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Credit Card Debt and Your Emotions

by Francine Huff

Have you ever headed to the mall to cheer yourself up? Does making purchases with a credit card make you feel important or affluent? If so, your emotions could be contributing in a big way to your growing mound of credit card debt.

Shopping for Relief

Shopping because you are angry, sad, frustrated, or bored can result in serious problems. Aside from the fact that you may be running up too much credit card debt, you may be avoiding what's really bothering you. Take a look at what's happening in your life to pinpoint the issues that are pushing you to spend money. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you get a high when you make a purchase?
  • Do you use shopping to get back at your spouse or other family member?
  • Do you get a rush out of using an affinity card with the logo of your school or other organization?
  • Do you feel better about yourself after making purchases with credit cards?
  • Do you reward yourself after a bad day by using your credit card to make purchases?

There may be other emotional triggers or problems with self-esteem that are influencing your spending, so spend some time thinking about your specific situation.

In Denial about Credit Card Debt

Sometimes using credit cards can keep you from totaling up how much you are really spending. It is easy to make a purchase and just toss the receipts instead of actually looking at how deep in debt you are. To avoid this problem, keep track of all purchases no matter how large or small.

Get a journal and record how you felt and where you were when you made each purchase. You must commit to doing this if you want to determine how your credit card debt is related to emotional spending. Writing in a journal and keeping track of purchases for about a month should help you detect patterns in your behavior so you can begin forming more positive habits.

Dumping Debt

Use a credit card calculator to total up your debt and see how long it is going to take to pay it off. Making more than the minimum monthly payment can help you pay off the balance faster. However, if you want to pay off credit card debt once and for all you must stop using credit cards. Get help from a reputable debt counselor to stay motivated and learn how to form positive financial habits.

Published 04/25/11 (Modified 11/21/13)


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