Addiction to credit cards is a very real problem. These shiny pieces of plastic have a huge impact on your financial health. While there isn’t an exact number of credit cards a consumer should have, it varies depending on each person. If you’re failing to make your minimum payments and have numerous different cards, it may be time for you to break your credit card addiction. Credit cards have become the new standard form of payment for everything from groceries to gas to monthly bills. However, some people rack up more credit card debt than they can afford and it begins what many call a “debt snowball.”
It starts with spending a little more than you can afford and saying you’ll pay it next month, or not realizing what you spend during a monthly period. When you start to say the same thing month after month it starts to add up, and before you know it you can barely afford the minimum payments on your cards. If you’re struggling and failing to make your minimum payments on your credit cards each month or you simply have a lot of debt, it may be time for you to break the cycle and end your credit card addiction.
Here are some tips to help you get started and rid yourself of credit card debt.
Photo Courtesy of Quickens Loans
Recognize the Problem
Credit card debt may be hard to beat, but the first step to overcoming it is recognizing your issue. If you are in deep credit card debt, it may be hard to face your financial troubles. Using too many credit cards is a problem, and “withdrawal” is necessary. There are various reasons why you may have fallen into debt – stress, fear, unforeseen unemployment, economic disaster – but you can break the credit card addiction, and you will be happier for it. Debt for many can be embarrassing and stressful which is why many people avoid dealing with it or deny it all together.
Photo Courtesy of Stocksy
So, what are the signs you have a problem? If you have no available credit on your credit cards, you are afraid to look at your statements, and there is no money in your bank accounts at the end of the month you may have a credit card addiction.
Start Saying No
Credit card companies want your business, and it’s not unlikely you are constantly being bombarded with incentives for more cards offering short-term benefits like low interest rates on balance transfers. While this is enticing, for those with credit card addiction, this is very dangerous. A good start to being able to “just say no” is to place unsolicited mail from potential creditor’s right into the trash. Doing this will help you stop the vicious cycle of more debt due to credit cards.
Give Your Credit Cards a Week Off
Yes, that’s right put your cards in your drawer stored away for one week and see how you do. Keep your debt card handy, but track how many times you would reach for a credit card in the short course of a week. If you don’t have your card accessible in your wallet, then you have the ability to determine if the purchase is an impulse buy, or something truly necessary. After the week is over, sort through you put away and choose one to keep in your wallet for emergencies for one month. If after a month those other cards do not leave the draw, you have learned you do not need them either. You may want to consider choosing one or two to put in your wallet and get rid of the rest.
Have a “What If” Fund
Today, it is important to have cash in the bank for emergencies, and the security that comes with knowing you have the money to fall back on. Ideally, you should aim to have six months’ of regular expenses based on your budget. The point of having a well-stocked emergency fund is to avoid credit cards for emergencies. If you reach for cash instead of card every time something unforeseen arises, your financial situation will be more manageable.
Make a Tight Budget
To get out of a credit card addiction you need to know what you can spend each month. If you’re one of many people whose monthly income just matches up with your expenses or you spend more than you make, it’s time to go through all your financial statements and fully understand what you are spending. Look into cheaper options for things such as cable and cut out unnecessary expenses such as magazine subscriptions and unused gym memberships. Cutting these expenses will give you more money to put towards paying off your credit card debt each month.
Target One Debt at a Time
Whether your goal is to pay off one card or boost your credit score completely, both can be accomplished by tackling one debt at a time. Focusing on the highest interest rate card or the card with the lowest debt are both great starting points. You can put as much as you can towards them each month while still paying the minimum balance on your other debts. This can make the task less stressful and like you are accomplishing more.
Cash Not Card
If you like to shop, having a credit card can easily sway you to make unnecessary, large purchases that you cannot afford. With cash or debit, you are less likely to overspend because you are working with a finite amount. Cash spending is generally more thought out while credit card spending tends to be more impulsive. If you can’t control the spending, bring only cash on your shopping trips. It is easy to underestimate how much you’re spending when swiping a card.
