Credit The Card

I’m not a big spender, maybe a medium spender — on my best day. My brother is a big spender, my father was, too. My mother, probably who I most likely take after: ‘medium’ and judicious, again, like me (or is it me like her?). Nevertheless, the money got spent and if there was more of it, it likely would have got spent, too. It’s not as if I was deprived growing up, I got the things that mattered — in the long run. I just didn’t get everything money could buy.

But that was before credit cards. Well, before Visa, MasterCard, Discover and Capital One. Sure, there were department store cards: Filene’s, Jordon Marsh, Kennedy’s — in Boston, and off course there were gas cards: Esso, Amoco and Arco, and I suppose I recall knowing about American Express and Diner’s Club, but they weren’t used by everybody everywhere, certainly not by the Louries. Now, plastic is the currency by which many of us pay to play, and some of us use to merely stay in the game.

And for me, it sort of is a game: how long can I go without charging something and how much can I charge and still be able to pay the balance off when the next monthly credit card bill arrives? As I contemplate my daily/weekly/ bi-weekly/monthly inflow and outgo, I associate my efforts at restraint and attempted control with that of a levee, if I understand their function correctly — which I might not: bend and not break? Like some NFL team defenses are often described.

The problem arises — for both me and the levee, when the levee/spending restraint breaks (quite the opposite of brakes/stops). That’s when the damage occurs. That’s when the balance overflows. That’s when good, bad and indifferent money follows. In for a dime, in for dollars, some of which don’t make sense. Once that resolve is weakened, and once that wallet is opened and that credit card is handed over, I feel very much the addict. Once I’ve started — and stopped denying myself the pleasure of the purchase, I find it extremely difficult to get off the spending bus. Invariably, it’s taken me awhile to get on so whether it’s sensory deprivation, deferred gratification or premature escalation, there are no more skid marks on that slippery slope. The race is on, so to speak and until I hit my imaginary financial wall, my credit card balance is going onward and upward.

Sure it feels good to spend money I don’t have without considering the pay-back consequences. Presumably, the benefits derived from the purchase will help soothe the savage, impoverished beast as he jiggles and then juggles the dollars in order to find some cents. I imagine that’s what makes the world go ‘round: short term pain for long term gain. Still, it doesn’t feel much like progress and progress is what feels good to me. Although, these new Rockport leather slip-ons with the “cushiony” soles and orthotic inserts are improving my disposition and lessening the pain in my feet and fatigue in my legs, it still costs me money not in my wallet.

I admit, I am enjoying the support and comfort my new shoes are providing. But I’m also keenly aware that I haven’t received the credit card bill yet reflecting there and other slipperyslope purchases made that same weekend. And when the piper has to be paid, I may not like my new shoes — among other items, nearly as much as I do right now. Right now, the shoes are free. Soon they won’t be.

Further complicating this spending-not spending dilemma is the fact that I’m a 62-yearold cancer patient; how do I deprive myself of any creature comforts when I have recurring highly stressful situations that give me, and my life-expectancy, pause. Naturally, I’d rather pay my way — and my share, but at what cost? I suppose cash in hand is still worth two in the bush, but if a credit card is all I have … ? Either I use it or lose it. The pain and/or pleasure will likely follow regardless.


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