Account Forensics! Where My Money Went

So I have $20,000 in credit card debt. There is a large part of me that doesn’t want to think about where the money went. It feels like a pointless endeavor — painful, even. The money is gone. I’m not getting back. And I basically know that I spent it on nothing. It seems better just to forgive myself for it, accept it, pay it down, and move on.

But I’m also curious, in part because I never actually felt like I was doing anything extravagant — I was just living my life, man. I’m particularly interested in figuring out what kind of life I was living — was a living the life of a person who makes $60,000 a year? $70,000? More? So I’m going to figure that out. First off, a look at the six cards:

American Express, Costco
APR: 13.24%
Balance: $381.92
Minimum Payment: $35

This was a dormant (and cut-up) card for a long, long time until I ordered a new one in January (for emergencies, right) and then put half of whatever I bought at Ikea on it. I did buy a mattress. I did not buy a bed.

J.Crew Card
APR: 24.99%
Balance: $604.10
Minimum Payment: $31

I rationalized opening this card as a way to keep track of my spending while working at the store during the holidays. The only perk of the card was that it kept my expenditures under $650, the limit on the card. I still don’t have anything to wear.

Visa, Barclays US
APR: 22.99%
Balance: $1,753.43
Minimum Payment: $20

Another card that had been long-dormant since its initial pay-off, I started using this card again when I went to London in the fall. Most of the balance is from that trip, and the remainder seems to be assorted crap.

Visa, Bank ofAmerica
APR: 13.99%
Balance: $3,850.19
Minimum Payment: $56

Longest held card. I’ve had this thing forever. Have paid it off and built it back up two or three times. Used a balance transfer check from MasterCard in the fall to pay off half of this bill so that my $291 monthly payments would go way down. Haven’t used it since (not out of self control, though — I cut it up, and when got desperate and ordered a new one it got sent to my parents’ house, and there was no way I was going to get them to forward it to me).

MasterCard, Citi
APR: 0.0% until 8/1, then 19.99%
Balance: $3,866.49
Minimum Payment: $57

Have had this card for a bit and was not being used, but then they sent me a $3,800 balance transfer offer right around the time that I as wondering how I was going to pay my Bank of America minimum payment: serendipity. The remainder of the balance is straight-up life costs, you know, like coffee, wine, and snacks.

Visa, OnPoint Community Credit Union
APR: 8.9%
Balance: $9,492.77
Minimum Payment: $281.00

I opened this card when I got my checking account at the credit union in 2007. The plan was to transfer my Bank of America bill to this card to take advantage of low interest rate and have all accounts in one place. Fatal flaw in this plan was that I didn’t close the Bank of America card after I transferred the balance. Second fatal flaw: I connected this card to my checking account for overdraft protection “for emergencies,” and then never worried about my rent check bouncing ever again. This is basically what I’ve been living off of for the past year(s), even though I’ve been hovering near near the $9,500 limit for … awhile. Each time I made a payment, the balance would down, then I’d buy things, and it’d go back up.

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