A friend said this to me today, and I burst out laughing because I thought he was joking, but it turns out he was quite serious. He told me his story, and I think a lot of people will be able to relate to it, and perhaps recognize the same behavior in their own self and avoid making the mistake.
My friend did his school and engineering from a small town in India, and joined an IT company in the late 90s. He started off with a small pay and his hard work and middle class ethos helped him make the most of it and live a happy life.
After a few years, he got stock options, and that changed everything. He had this notional wealth against his name, and that made him spend more freely than before and as a result, he had to borrow small amounts from his friends every now and then to keep up with the spending, and what seemed like small innocuous sums ate into all the money he got from his stocks when they vested.
This was a bitter lesson because his classmates who joined the same company were buying tangible things like a car or a bike with the money whereas he had nothing to show for it.
Life went on, and he got back to his regular ways but then after two or three years he job hopped twice and got an almost 80% pay hike within a period of 6 months.
He started seeing more money flow in every month, and unfortunately for him, he got a credit card with a limit of close to Rs. 5 lakhs at the time. He got into the habit of spending freely again and before he realized, he had run quite a huge credit card debt and along with his home loan EMI, it was hard to pay off anything but the interest on the credit card.
So for about 10 months or so he paid just the interest on the credit card, but he got really fed up of that and decided that he needs to do something.
So, he took a personal loan and paid off the credit card, and in about one and a half years or so he reduced his personal loan to half as well.
But then, his company decided to send him abroad for a year, and in the three months he had when the decision was taken, and when he did fly out, he ran a big credit card bill again!
Just before leaving, he finally cut up his credit card, and vowed not to get another one ever (a promise he broke shortly thereafter; for the convenience, not the credit) but he is still saddled with a home loan EMI, a personal loan EMI and a credit card EMI.
This is really crazy, but I don’t think it’s all that uncommon, shows that personal finance is as much about behavior as it is about numbers.