How I Ended My Toxic Relationship With Credit Cards

Tuesday, February 27th, 2018
Updated: February 27th, 2018
The content is accurate at the time of publication and is subject to change.

Do you know the signs of a toxic relationship? You feel out of control, just not yourself anymore. The air is thick with jealousy and lies, criticism and contempt. You might feel fearful much of the time. You’re passive aggressive in your communication.

That’s the relationship I had with my credit cards. But I’ve learned to break free of my toxic credit card relationships and create new, healthy ones. Here are three signs you’re in a toxic credit card relationship, and how to recover.

You’re telling lies. They might be lies you tell yourself, like “I can afford to pay off this card, just as soon as I get paid. It’s fine to buy these new shoes and charge them to my card.” Or they might be lies you tell your credit card customer service representative, like “I didn’t realize I had maxed out my card and was going to be charged and over limit fee.” Whatever the lie is, it’s a sign that your relationship with credit isn’t good. Honesty is the key to any relationship. Once I started coming clean with myself, my financial reality improved leaps and bounds. I began by sitting down and making a budget—tracking exactly how much income I’ve got, and how much I’m spending. I wrote down what my credit limit is on each card, and how much I owe. Then I got real about what those numbers meant. Now I’m honest with myself about what I can and can’t afford, how much I’ve charged to my credit card, and how long it’s going to take me to pay it off. And it feels great! Honesty really is the best policy.

You feel critical of other people’s financial behavior—and of your own. Criticism can really wear a person down. Often, when we feel critical of others’ behavior, it’s really just a sign that we feel bad about ourselves. Sometimes I’d see a friend charging a shopping trip to her credit card, or paying for an expensive dinner for all her friends with her card, and feel critical of her financial decision-making. But really, it was all about me. I knew that my credit card and financial behavior was not stellar, so I was turning that criticism outward. Anytime you feel like criticizing someone, that’s a red flag to look at your own behavior. And if you feel critical of yourself, stop beating yourself up and change your ways! That’s what I did. I actually became very aware of what I was thinking at all times—especially when anyone pulled out a credit card, or talked about money. When I had a nasty, critical thought, I stopped myself and wondered where it came from. Analyzing my thoughts led to some real revelations about my own credit card behavior.

You feel out of control. This is the hallmark of a toxic relationship. You no longer feel in control of your own life. You may not even recognize yourself anymore, because you’re making decisions based on fear and panic. Feeling financially out of control is one of the worst feelings there is. If you feel like this, contact a nonprofit credit counseling agency to get back on track. It’s one of the best things I ever did. Now I’m out of debt and happily using rewards credit cards to get the most from my money. You can too!

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