However, if you use the old-fashioned method of spending cash, you will become more aware of how much you are spending. You will be able to limit how much you spend! I suggest bringing a pre-budgeted amount of cash with you when you go shopping to ensure that you do not spend more than you intended. Most purchases like gas, food, and healthcare related items can be bought with cash since those items have no need for warranty or return.
Eventually, credit card addiction will catch up with you and this is why it’s essential to deal with your issue head on. Don’t be afraid to ask for help many may need a support system if they are dealing with an overspending problem. Breaking addictions is challenging, but once you to take control of your situation you can build a secure financial future and stay out of debt.
Following are excerpts from "Unleash the Girls, The Untold Story of the Invention of the Sports Bra and How It Changed the World (And Me)" By Lisa Z. Lindahl
There is an idea that has popped up everywhere from Chaos Theory to Science Fiction and New Age memes known popularly as the "Butterfly Effect." Simply put, it is the notion that one very small thing—the movement of a butterfly's wing say, or the ripple in a lake caused by a pebble being thrown into it—can cause tremendous effect far away: the butterfly's wing a tornado, the ripple a large wave on a distant shore. Cause and effect, does it have limits? The field of physics is telling us that it takes only observation to bring a thing into being. We cannot consider these areas of investigation and not acknowledge that everything—everything—is in relationship in some way or another with everything else.
So, it is evident to me that commerce of any kind is, also, just about relationships. It all boils down, on every level to this simplicity. While we usually think of relationships as occurring between people—it is far more than that.
I used to teach a course in entrepreneurship specifically for women in The Women's Small Business Program at Trinity College in Burlington, Vermont. I made this concept of relationship and its importance central in how I taught the marketing thought process. I would stress that for a product or service to be successful, it had to meet a perceived need. There is a need, and it wants to be met; or it may be thought of as a problem to be solved. Or there may be an existing solution that is less than adequate.
For example: In my universe as a runner there already were a plethora of bras available, but they were inadequate for my purpose. The relationship between my breasts, my running body, and my bra was creating discomfort and distraction. A new solution had to be found, the relationship occurring when all these things came together had to be fixed. Utilizing this point of view, one sees a set of issues that need to be addressed—they are in relationship with each other and their environment in a way that needs to be changed, adjusted.
Nowhere is this viewpoint truer than in business, as we enter into more and more relationships with people to address all the needs of the organization. Whether designing a product or a service or communicating with others about it—we are in relationship. And meanwhile, how about maintaining a healthy relationship with ourselves? All the issues we know about stress in the workplace can boil down to an internal balancing act around our relationships: to the work itself, to those we work with, to home life, friends and lovers. So quickly those ripples can become waves.
Because Jogbra was growing so quickly, relationships were being discovered, created, ending, expanding and changing at a pace that makes my head spin to recall. And truly challenged my spirit. Not to mention how I handled dealing with my seizure disorder.
"My Lifelong Partner"
Let me tell you a bit about my old friend, Epilepsy. Having Epilepsy does not make any sort of money-making endeavor easy or reliable, yet it is my other "partner" in life. Husbands and business partners have come and gone, but Epilepsy has always been with me. It was my first experience of having a "shadow teacher."
While a child who isn't feeling she has power over her world may have a tantrum, as we grow older, most of us find other more subtle ways to express our powerfulness or powerlessness. We adapt, learn coping mechanisms, how to persuade, manipulate, or capitulate when necessary. These tools, these learned adaptations, give a sense of control. They make us feel more in charge of our destiny. As a result, our maturing self generally feels indestructible, immortal. Life is a long, golden road of futures for the young.
This was not the case for me. I learned very early on when I started having seizures that I was not fully in charge of the world, my world, specifically of my body. There are many different types of epileptic seizures. Often a person with the illness may have more than one type. That has been the case for me. I was diagnosed with Epilepsy—with a seizure type now referred to as "Absence seizures"—when I was four years old. I have seen neurologists and taken medications ever since. As often happens, the condition worsened when I entered puberty and I started having convulsions as well—what most people think of when they think of epileptic seizures. The clinical name is generalized "Tonic-clonic" seizures.
