit card debt…
    We were never actually users of the card, we would use those horrible “cash advance” checks when the end of the month was still 10 days away and there was no money left to pay the bills. Those things are so nasty… and they always appeared in the mail, just in the nick of time. Or so we thought at the time. We were young, our boys were babies, and there just never seemed to be enough money to go around. Anyway… we learned quickly the error of our ways. We have actually been credit card debt free for almost ten years now. I still cringe when those horrible things show up in the mail, though. I have NO PROBLEM putting them in the shredder!!!

  • Reply Beth |

    I worked part-time in a department store for additional income when it was needed. None of use moonlighters were thrilled about our jobs and one time one of them shrugged and said, “Ya gotta do what ya gotta do.” She was wearing innumerable pieces of gold jewelry and carried a Gucci handbag. And I will just never forget the power of that moment of recognition for me — this woman was giving her LIFE to these pointless possessions. I’ve definitely had my money issues, and that was a turning point in how I viewed money, work and possessions.

  • Reply DC Smith |

    Freaky how fast things changed, too. When I first set foot on a college campus in 1990 everyone was up in arms because the book store was sticking credit card apps in with every purchase. Funny thing was, the only way for most people to get one of those cards was to have a job or a cosigner (I used the latter). They gave me a $200 limit. Just one calculus book cost about $100 at the time.

    By the time I left in May ’95 student organizations had card tables and candy bars (and water bottles, and frisbees, and t-shirts) all over the place. You certainly didn’t need a cosigner for those cards.

  • Reply Kris |

    What a great post. I think mine was for gas, which was much cheaper (but not cheap) way back when.

    Oh, 1997. How I miss you.

  • Reply Sunshine |

    OH the money we spent on Magic the Gathering. I was even more obsessed with organization than with the game itself. So, in addition to the thousands of dollars we spent on cards, I also got the binders and the card collector’s sheets for them to go in. And spent hours organizing by color, then alphabet. I think I even still have a huge shoebox full of 13 years later.

    Thank you for taking me on a trip down memory lane… and for sharing your blog.

  • Reply Online Money Finance |

    This is a great post!

    I got my credit card in college, like most people in the states. It had a $300 limit, which was alright with me because I just wanted to establish a credit history. I paid it off every month for a long time, so it wasn’t a problem. Then they kept raising the limit. It got to the point where I had a $6,000 limit and only ever had $500 on it. I felt pretty good. I fell in love with my best friend from high school at this time, and decided to propose to her. So, while I don’t remember my first purchase, I do vividly remember it was the engagement ring that led to me carrying a balance on the card. I would get most of it paid down, and then some unexpected expense would arise, and I’d have to take on more debt. Of course, this was a lack of planning on our part to not have an emergency account.

    I am very happy to report that two kids and 9 years later, my wife and I have 0 credit card debt and no car loans. We even have an emergency account. πŸ™‚

    -=[OMF]=-

  • Reply Treb |

    For anyone who can maintain extreme discipline, it might sound crazy but you can fight fire with fire and charge your way right out of credit card debt. Check out this ebook or paperbook at http://www.chargeyourwayout.com It works and good luck!

So, what do you think ?