Two friends surprised me recently with their respective announcements–just a few weeks apart–that they were now out of debt for the first time in their adult lives; everything but the mortgage was paid.
Both commented on the new feeling of freedom that came with being out of credit card debt. They felt light, and free. Unencumbered. Unshackled. But they were also sad, and wistful–both of them–for the journey into debt need not have been taken. They were glad to have it behind them, true–but better still that they had never gone down that road at all.
There was no dramatic inciting event that pushed the Visa balance beyond what could be paid off at the end of the month. No job loss. No medical emergency, no subsequent flood of doctors’ bills.
One woman had financed the family’s entire Christmas one year. Her family could only afford a modest one, but she wanted a lavish one. The other had financed a pricey vacation that she thought her family needed. Neither had carried steady credit card balances before. But once that boundary had been crossed it became easy to justify going further in debt.
If you owe Mastercard $4,000, does it really matter if you buy a cute pair of shoes and make it $4,087? That’s a tiny percentage difference, and easy to mentally justify. But it is exactly this attitude that makes the credit card companies rich and keeps Americans in credit card debt. And we are deeply in debt. The average credit card debt per household that has credit card debt is $14,750.
Credit card debt–and often, the credit cards themselves–can be detrimental to our personal growth.
10 Reasons to ditch the credit cards
- Credit cards undermine contentment. Where is your focus? When you’re focusing on what you want to have, it’s hard to enjoy what you do have.
- Credit cards are expensive. I just used my credit card to pay for a car repair. It cost $502.00. But if I pay the minimum balance every month, it will cost $647! That is not a good deal!
- Credit cards make you lazy. And selfish. Instead of figuring out how to thrive in your circumstances, you take the easy way out and finance it. We can become so used to getting what we want all the time that it never occurs to us to get creative and find another way! Don’t let credit cards undermine your personal growth.
- Credit cards breed regret. Nobody ever says “I’m glad I charged it.” Nobody.
- Credit cards lead to credit card bills, and paying them will be painful. And when you pay them, they will eat up more of your budget than you’d like.
- Credit card debt limits your options. Want to pack up and move to Montana? Live overseas for a year? Take a pay cut and accept your dream job? If you’re shackled by credit card debt, you won’t be able to do it. Crucial life decisions should not be influenced by debt payments.
- Credit card debt makes you vulnerable. Job loss? Your car died? You blew out your ACL? These can all be major financial setbacks. Stay resilient: stay out of debt.
- Credit cards companies are determined to make money at your expense. They are not on your side, no matter how much you like those charge-$10,000-get-a-$50-gift-card rewards.
- Credit cards enable impulsive behavior. And we don’t mean happy-go-lucky spontaneity. We’re talking self-destructive impulsive behavior. The study found that both credit cards and debit cards will reduce painof payment and thus increase purchases of vice products.
- Credit cards make you fat. According to the Journal of Consumer Research, grocery shoppers who pay with credit cards buy a lot more junk food than shopper who use cash.
And don’t even think about trying this: rolling your credit card debt into a home mortgage does not count as paying off the debt!