In such a seizure the entire brain is involved, rather like an electrical circuit that has gone out as a result of a power surge. I lose consciousness, my whole body becomes rigid, the muscles start jerking uncontrollably, and I fall. Tonic-clonic seizures, also known as "grand mal" seizures, may or may not be preceded by an aura, a type of perceptual disturbance, which for me can act as a warning of what is coming. The seizure usually only lasts for a few minutes, but I feel its draining effects for a day or two afterwards. Although I would prefer to sleep all day after such a physically and emotionally taxing event, I have often just gotten up off the floor and, within hours, gone back to work. It was necessary sometimes, though definitely not medically advised. I'm fond of saying that having a grand mal seizure is rather like being struck by a Mack truck and living to tell the tale.
Having Epilepsy has forced me to be dependent on others throughout my life. While we are all dependent upon others to some degree—independent, interdependent, dependent—in my case a deep level of dependency was decreed and ingrained very early on. This enforced dependency did not sit well with my native self. I bucked and rebelled. At the same time, a part of me also feared the next fall, the next post-convulsive fugue. And so I recognized, I acquiesced to the need to depend on others.
The silver lining of having Epilepsy is that it has introduced me to and taught me a bit about the nature of being powerless—and experiencing betrayal. I could not trust that my body would always operate as it should. Routinely, it suddenly quits. I experience this as betrayal by my brain and body. It results in my complete powerlessness throughout the convulsion. Not to mention an inconvenient interruption of any activities or plans I might have made.
Hence, I am the recipient of two important life lessons—and I was blessed to have this very specific and graphic experience at a young age. It made me observant and reflective, giving me the opportunity to consider what/where/who "I" was. I knew I was not "just" my body, or even my brain.
So, who or what did that leave? Who, what am I? Much has been written about trauma, and about near-death experiences, both of which seizures have been classified or described as. I won't delve into that here except to say that experiencing recurrent seizures and the attendant altered states of consciousness that sometimes accompany an episode (the euphemism for a seizure) changes one. It deeply affects you. It is both illuminating and frightening. It opens you up in some ways and can close you way down in others. For me it made it easy to consider the possibility of other ways to perceive, of other realms. And as an adult I became interested in quantum physics, where Science is pushing and challenging our long-held perceptual assumptions. Me, who was poor in math and disinterested in Science while in school! So if not merely body and brain, who am I? Spirit. And with Epilepsy's tutelage, I was encouraged to question, seek, try to understand what lies beyond.
Living with Epilepsy has also given me great strength. In realizing the futile nature of trying to have "power over" Epilepsy, I developed a deep well of "power within"—that inner strength that comes in the acceptance of that which one cannot change—and looking beyond it.
Through my experience building the business of Jogbra with the unique lens afforded me by my Epilepsy partner, I came to understand more fully the nature of power and what it means to be truly powerful.
Specifically, that having power and exercising it is not simply a manifestation of the ego. It need not be "power-tripping." It is how I wield my power that matters, making the all-important distinction between creating a situation of power over, power with, or empowering and having and creating strength in oneself and others.
Being powerful is a big responsibility.
To put all this another way: do I choose to create situations in which I am able to wield power over others? Or do I choose to empower others, sharing my strengths with them, while nurturing their strengths as well? The first is not true power. It is control. The second I believe to be the essence of true and positive power: strength. And integral to creating a more harmonious world, oh by the way.
While this may be apparent, even basic to others, it was an "aha!" moment for me. Too often in the years ahead I would give away my power and question my own strengths,. Time and again, however, my inner strength, my shadow teacher's gift, helped me survive and thrive until I could take responsibility for and embrace more fully my own power.
© Lisa Z. Lindahl 2019