The Man With the Scary Scissors

Dave Ramsey wielding his infamous scissors

I think this is the last Dave Ramsey story I’ll tell for a little while. (Or at least the last big one.) But I have to at least tell this one, because I’ve already told it to several friends, several times, and it’s turned out to be a hoot.

Dave Ramsey is famous for cutting up credit cards on stage. And for using the word “stupid” repeatedly during the process. And this is a story of the first credit card I ever had. I had gotten it while still a teenager, through a deal with AAA. And I still had that credit card years after I had dropped AAA. I kept it after the account had been sold to MBNA—Yikes!—and finally to Bank of America—Crikey! I charged up that card, and paid it down, and charged it up again, and paid it back down, and charged it up— like a freakin’ yoyo. That poor card was so tired, I had put it through so much: it had a dog-ear in one corner and a tear on the opposite one. But it kept going, and I kept it around, for “emergencies.”

(You can see where this story is going, right?)

After my Beloved started us in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, I got so fired up, I ripped through all the talks he had in there in just a few days. Then I went back and started listening to them again, with Margaret, both of us together.

I was driving home, listening to the “Dumping Debt” CD in the car. And Dave started talking about credit cards: that he does everything with his debit card (even auto-rental and foreign travel) that anyone else can do with a credit card (except go into debt); that you spend 12-18% more with a credit card than with cash, because parting with cash hurts; and that credit card companies are going after teens and kids, younger and younger now. “Because,” he says, “the very first person who gives you a credit card, you’ll keep that one forever. It’s like an old boyfriend’s number… or old girlfriend’s number, ‘just in case.'”

And I felt this twinge go through my body, from my gut, straight through to my back pocket where I keep my wallet.

I suddenly realized that I had been using that card, my very first credit card, and paying outlandish interest rates on it, for “emergencies” like “I need breakfast at Panera Bread and lunch at McDonald’s,” or “I need a book from Amazon,” or “I need gas for my car.” (And those may be legitimate expenses, but they’re not emergencies, and certainly not worth paying sky-high interest rates for!)

But even after all that, I still couldn’t bear to part with the damn thing, because it was an old friend.

So as soon as I got home, I walked into the house, straight past my Beloved, who was working at the computer, downstairs to where we keep our fireproof lockbox. I brought it upstairs, opened it, took out my credit card.

I said to Margaret, “This is the first credit card I ever had— You don’t understand what that means yet, but you will as soon as you get to the Dave Ramsey ‘Debt’ lesson.”

I put the card in the safe and said, “I’m keeping it in here so that I can’t use it anymore.” I figured that if I kept it far away from my wallet, then in order to do anything with it, I’d first have to go home, march all the way downstairs, pull it out of the safe, and carry it all the way back to the store, all the while feeling guilty.

My Beloved was so inspired, she got her copy of the card out of her wallet— I didn’t even know she had that! And she put it in the safe, too, to keep mine company while they were in exile.

That was a few weeks ago. This past Monday night, we watched the “Dumping Debt” video together. And then after it was done, we dressed up in respectable clothing (bright red and green and pink), and got out the credit cards and the good scissors. And I said goodbye to an old friend.

We did not say Kaddish, nor did we mourn. Nor did it go gentle into that good night— It fought us every step of the way.

But the Little One took pictures!