How to break your credit card dependency

A stack of credit cards on a polished black tabletop.

Credit cards can feed a spending addiction. (Photo Credit: CC BY/Andres Rueda/Flickr)

Once you enter the world of credit cards, it becomes tantalizingly easy to buy today what you can’t afford tomorrow. Swiping magic plastic seems painless, but few things are as damaging to your credit score and financial future as unchecked credit card use. Here are some ideas for how to break the cycle of credit card dependency.

Track your credit card spending

Even if it means writing down every cent you put on your credit card, having documentation of your spending is essential. If your credit card bills are too many and too high due to over-spending, seeing hard evidence can be just the “scared straight” encounter you need. Use a pen and paper or a personal accounting program like Quicken.

Understand marketing messages

As wonderful as credit card companies make it seem, using a credit card won’t spirit you away to a blissful realm of contentment. Be aware that credit card companies aren’t in the business of making you feel better, no matter how many rewards programs or ephemeral references to peace and tranquility are hinted at in brochures and commercials. On the contrary, credit card companies are in the business of creating consumer debt.

Decide to change

Avoiding credit card debt is a logical choice, considering how fast compound interest multiplies. You must approach breaking the credit card cycle of addiction with both your heart and mind. It requires full commitment.

Minimize damage through consolidation

If you have the option to execute a balance transfer at a low APR, take advantage and save yourself cash until it is paid off. This is handy if you have multiple credit cards with smaller balances, too, as one card is generally easier to manage.

Pay in cash, cut the cards

A great way to avoid revolving debt altogether is to pay for everything in cash. If you are deep in the throes of credit card addiction, don’t even use a debit card. Cut up your cards, credit or debit. Once problem credit cards are paid off, keep them at zero balance rather than canceling them, unless again your credit card addiction is severe. If such is the case, cancel them all except for the card of longest standing, but only in the event that you’re requesting a mortgage, Yahoo! Finance advises. Put that one on ice and use it for emergencies only.

Save money for emergencies

If you don’t trust yourself to save that one card for emergencies, open a high-yield savings account that will allow automated deposits from your paycheck. Deposit a portion of your paycheck each pay period until you’ve saved 3 to 6 months of salary in the account.

Seek professional help

Battling credit card addiction alone can be debilitating. Various books can help you tackle addiction and its associated feelings of helplessness. Seek the help of a mental health professional if possible.


Credit Card Addiction Stories

Psychology Today

Yahoo! Finance

Living in a credit card nation