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I had a reminder today, how easy it can be to take leave of your senses and want to use your credit card for something you can't afford.
My eight-year-old daughter, Lorelei, lost her pet rat today. Looking concerned, she came into my home office where I was sitting at my computer and trying to think of a credit card topic to write about, and said something might be wrong with Racer, Racer the Rat, as he is known around here, and could I check him out?
I gamely followed her into her bedroom, and there was Racer, lying very still in his cage. It took about four seconds for my daughter to realize that Racer would never be racing around again, or loping around, as he was more likely to do in his later years, and that he would never again nestle in her lap or eagerly gobble up the pellets we gave him.
And then Lorelei cried, pretty much like I had never seen her cry before.
Less than an hour later, as I was digging a hole under a tree in our front yard, I kept thinking of how I wanted to cheer Lorelei up, and naturally -- or at least, I think it's natural -- my mind went toward what I could buy her.
At that moment, watching Lorelei fight a losing battle against tears, money was no object. I'd just use a credit card (see, we knew I'd get here in a moment). I could buy Lorelei a pony, I thought. She'd like that. We could keep the pony in the garage, or maybe I'd hire a builder to add on a stable (never mind for a moment that my daydream has already shot way past my credit limit).
I could take Lorelei and her 10-year-old sister, Isabelle, to Disneyland. Or Euro Disney. Hey, we could go to both of them.
Maybe she would like a car.
I came to my senses later, of course, which saved me from being declined for buying her a Lear Jet on a credit card. Lorelei felt better after we had our funeral, and we talked about what a good rat he was, and she called other family members to tell them the news, and of course, life goes on.
I probably will in the coming days or weeks, when she feels up to it, buy my daughter another pet. She thinks she wants a guinea pig, since her older sister has one, and guinea pigs have a longer life span. That, of course, is a cost I can swing.
Still, having bought expensive things on credit that were out of my budget when I was in my 20's, letting emotion dictate my spending rather than my math skills, and having assumed that in my early 40's I was way past that, it was a little disconcerting to realize -- even if just for a few minutes -- that under the right circumstances, I could go down that road all over again.
I'm mostly cured but maybe not completely. If a horse salesman had dropped by during our front yard funeral or when Lorelei first realized Racer was no more, and told me he accepted credit cards, I would have been a goner. We would have a pony neighing in our living room right now.