Before explaining how to handle out-of-control credit card use, it needs to be understood that credit cards are not the cause; credit cards as a payment option when used properly can, in fact, be an advantage over paying with cash. That being said, the frivolous use of credit cards is a slippery slope that may end in a dark pit of money troubles that can affect your entire life. If you find yourself in a dangerous mire of credit card debt, you’ll need to take some serious action to address the issue, but don’t be discouraged…you can break bad credit card habits.
Signs Your Out of Control
Similar to addictions, the person with a credit card or shopping compulsion is often in denial and the last one to realize they have a problem. Self-deception only compounds the problem with shopping excursions rationalized to justify the charges, even when the items purchases were non-essentials. “It was such a great deal; I just couldn’t pass it up,” is a common mantra. Identifying with just one or two of the following traits could mean you have a problem that needs to be addressed.
• Seldom has or uses cash for purchases • Never passes up a sale • Never denies the discount for opening a new store account • Has more than a few store credit cards • Has a closet full of clothes that have never been worn • Maxes out all credit card accounts • Struggles to make the minimum payment on credit cards • Has frequent arguments with your family over money • Uses shopping to relieve stress • Isn’t aware of the total amount of credit card debt
• Hides purchases and credit card statements
Get a Handle on Your Credit Card
There are several obvious steps that may help reign in your urge to spend on credit and help with changing habits. Make it difficult to use your credit cards by getting rid of them; cut them up for good measure. Carry your monthly statement in the place where your credit cards would normally be with the current balance highlighted as a reminder of why you are working to break this bad habit.
While there are ways to work around not having a physical card, avoid the impulse by having sufficient cash on hand for those times you must make a purchase. By sticking to cash for all your shopping needs, you’ll be forced to be more conscious of how much your spending to avoid the embarrassment of not having enough cash at the register.
Be accountable to someone! Compulsions are easy to maintain when they’re done in a vacuum. Admit your problem to your spouse, friend or family member and ask their permission to include them in your plans to kick the habit. Their job will be to ask how well you’re sticking to your commitment to stop using credit and to review your monthly statements to keep you honest. Don’t ask anyone to do something they’re uncomfortable with, but hopefully, it will be strict enough to keep you from straying away from your plan to break your habit.
While it’s a good idea to have a goal of some sort, don’t make it so demanding as to sabotage the original purpose to stop using credit cards impulsively. A goal that works for many people is to plan a no-plastic month by committing to using cash-only for thirty days. Being successful with this one accomplishment may be just the inspiration you need to make real life changes that bring spending under control and new responsible credit card habits that lower your debt and secure your financial future.
Vanessa May writes for wowcreditcards.com and several popular finance websites. She is interested in educating consumers about using credit responsibly and legislative action that will affect their ability to borrow the money they need. She has contributed articles to a variety sites that provide content to inform consumers on credit cards, debt relief services, loans and other finance related topics.