Credit card debt can be the hardest to overcome. Most people (I was once guilty too) use credit to maintain a lifestyle they can’t afford. Let’s talk about thoughts and habits which keep us in a lifetime of credit card debt. 

 

I Have Credit Cards – I Must Have Money  

Growing up, it’s easy to attach symbols to what you believe represents having money. As a kid, my symbols were two-story houses, overnight stays at the beach, and credit cards. In my eyes, if you had any of these things, you had to be rich! 

Ironically, those thoughts impacted me as an adult and motivated many of my behaviors and habits.

I once had A LOT of credit cards and I was okay with it because the little girl in me acknowledged and confirmed it.

Her young and inexperienced voice would say, “You have a job and money now. You can buy what you want and it’s okay to charge and pay for it later.” 

I didn’t realize how that voice was holding me back. Here is the problem and the lie we believe for too long…having money is the same as having wealth and it’s just not true. Money is what you start with, wealth is what you have left.

Too often as women, we get stuck in the cycle of having money but not accumulating wealth. Your income should have two primary purposes: 1) taking care of your needs today and 2) taking care of your needs tomorrow.

Unfortunately, carrying credit card debt is an attack on both fronts. We have to resist the symbol of wealth, which is a wallet full of almost-maxed-out credit cards, and trade it for the tools to save and invest for the future. 

 

I Know What I Owe & Can Payoff My Cards at Anytime

In 2015, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York published a report, “Do We Know What We Owe? Consumer Debt as Reported by Borrowers and Lenders” which is a comparison of household debt collected from consumers versus debt reported by creditors.  

About 74% of survey participants reported having credit card debt and creditors reported nearly the same at 73.6%. 

The story shifts however when participants were asked how much credit card debt do they hold. Here are the differences:

 

Reporting Source Median Mean
Individuals $2000 $3500
Creditors $5700 $9600

 

These numbers indicate that what we think we owe doesn’t match what we actually owe. Facing credit card debt is hard and it’s easier to believe it’s not as bad as it really is.

Another reason for the denial is when the statement arrives, we look at the minimum payment and glance at the balance. If we can digest the minimum payment, we tend to file the rest, including the balance and the monthly interest, in the recesses of our minds. 

We have to be careful though because this denial also creates delay. A delay to see the urgency of the matter and a delay in  changing our behaviors which prevents us from giving debt the boot that it deserves!     

 

I’m In Control & My Cards are Harmless

Credit card companies pay a lot of money for incentives and reward programs to pull in new (and loyal) customers. Spending has more than doubled since after the Great Recession, reaching a record $22.6 BILLION in 2016. The trend continued into the first three months of 2017, when credit card issuers spent $6.2 BILLION, compared to just $5.1 BILLION during the same period last year.

Granted, most of these exceptional reward programs have very high spending requirements. For instance, to qualify for the most stellar rewards programs, customers are required to spend as much as $7500 in the first 3 months of opening an account!

That’s ASTOUNDING but people are flocking to these offers in hopes of free or reduce travel benefits. Some even view it as a sport and credit card companies are loving it because it means long-term and consistent-interest paying customers. If you think credit card marketing is haphazard, random and unintentional, you might be a loyal customer.

With the billions being spent to draw new customers, it’s pretty clear who’s in control and why. The downside of the relationship is that one late payment can mean penalties, fees and the beginning of a bad break-up.

I Use Credit Cards for Emergencies

I once had an emergency that lasted almost two years and it cost me $5000. The very last credit card I paid off was the one I used for emergencies. This is a slippery slope because our worst fears manipulate us into believing that one day, a tragic event will happen requiring us to pull out this sacred piece of plastic and save the world.

That’s dramatic but this is what we do! This is what I did!

Our emotions can turn up the volume so loudly and convince us to take on unnecessary burdens. I’ve lived without credit cards for the past 5 years and during any difficult times, we just figured it out. We waited. We prayed. We looked for other options and things worked out. And isn’t that how life is…when we learn to let go, everything falls into place.

Leave a comment about your challenges with overcoming credit card debt, or about how you are finally free of those little monsters!