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How To Get Off the Credit Card Wagon

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 7 10

Doing The Hard Thing Now

Credit card

(126523)
debt is out of control in America.  According to some websites I looked at, the average credit card debt per household in America is $15,799.00!  And we wonder why Americans are stressed out!  How do we get out of this mess?

The truth is, many people do not want to get out of credit card debt.  I speak to people often who say they just cannot live without their credit cards!  It goes something like this: 

"Every month I have to put things on my credit cards, like gas, and groceries, so how can I ever get out of debt?"

Disclosure

I am not a licensed credit card counsellor.  The information contained in this article simply reflects my own experience and does not guarantee results for you.  There...now let's continue!

 

The Credit Trap

Do you remember when you got that first credit card?  Oh the freedom!  You could get things now, that you couldn't get before!  No more waiting!  You didn't worry about paying it off.  You could always pay the minimums until you had the money!  Some of us even started out determined to pay the total amount off at the end of each month.  Some people do this.  Most do not, as the statistics support.

Soon however, we found ourselves pulling out that card for more and more things.  When the pressure to spend, go out to eat, buy Christmas presents, etc., started calling to us, we reached for the plastic.  Before credit cards, we had to say no, or not now.  Now we say no to waiting, and say I'll pay later.  Then we find ourselves in a mess!

This is the trap of credit cards.  Credit card companies perform a service.  They are not evil, but they are not a non-profit charity either!  They are not giving you money so you can enjoy life.  They are loaning you money, with the certain hope and understanding that you will not be able to pay off the balance every month.  I submit that credit card companies would not make any money if consumers paid off the balance at the end of every month.  They don't intend that that should happen.  They need you to carry a balance!  That is how they make money, and they are in the business of making money.  Over 50% of US households carried a balance on their cards last month.[6612] Understand this and stop thinking the credit card companies are your friends.

 

Credit Card Dependency

When I had my credit cards, I became dependent on them for my monthly lifestyle.  Have you ever heard the law that states when the income goes up, the expenses will follow?  It is true.  Even the Bible states this in Ecclesiastes when it states, "When goods increase, they are increased that eat them..."

Far too many people come to view their available credit as part of their monthly income.  When you say that you cannot pay your bills without your credit cards each month, you are saying that they are now part of your income.  You have become dependent.  It is not a good feeling. 

What if...

That is the biggest question in all the world!  I was speaking to someone the other day about their credit card debt.  They got trapped years ago, and were now dependent.  I recommended that they cut up their credit cards and stop using them.  (Most people can't just stop using them.  They must cut them up so that they are unable to use them.)  This person responded that they could not do that. (Trapped)  They needed them each month to make the bills. (Dependent)

Here was my question.  What if you didn't have a credit card?  What would you do then?  They didn't know.  They didn't know because they didn't have to know.  They had a credit card.  This is the problem.

If they had no credit cards, they world would not end.  They would not starve, and life would not fall apart.  But like anyone who becomes dependent on something, when it is in danger of being taken away, we start to hyperventilate.  We cannot envision life without it!

 

My Personal Experience

I got my first credit card when I was 19.  By the time I was 21 I had already received a "collections" call.  I should have learned. I didn't.  I did become a little more mature and when I turned 25 I got another credit card.  By then I had a family, my credit was good again, and I thought I could handle it.  I was wrong.  I soon became dependent on the credit card for monthly expenses.  I would not have purchased those things without a credit card, but since I felt I had no "choice", out came the plastic.

Within a few short years. I was making minimum monthly payments like a good serf should, and my total balance did not go down.  I went an entire year making minimum payments and saw my balance drop only 10 dollars!  This is slavery...of my own making!

Whenever I thought of getting rid of my credit cards, I shut my eyes and shuddered.  Impossible!  It couldn't be done!  I just didn't make enough money to survive without them!

Then one day I had a breakthrough.  I asked myself "what if?".  What if I didn't have these cards, then what would I do.  The answer was not as scary as you might imagine.  I decided to do the impossible.  I cut up my credit cards! 

The first month was horrible.  I kept reaching for the cards, only to remember they were gone!  The month passed.  I didn't die.  Two months, three, four...still breathing.  Then something started to happen.

I started paying closer attention to my spending.  I started planning my trips more carefully to avoid extra trips to the office or to the grocery store.  Driving is spending.  I started forcing myself to live within my means.  Do you know what?  I found out I could!  I didn't have to stay on the credit card merry-go-round!  My balances started to go down, and in two months, I will be debt free! 

Something else happened.  I was forced to figure out how to increase my income.  If you don't have the credit card to fall back on, you would be suprised how creative you get!  We sold stuff.  I picked up a few extra jobs.  None of which charged me interest on the money each month.  Who knew?

Having your back against the wall is healthy!

I found out that forcing myself to get of the credit cards, forced me to adapt.  The answer to the question "what if" had been answered.  I don't have credit cards, and I have survived.  I think you can to.  I am not saying you should do things like I did.  I do want you to ask yourself, "what if?"  Sometimes having you back against the wall is healthy.  Do you really want to get out of credit card debt?  You never will, if you don't stop charging to them.  No matter how painful you think it will be, you will survive.  You won't die.  Are you willing to do the hard thing?  I would love to hear from you.  How have you gotten free of credit card debt?  Do you have any other ideas to offer?

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Comments

Feb 5, 2013 7:24am
Ascentive
Great article!
I learned my lessons the hard way as well. Now I use my credit cards as like my debit card. I can only spend what I have actually available. At the same time, I treat my credit cards as an emergency backup plan - in case I need an immediate plane ticket to see my family over sea.

Thumbs Up!
Feb 5, 2013 7:45am
Preacher2nc
Ascentive:
Thanks for the feedback! For me, I found it safer to eliminate my credit cards altogether, as I still felt the temptation to use them when I did not have the money. I applaud you for your discipline in this area! I did not close out my credit card accounts, I merely got rid of the cards. If I were to get in a true emergency, I suppose I could get new cards.
Feb 5, 2013 12:15pm
darren-w-gray
Feb 5, 2013 2:03pm
Preacher2nc
Darren congrats!
Feb 5, 2013 2:03pm
Preacher2nc
Darren congrats!
Feb 5, 2013 12:24pm
Sookie
I have friends with thousands of dollars on the credit cards from fancy restaurants every month. That has to be the worse kind of debt! paying interest on something you already ate and digested and have nothing to show for it but a balance and extra weight! Great article!
Feb 6, 2013 9:20pm
migreig
What a great article, 2 thumbs way up. I wish more people out there were offering financial advice that made sense. Way too many of us in this part of the world buy into the "swipe now and I'll figure it out later" method of personal finance. Congrats on the feature, well deserved!
Feb 7, 2013 4:24am
Preacher2nc
Thanks migreig! Sometimes the best advice comes from our own failures. I appreciate the kind words!
Mar 6, 2013 8:28am
turn2smith
Thank you for the article.
Jul 25, 2013 5:32am
phoenixcorin1
Thanks for acknowledging a problem of many. I too learned the hard way about credit cards. They may be o.k.if you pay it off every month, but I have yet to see a good credit card. I carry one and will soon it paid off. It takes discipline to keep a credit card from taking control of your life.
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Bibliography

  1. "Credit Card Debt Statistics." Statistics Brain. 15/January/2013 <Web >

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