I was late paying an unexpectedly large bill for my son's birth; I'd wrangled a bit with the insurance company over one of the charges, and before you know it, I was getting calls. I finally connected with someone over it and the kindly-but-scripted collections woman started in with the fearmongering.
"If you don't send a payment today we're going to have to report you to the credit agency!" she said with urgency. "We haven't reported yet, but we will." She wanted one payment that minute, another at the end of the month, only six days away. Talk about your high pressure.
I was calm, because honestly? I don't care. Let me rephrase: I certainly want to pay all my bills, and I do plan to schedule those payments when I can afford them. But I don't care if my credit suffers.
I've long since cut up all my credit cards; I've made the decision to live without a car (though we have a paid-off car sitting in the driveway, uninsured but working, in case I ever change my mind); I already have a house and a mortgage I intend not to refinance, ever. My family has decided that our first and only priority is to stay here in Portland; should one of our employers demand we move, we'll figure something out to keep the mortgage current, but we're not moving. If we can't take a trip/buy a new toy/get cosmetic dental surgery: tough.
I can think of all kinds of reasons why I should be afraid. What if a major appliance breaks? That's happened before; we've made do until we could find a good deal used on craigslist, or buy a new one, but sometimes the universe works in my favor and we discover someone getting rid of a perfectly good refrigerator, or washing machine, and there we are to accept the universe's gift.
Something is wrong with our society (well, we already know that) if the ability to borrow money cheaply, so we can buy things is valued so highly you'd forego your family's next meal and your own peace of mind in order to protect it. I want to pay my bills but I just can't center my personal sense of worth around a number established by a deeply inefficient consortium of institutions that are trying to make a pretty penny by creating an environment of need.
I'd much rather make minorly uncomfortable choices (for instance, this week, we're cooking on a partly broken stove while we wait to find a good used one we can afford) then buy into a false sense of panic. No, the hospital will not go under if I don't pay my bill for a few months. No, I would not like to take $76,512 CASH! out of my house. No, I am not in the market for a new Ford F-350. I'm not going to borrow any more money, so my credit rating is the least of my worries.
Credit fear: Why are we at their mercy?