How Much Does That Pair of Pants Really Cost?

This is a guest post from my friend (and new blogger), Debt and the Girl. Please check out her blog and show her some love!

The downfall of many Americans is the frequent use of credit cards and the many, many items that can be purchased with just a swipe of that shiny plastic. Americans now have an average of between $10,000 to $15,000 in credit card debt. Now with these same companies trying to make it easier to pay with credit (such as turning your smart phone into a credit card), there is simply too much temptation to overspend. With all this temptation, it is good to have a little perspective when it comes to the whole motto of buying today and paying tomorrow.

I for one am a very visual person and understand things better when I have a visual representation of them. Let’s say I had $1,000 in credit card debt (which is a small number given the national average). Let’s say that the credit card was charging a relatively low amount of APR (annual percentage rate) of 10%. Let’s see how that would look on paper assuming you kept the same balance and only made the minimum payment of $40 a month:

Balance: $1,000

APR: 10% (assuming it stays the same)

Monthly payment: $40

Time to pay off the entire balance: 29 months

Total interest paid: $126

Wow. Did you see that? Assuming you only pay the minimum and don’t charge anything else, it will take you 29 months to pay this balance off completely AND you will have paid another $126 for the pleasure of carrying a balance. Does this seem a little crazy to you? Let’s look at another example with a slightly higher APR of 15%.

Balance: $1,000

APR: 15% (assuming it stays the same)

Monthly payment: $40

Time to pay off the entire balance: 31 months

Total interest paid: $207

Holy cow! You would be paying almost another $100 in interest charges just for keeping that debt.

I am not trying to scare you but only asking you to take a closer look at your finances. It is so easy to use that pretty plastic and never think about it again, but what is it really costing you? That $1,000 could have bought you some nice clothes or the latest electronics but the consequences are clear. If you have a credit card that charges you interest, you WILL be paying more than simply the ticket price of the item. So the next time you see a sale for pants or something else that you really don’t need, ask yourself is it worth the extra charge? It may just save you more than a few pennies the next time you pull out that credit card.

Andrea’s note: I know all too well about those credit card balances, especially the difference a seemingly small jump in APR can make. Since I’ve stopped using credit cards (because unlike many people, I CANNOT be trusted), I spend a lot more time thinking about what things cost and whether I truly need to buy them. It makes me sick to think of all the money I paid toward interest instead of using it for something I wanted or needed!

15 Responses to “How Much Does That Pair of Pants Really Cost?”

  1. Eric J. Nisall says:

    I think Andrea had the most poignant comment on the issue-she ADMITS to not being able to be trusted with credit cards. That's what it all boils down to. The problem isn't the FREQUENT use, but the frequent MISUSE of credit. It's not the credit card industry or the manufacturers of payment apps or even the stores themselves that get people in debt. The people themselves do.

    People who have a propensity to spend will find ways to do so regardless of the method of payment. It's the personality that dictates whether a person is a spender or saver, not the tools available to them. People who use cash get into just as much trouble as people who use credit, and this shows it http://www.dollarversity.com/does-cash-really-kee…. The difference is, there is a lot more blame placed elsewhere when that debt comes in the form of credit card usage.

    The key is to be accountable for your own actions and mistakes. Once you do, then you can take the steps necessary to (hopefully) become more responsible in the way you spend or view money in the first place.

    • smallivy says:

      No, it has been shown that people spend more when they use plastic. It doesn't trigger the pain centers of the brain when you swipe the card like it does when you pull out cash. Touch a dongle to a pad and you get even less of a sensation. This is why McDonalds now accepts plastic despite the fees - people spend more.

      This isn't to say that people aren't ultimately responsible. It is to say that most people, given enough time, will get into trouble with credit cards. They are snakes ready to bite. Just because some people know how to handle then better than others doesn't mean they don't get bit eventually.

      • Andrea says:

        That may be true for a lot of people, but it isn't the case for me. Cash might as well be water in my hands. Since it isn't in my bank account and won't show up on my activity, my brain treats it like, “Hooray! Free spending!”

        • socarr says:

          I have the same problem as you have - cash is almost worse than credit cards, for me. I manage money much, much better using my debit card and I suppose that seems weird since credit and debit cards are so similar in how you use them. I just know it works for me to use debit over cash as much as possible.

      • Eric J. Nisall says:

        I don't buy into that. The reason being is that the people they "test" aren't screened for a basic understanding of money to begin with. The reason so many people get into money trouble with credit in the first place is that they don't fully understand that it is essentially the same as cash. It's just a temporary "loan" that needs to be paid back within a short time period.

