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Breaking a Bad Credit Addiction

Laura Slawny 7/25/14

Millions of Americans are addicted to credit cards and don’t even know it. It’s not just that they love shopping or the convenience of plastic. It’s that they can’t stop spending, even when they can’t afford it.

Like other addictions, emotional spending can easily overpower rational thought. It’s difficult to use logic against skillful merchants who work very hard to create a pleasing environment that encourages spending.

It’s hard not to get sucked in, what with the artful product displays, uplifting music, smiling clerks and that happy song the machine makes when you swipe your credit card.

Retailers are masters at creating a positive shopping experience. All that shine makes it difficult to resist a clerk offering 20 percent off just for opening up a new credit card.

1. Warning signs.

There is a point when a person goes from simply overspending to being addicted. Here are some of the red flags:

  • Opening new lines of credit because yours are already maxed out
  • Balances grow every month, instead of being paid down
  • You have no idea how much you owe
  • Shopping even when you don’t need anything
  • Fighting with your partner regularly over money
  • Lying about purchases and the number of cards you have

“Replace your shopping habit

with something more fulfilling.”

2. Fight credit addiction.

Like other compulsions, those who are addicted to credit cards believe they can stop anytime. They rationalize purchases, transfer balances around and skip some bills to pay off others. Eventually, their juggling skills can’t keep up.

To stop the cycle, it’s not enough to simply promise to spend less. An addict must take a multi-layered approach to stop the behavior, replace the behavior and prevent the behavior.

  1. Cut up all credit cards except one for emergencies.
  2. Give that one card to a trusted friend for safekeeping.
  3. Freeze your credit report so no future credit lines can be opened.
  4. Create a plan to pay down debt.
  5. Stick to shopping lists and only pay with cash.
  6. Carry your statements as a reminder of your debt.
  7. Ask friends for help or join a support group like Debtors Anonymous.

To really change your habit, it’s so important to get counseling. You’ll want to see a financial counselor to help you create a budget and pay down debt, build an emergency fund and set short- and long-term goals.

You may also consider seeing a psychologist to help you work through your compulsive behavior. They can help you find the root cause of the overspending and treat the problem directly.

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to simply avoid the shopping mall. Don’t even step foot in one, not even to window shop.

Telling yourself you are only there to browse will be torture and could result in a backslide when the clerk offers to look up your credit card account.

Instead, replace your shopping habit with something more fulfilling: exercise, family time or a new hobby. You will soon discover the joy of lasting happiness over the shallow smile of a store clerk.

Photo source: my7s.com.

About Laura Slawny
Laura Slawny is an award-winning executive news producer with more than 15 years experience writing about issues that impact families all over America. Since 2012, her focus on personal finance has helped consumers in the U.S., Canada and Australia. Laura believes complex financial concepts should be easy for everyone to understand. Her work appears on multiple consumer websites, both as an author and ghost writer. She also enjoys writing about leadership and healthy living. Laura graduated from Illinois State University with a bachelor's degree in Communication. She considers herself a lifelong learner and constantly seeks new opportunities to continue her education with college classes, online courses and training seminars. Connect with Laura on Google+.
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