When I was a freshman in college, I got my first credit card. I think my story was very similar to many other young people. I signed for a Citibank card from a guy at a table on my college campus. I think it might have come with a free t-shirt. The shirt was like a little something shiny to catch my eye, but the real excitement was the realization that I was now officially an adult, at least in the eyes of citibank. I remember that my credit limit was $500. I remember that I always used to say that you can't into trouble with only $500 of available credit.
After a short time of charging things up and paying them off promptly, my limit was raised to $1000, then $1800, then finally $2500 by the time I graduated from college. I remember that at one point, I was worried that I had too much available credit. I even went as far as to call them up and request that the line be lowered back down. That was the point at which I learned about the ratio of available credit to outstanding balance impacting my credit. In my infinite wisdom, I realized that the more available credit I had, the better off I would be. (sigh).
At some other point during college, I also opened up a Victoria's secret card, an Express card, and a Macy's card. Each time it was to save something like 15% off my purchase that day. So, for probably less than $100 in total "savings", I ended up with 4 credit cards, none of which had SUPER high limits, but that I would still make the occasional late payment, simply due to my forgetfulness. I could have paid it, but I just didn't remember.
When I started working full time, I wasn't making a lot of money, but I was the first of my friends to actually have a "real" job. I liked to buy stuff with all my new money and I usually used credit, then paid for it later. I still wasn't really in much debt, but I did always care a small balance.
Ironically, the real trouble came when I actually started making more money. My second or third year after graduating, my balances started creeping a little higher. At the end of the year, I got a nice big bonus check, which i used to completely pay off my debt. That is what started my cycle of overspending. Every year, I would systematically spend just a little more than I made and by the end of the year, my credit card balance was high! But, I would get a bonus, and pay off my credit card, and then start the cycle over. The problem was that my spending got higher and my bonuses didn't keep up. For a few years, I would only be able to pay off almost my whole balance before I started running it up.
About 3 years ago is when my spending got really out of hand, which I discussed a while ago. I just love to spend money! It almost doesn't matter what I'm spending it on! It's crazy to think that what started out as only $500 in available credit turned into almost $40,000 in debt. Reminding myself that it took me over 10 years to really get myself into this situation helps me be patient while trying to get out of it! I wish I could see progress faster, but slow progress is still better than no progress. :)