Entertainment, Health and Lifestyle

My Life as a Frog

I have been told if you attempt to pop a frog into a pot of boiling water, he’ll jump out every time.

But if you put the little fellow into a pot of cold water, set it on a low flame, and warm it slowly, he’ll sit back, relax and let you cook him to death.

The frog is so impressed by the nice warm, cozy feeling he doesn’t pay attention to what’s going on. Before he knows what hit him — Bam! — fresh frog soup.

For many years, I had frog mentality when it came to my fine assortment of credit cards. Oh, I was never so foolish as to make a single credit card purchase for something really big or expensive like a boat or a car. Not even I could tolerate that boiling pot.

When I jumped into the pot, it was cool, a terrific environment filled with freedom and options. My credit cards bridged that tiny gap between what we had and what we needed to enjoy the lifestyle we’d chosen. It was convenient, socially acceptable and amazingly simple. I didn’t notice the gradual rise in temperature.

At some point, our monthly credit purchases exceeded the amount we could repay within the grace period. Maybe I flinched the first time we “revolved” but soon cozied up to the warming condition.

By the time I was fully cooked, I’d accumulated more than $100,000 in unsecured debt, including credit cards, personal loans, debt-consolidation loans and installment loans. Ouch!

You have no idea how many times I’ve asked myself how in the world I could have let that happen. My only explanation is that it happened a little bit at a time and so gradually I didn’t notice.

I didn’t make unusually large, exotic purchases. I just overspent consistently, adding new debt to old debt and revolving all of it from month to month. I paid the interest and fees but rarely any principal and seldom on time.

Thankfully, I did shed my amphibious nature and got out of a rolling boil. In the full 13 years it took to repair the mess, I learned that even if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, if you’re headed in the right direction, even the baby steps count.

Are things getting a little warm for you? You could be close to the scalding point and completely oblivious to that condition. Perhaps it’s time to take your temperature.

Here’s a thermometer of telltale signs to determine if you’re about to get cooked:

— You use a credit card to buy day-to-day necessities like food and gas.

— You pay only the minimum payment on your credit card balance.

— You’re behind in your payments.

— You frequently receive late notices and pay late fees.

— You’re at or over the limit on your credit cards.

— You cringe when the phone rings.

— Your credit report stinks.

— You do not know how much you owe or what you spend on interest.

If things seem a little hotter than they should be, I suggest you gather all your strength to perform a most unfrog-like move: Get out!


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Mary Hunt

Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/ . This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

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