Home > Credit Cards Are Bad For YOU… A Letter to my 18-Year-Old Self

Credit Cards Are Bad For YOU… A Letter to my 18-Year-Old Self

January 19th, 2024 at 06:14 pm

Let me start by saying, credit cards aren’t inherently bad. Actually, when you manage them correctly, they are good. I, however, have not been a good manager. In fact, I’ve handled them poorly for more years than I have handled them well.

Dear 18-Year-Old Self,

Don’t sign up for credit cards yet. You don’t have enough experience with finances: paychecks, bills, reconciling bank accounts, etc, to make informed decisions with credit.

Among other things, you don’t make enough money to warrant needing credit cards. You work at a retail store making just over minimum wage and you live at home. You don’t need credit. If you can’t afford to pay cash for it, you can’t afford it and you don’t need it.

Let me reiterate, credit and credit cards are not intrinsically bad, but the way you will handle them at 18 is. For the first month of two, you will be so responsible and pay-off everything you charge. But as the months go on, you charge more and can afford to pay less, and before you know it, your card will be maxed out and you will be making minimum payments.

As a young and naïve adult, you will think that because you can afford the minimum payments, you can afford whatever it is you are buying. That’s just plain wrong!

Think about it this way: do you want to be paying for that sweater you are wearing now, at 18, when you are 25 years old and don’t even have anymore? That is how credit works. In your present, you are paying for your past, with no end in sight. It truly is a viscous cycle.

You are not responsible enough for a credit card and it will take you literally 25 years to dig yourself out of the hole you started digging at 18. You need more experience managing the money you do have before you start trying to use money you don’t have.

You will get there but give yourself a better foundation first. Try the envelope system, try only using your bank card, write checks, but don’t sign-up for credit cards yet. I promise, your future self will thank you.


Response from my 44 year old self coming next week.

2 Responses to “Credit Cards Are Bad For YOU… A Letter to my 18-Year-Old Self”

  1. Lots of ideas Says:

    Great idea.

    May I suggest that you write two letters to yourself from ‘future you’ at 65. One from the future you who sacrificed now to pay off your debt and build a hefty retirement account, and one from the future you who decided ‘live for the moment’ was a better plan and is trying to figure out if they can live on Social Security if they work until they are 73 and pay off that last $10,000:in debt.

  2. rob62521 Says:

    Great suggestion, Lots of Ideas!

    I think so many people forget that the freedom that credit cards give -- swipe and go -- makes one forget that it has to be paid off and when the bill comes, it's not that easy.

    I've started doing online giving for my church and what I do is I charge it to my credit card, but then immediately pay off the credit card so I don't have this large bill to face when it comes due. Same with any other large expense -- I may charge it, but then go in and pay on the credit card so I don't see that money in checking and think I have extra to spend when in reality I have a large credit card bill coming.

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