I could’ve saved the children

Basically there’s no good reason why I have any credit card debt and as of today I don’t, but earlier this week — before I’d tackled this week’s task, over £7,000  was sitting on my VISA. I don’t know exactly how this happened but I’m pretty sure I racked up most of it between February and July last year.

Normally where the money went wouldn’t be a mystery — I could check my online statement, but this time I can’t. EGG sold my VISA to Barclaycard in November so I’ve lost access to those old statements. If I had the patience to call either/both EGG or Barclaycard, it’s possible I could track down the missing data … but really, who cares? The money’s gone.

In any case, my credit card habits are predictable: I use them for travel — for the airfare and any overseas shopping. Just typing the words overseas shopping makes my spending sound so neutral, so official, so unavoidable, so not-my-choice. In reality it’s more like this: when I go to the US I tend to shop a lot. Normally on clothes. Normally in one particular shop. Normally on a singular visit to that shop with my mother.

In addition to this annual (sometimes bi-annual) mother-daughter tradition, 2011 was special because I lost my bank card and for reasons too tedious to record it took NatWest more than 6 weeks to get a replacement to me and so in that time I used my credit card for ordinary everyday living. The idea that I would go to a bank, wait in line and withdraw cash was too great an anachronism.

While neither of these spending events can be held accountable for the sum total I owed VISA, I don’t see the point in fretting about where the remainder went (no doubt, this attitude should be a red rag to a bull if you’re a credit card fraudster). Given the amount of debt I’ve accummulated in my life and the countless times I’ve paid it off only to go on to collect more again, it’s not in me to get worked up about this. Except for the following:

  •  It took me less than 15 minutes to pay it off (and this includes all the minutes it took to find my passwords and usernames.)
  • For every month I didn’t bother to take 15 minutes to do this, I paid over £100 interest.
  • Since I’ve long had the money to pay off the balance, that’s more than £700 tossed away.

Here’s what £700 can buy: an international flight, a couple of week’s rent, an iPad! with lots left over. Another way to consider the value of that money is to take just one month’s interest and ask myself how many children in terrible situations around the world I might have helped if only I hadn’t been so lazy.

The answer is 6.6.

I could have sponsored more than 6 kids every month with the money I let EGG and then Barclaycard pocket. I hope my interest payments saved at least one office worker’s job at either of those companies, but somehow I doubt it.

Because I feel very badly about this, I did invest another 15 minutes this week signing up to sponsor a child in need. I know I could do more, but it’s a start. And charitable giving is the subject of a future assignment.

As for the future of my relationship with credit cards? Yes, I did complete the follow-on parts of the assignment — comparing the ones I have today with other cards on the market and working out whether I should swap them out or cut them up. In the end I went with the Hollywood Approach. More on that in this afternoon’s post.

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4 thoughts on “I could’ve saved the children

  1. I take it you don’t check your statement each month. I bet you that if you did you’d find at least 100 quid in fraud too, if not a lot more!

    1. I know ! I know ! I know! Hopefully ground rule number 1 (tracking what I spend) will help educate me on the prevalence of random and even fraudulent charges

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