Many of us have credit cards and the truth is that each of us feels very differently about our VISA, MasterCard, American Express, or our Discovery Card. My credit cards used to be my worst enemy but over the recent years my sole remaining credit card has become my best friend. When I was in my early twenties I had several credit cards because companies just keep sending them to me in the mail, and I just keep activating them. Eventually I found myself tens of thousands of dollars in debt. I had the income to pay it off, but not the will power. The thought of spending my hard earned money to pay off debt was unsettling and I couldn’t do it, so I continued to make only the minimum monthly payments for several years.
When my pre 30 crisis hit at 28.5 I decided that I hit my financial rock bottom and I was going to turn my financial life around. For years I was spending money carelessly because I thought that made me happy and because I had the disposable income to do so. At the same time seeing the high balances on my three credit cards and one line of credit every month made me very unhappy. I hated my debt and blamed it on everything (and everyone) under the sun, but the truth is that I had no one to blame but myself. I was tired of making excuses and I was about to turn my financial life around.
I made a debt repayment plan for myself. I set a goal date to become debt free, I made a personal budget to allocate a (large) portion of my salary towards debt repayments, and I prioritized which credit cards I would pay off first based on the interest rate and remaining balances. I definitely had to make sacrifices in my life, but I didn’t give up anything that I couldn’t live without or any of my favourite things. I gave up all the things in life that didn’t really matter, all of the materialistic things such as multiple vacations, eating out too much, and shopping. I really miss shopping but I have learned to live happily without it.
Spending money is like any other drug, it is an addiciton that only we can change. Interventions may help us see the light and see that we need to make a change. But the truth is that I turned my financial life around because I wanted to; I couldn’t have done it before I was honestly and truly ready to make a change. Now I only have one credit card (with a limit of only $2500) that I use a few times a month. Honestly I would love to live without a credit card at all but that isn’t possible. I need a credit card to book travel accommodations and also to keep (re)building a good credit score. It is safe to say that I have definitely learned from my past financial mistakes.
Now that I am financially responsible I always (try to) pay off the entire balance on my one credit card each month so that I am not charged any interest and so that I don’t fall back into bad habits. Sometimes I get the urge to pull out my credit card and spend hundreds of dollars on myself, but before I reach into my wallet I think twice. I think about how unhappy I used to be when I was drowning in debt; and I think about how happy I am now in both my personal and financial lives. Now when I get the urge to spend I think twice about my purchase, I smile, I let go of my wallet, I take my hand out of my purse, and I walk away purchase free.
My name is Kristina and I am credit card sober.
(Photo by maybeemily)