Editorial Policy

“I Can’t Believe I Charged That:” Our contest winners

Kristin McGrath

August 16, 2013

Last week marked the end of our “I Can’t Believe I Charged That” Facebook essay contest. We asked contestants to share their story of an unbelievable credit card purchase — and we’re thrilled to announce our Top 3 winners and honorable mentions.

Thanks so much to all who entered. Our panel had fun reading (and learning from) your stories about spending sprees, gifts for loved ones, vacations and, of course, mistakes. All winners have now been contacted by email.

First place: “Belize” by Stan Hajost

Editor’s note: This story had all the makings of an “unbelievable purchase” tale: spontaneity, a broken heart and the catharsis only a credit card-funded trip to the beach can bring.

About two years ago, I was going through a difficult time because of a breakup. Coincidentally, I had a trip planned to New York to visit my buddy Rick. He was doing his best to cheer me up, but I wasn’t feeling much like going. Shortly before my trip, I talked to Rick on the phone, and our conversation went something like this:

Rick: So I figure on Saturday night we would go to this birthday party.

Me: Birthday party?

Rick: Oh man you’ll love it. It’s for a great friend of mine. I’ll know a lot of people there. I can introduce you to tons of single guys!

Me: Heh … well… listen dude, I’m not so sure I’m in the mood to mingle…

Rick: C’mon man! You’re single, good looking and an all-around nice guy! You’ll be a big hit! They will love you!

Blah. My stomach sank. I didn’t want to deal with the people, traffic, noise and bustle of Manhattan. Furthermore, I shuddered to think of being tossed like a steak into a den of lions. Then it hit me. Where do YOU really want to go? Instantly, the thought of a warm beach surfaced. Within seconds, I Googled “kickass beaches” (that’s how I roll). There it was: The first entry was Belize. Within minutes, I made my most spontaneous travel decision. I canceled all my NYC travel reservations and booked Belize. Canceling and making new reservations on a two-day notice was a financial blood bath (haha). Not only was it the first time that I traveled alone, it was one of the most memorable trips. It was expensive but no regrets!

Second place: “Anything to make her smile” by Sean Shearon

Editor’s note: This sweet story made us smile and then made us a bit sad with its bittersweet ending. While we don’t believe that money (or credit) can actually buy love, we can all understand the desire to buy a thoughtful gift for someone you really care about.

My fiance is my everything. We just had our baby, and we are about to celebrate two years. This woman does everything for everyone! I wanted to show her that she was appreciated for all she does. I looked everywhere until I finally found this diamond necklace. It was a small one, but the first one she ever had, and it was all I could afford. She wore it for a few months, but then it just disappeared. She asked me if I took it, and I didn’t. I just can’t believe I bought that, and someone just takes it! We searched many times for it and still do.

Third place: “My whole life insurance policy” Ailena DiBenedetto

Editor’s note: We love stories that we can learn from, and this one definitely falls into the “cautionary tale” category. Credit cards can be a great tool, and whole life insurance can be a great investment. Combined, however, they create a money sinkhole.

I can’t believe I charged my annual whole life insurance premiums to my credit card! I’m still paying them off, and at this rate, it could take me my “whole life” to be done! The worst part is that I let the policy lapse and no longer have the life insurance! On the bright side, at least it didn’t take my “whole life” to figure out that this was a poor choice!

Honorable mentions

Even though we had only three prizes to reward, we enjoyed many of the stories we received. These two stories just missed the cut. One’s from a budding entrepreneur, and the other is from someone whose story just made us laugh.

Honorable mention No.1: “Makeup obsession” by Huyen Tang

Pretty recently, my parents entrusted me with my own credit card. It was my 18th birthday and I couldn’t have been more excited. I am a part-time makeup artist that works on friends, family, local parties, dance groups, etc., so makeup is essential. I usually make the low-end products work just as well as high-end ones, but the urge to splurge was far too strong once I got a credit card.

So, I drove to Ulta, a local beauty store, and went shopping. I mean, I truly shopped my heart out. I grabbed a mascara here, a palette there, threw in some false lashes and added a sprinkle of eye glitter. I finally could afford the nice makeup I’ve always wanted!

Unfortunately, I was obviously a little too overzealous. I didn’t stop to think about how much I would be spending until it was too late. The bill came and I was slapped with a $250 debt. I only baby-sit and do makeup for money, so I never really know when my money supply would replenish. Of course, now I have to go to college, making it all the more difficult to pay off. Luckily, I am able to pay small increments at a time and I definitely don’t regret my purchases; my clients have been loving the makeup quality and staying power of the products.

Honorable mention No. 2: “I paid twice for a dead lizard” by Arlee Colman

My husband and I had just rented a car. Not two miles from the parking lot, my chauffer looked like he was going to toss his cookies.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I can’t take the smell!”

“I don’t smell anything.”

I was really trying to, but I didn’t smell a thing. I had to take mercy on him, though. He was really suffering and gagging.

“Well turn around, we’ll have to get a different car.”

He whipped the car around and couldn’t get back fast enough. I went inside to arrange the transfer while my husband opened all the windows. I convinced the counter person that there was definitely something wrong with the first car and they relented and gave me a second. When I returned to the parking lot, I saw that my husband had all the doors and the trunk lid open. He was standing back from the car like it was on fire.

“OK, I got us a replacement,” I said.

I turned to get my luggage from the shunned vehicle.

“Hey, look at this,” my husband said.

I turned and David was holding up his arm to show me that a lizard had been wrapped up in the laundry and died with his jaw clamped just below David’s arm pit. I took a step closer. It was a little lizard, not really anything you would ever notice, but this lizard had not been dead long. He was still decomposing.

“Do you think this is what you were smelling?” I asked.

Of course it was! The tiny lizard was under his left arm, away from the passenger seat and the air vent was blowing that decaying scent right up his nose!

To see all entries, visit our contest page.