Man, I love horror movies. “Night of the Living Dead.” “The Lost Boys.” “Killer Klowns from Outer Space.” I could go on and on and on; especially during these magical hours before Halloween.
Movies Plus was a video rental store near my house when I was a kid that let me rent R-rated films without my parents’ permission. It got to the point where I had seen every single title in their horror section and had to start over again from the beginning.
So, trust me, I know scary. And there’s no jump scare, no movie monster, no twist ending more frightening than some of the real-life financial scenarios I’ve found myself in over the years.
Some of them might leave you feeling an eerie sense of déjà vu.
• The Curious Case of the Costly Car Repair. It’s a dark and stormy night. A young girl has been pouring water in her leaky radiator to keep it from overheating, but forgets to replace the cap before driving home in the red from a Deep Banana Blackout concert in Rochester.
Fortunately, she’s rescued by a tow truck-owning uncle and a gifted mechanic cousin. Still, she’s without a car for the weeks it takes to earn enough money for a new head gasket.
• Revenge of the Rejected Credit Card. When I was first dating my husband, I had lunch with a friend at the restaurant where he worked. I thought I’d done the right math figuring out how long I had until my last purchase cleared and my next paycheck was deposited, but boy was I was wrong.
My card was declined – in front of my new boyfriend and all of his friends. Talk about wanting to hide under the covers. I was so traumatized, my hands still shake when I hand over my bank card.
• The Specter of the Student Loan. One minute you’re a carefree co-ed, the next minute you’re haunted by thousands of dollars in debt and autopay is slashing your earnings by hundreds of dollars per month.
• The Dastardly Disappearance of Health Insurance. When I aged off my dad’s health insurance, my employer’s plan covered too little to justify it costing so much. Being young and invincible, I decided to brave it, uninsured.
That’s when I landed in the hospital, racking up a $2,000 medical bill. It was scary, but nothing near the horror show thousands of other people are living right now. Many people (even those with insurance) are so deeply in medical debt, they don’t get out of it alive.
• The Credit History That Wouldn’t Die. This jumped out to get me many times, but the most ghastly was when I tried to finance a laptop in college. My bad credit got me rejected. Once again, it happened right in front of my leading man.
• The Spine-Chilling Splitting of the Check. It’s the socially awkward exchange I dread the most. Should I ask for separate checks? Should I pick up the bill? Do we split it down the middle or do we cover our own amount exactly? Cue the blood-curdling scream!
• Attack of the Killer Collection Calls. Nothing will have you more terrified than fielding phone calls from bill collectors. I was a teenager between jobs with an unpaid $100 balance on a Fashion Bug credit card. They were relentless bogeymen who behaved as though I had personally and maliciously wronged them.
This was before new laws prevented collectors from threatening physical harm, using abusive and vulgar language, or pretending to be police officers coming to throw you in jail. Even those who follow the new rules (and plenty don’t) are scarier than anything you might find hiding under your bed.