        It's the same as people who got obese by going to fast food restaurants and blamed the restaurant for their problems. It's not the restaurant's fault the person doesn't understand basic nutrition and chooses to eat unhealthy day in and day out.

        The line about credit cards being snakes is just ridiculous. If you misuse a car, power tools, food, medicine, anything in our daily lives you can get into trouble. The point is that if you you do you, 99% of the time the only one to blame is the individual not the car, credit card, tool, or food.

        • laurenwhitehead says:

          That logic is ridiculous. Fast food is horrible for you. There's a point where a system designed to encourage people to fail — to go into debt, to crave shitty food — bumps up against personal will, but you can't say it's JUST an individual problem. Credit cards are designed to get people to spend money easily and capitalize on bad choices. Otherwise, they wouldn't be profitable. Tools designed to get the user to fail are bad tools, and it's reasonable to call them out as such.

          • socarr says:

            I do believe in personal responsibility and I take fully responsibility for my careless use of credit, however you are so right, there are serious predatory credit schemes aimed at people who are not well informed. I would argue that most credit users are aware that not making payments toward your debt will hurt your credit score, however there are also plenty of credit products designed for that specific kind of person - someone who does not pay the full balance, someone who is irresponsible with credit and even though it may be legal it does not make it right.

            And to reply to Eric - I understand what you are saying but I think you are generalizing. Most people who are overweight are not blaming fast food or junk food companies - they know they are their own worst enemy and sadly many of them are not able to control themselves. It is their own fault for eating in excess, but most of them know that and are unable to overcome themselves without drastic intervention such as gastric bypass or lap band surgeries, intense therapy and other medical avenues. You can hide credit card debt, a drinking problem, gambling addictions but you cannot hide a food addiction.

        • smallivy says:

          As I said, the person does have responsibility, and people who are financially responsible (meaning that they have become wealthy through saving and investing) don't use credit cards (or they do until they are bit and then they cut them up). People who want to live healthy don't go to fast food restaurants very often. The restaurant doesn't make them fat, but pushing 1000 more empty calories for just 25 cents more by asking, "do you want to supersize that" certainly doesn't encourage people to lose weight. Yes, there is absolutely personal responsibility, but there are some products that responsible people recognize as bad for them and they don't play with them.

          And as far as buying into it or not buying into it, there are scientific studies that show people spend more with credit cards: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ulterior-moti…

  2. DebtsnTaxes says:

    Crazy how that interest thing works. This is exactly why we are saving right now for our next vehicle purchase. Instead of taking out a loan and paying interest we will pay cash. I figured the amount we would save in not paying interest, every 5 cars that we buy the 6th one is basically free.

  3. DontDebt says:

    I cannot be trusted with credit cards, either. I recently paid the last one off (that's in my name - have another debt that is in my mother's name, but that's another story LOL) and knew that I needed to cancel it asap.

    I never thought of the purchases in terms of what they would eventually cost, they were all 'in the moment,' and 'I need this now' type things.

    • Debt and the Girl says:

      Haha. I don't think most people do. That is basically the credit card companies bank on to stay in business. That is why it is best to beat them before the game has even begun and not give them any of your money. Congrats on being so good with paying off your debt!

  4. Bridget says:

    it's really hard to see the full cost of an item on your credit card… whenever I want to buy something I don't have the money for (and know I still won't have the money for next payday!), I always ask myself, "are you willing to pay a 20% tax on this?". Suddenly the $200 jeans I want are actually $240 and I'm like NOPE.

    It's a good reality check if you do the math before you take your item to the till!

  5. Lance@MoneyLife&More says:

    Great post. Once you realize you can't pay off a CC every month get rid of the CC's and use something that works for you. It is huge that you figured that out and doing so early definitely will save you a lot of pain!

    • Debt and the Girl says:

      Thanks for the compliment. Barely anyone takes the "full" price into consideration when they purchase things with their credit cards. If they did, I guarantee there would be a lot less credit card debt. I think people who pay the credit card off each month are using credit wisely but others are just adding to their financial downfall and it really is worrisome. I know I have committed some credit card sins which I am now trying hard to fix. However you pay for things, you are always doing great if you make efforts to live within your means and save for the future.

  6. ImpulseSave says:

    It totally makes sense when you look at it like this. Over time, that pair of pants starts to get very, very expensive. I'm sure that if people understood the cost over time of the purchases they make on credit cards (the ones they don't pay off), they would not be so anxious to buy. Great reminder of the danger of interest!

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