Credit Card Confessions

This week has given me that “back to school” feeling I always had in Septembers growing up.  After an awesome Labor Day weekend, summer is officially over (well, socially at least).  My online class is back in session, the weather is a bit cooler, I’ve started creating my fall work schedule and I’m starting to wonder where in the world my fall boots might be.

Since this year is flying by, I took a minute to review my 2010 goals to make sure I’m on track for the home stretch of 2010.  The document which contains my 2010 goals also contains my 2008 and 2009 goals- all of which start with, “pay off credit card completely!”  And what is step one to paying off a credit card?  Stop using it.

I stopped using a credit card in February of this year.  And then I relapsed in April.  And then again in July (This time it was because of my love affair with Filene’s Basement and TJ Maxx. Note to self: buying deeply discounted merchandise almost every day doesn’t count as a sale. And at some point, BOGO sales are no longer effective either).

The funny part is that I could teach you the math behind how credit card companies make money.  I was trained on this at my 1st job after college.  Most credit card companies compound interest daily and before you know it, you are being charged interest upon interest at ridiculous rates.   If I know how credit card companies are charging me interest then why am I still relapsing when it comes to being “credit card free?”

I’m very aware of my bad habit of emotional shopping.  Some of you eat when you are feeling stressed or sad.  Some of you run marathons or sleep a lot.  I shop.  One tiny sale item at a time.  I don’t buy Prada bags, fancy shoes or plane tickets.  Instead, I get caught up buying a lot of little things that are “on sale.”

I’ve asked my boyfriend Thano to remove credit cards from my wallet and keep them until they are paid off.  This only leads me to ordering replacement cards. Which, naturally, leads to me yelling at Thano for doing his job.  Nice girlfriend I am, right?!

Last week I cut up the last credit card I had in my possession and told Thano to cut up the one he had in his possession too.  I’m starting over again on my journey to credit card “sobriety.”  There are only 4 months left in 2010, and I want to live them without a credit card.

In order to do this, I must consider a few things:

  • It’s time to follow the HALT principal – Do not shop if you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired (this tip comes from a strategy that is said to be used in AA.)  In my case, I shop when I am bored and when I don’t have a project outside of work (time to get blogging!).
  • Find out why I feel I “NEED” to go to Walgreens RIGHT NOW (there is one on every corner) and buy a new lip gloss, another lotion and a candle. Because I know I don’t need new lip gloss.  And why the urgency?
  • Stay far, far away from Ann Taylor LOFT. Because it is across the street from my office. And because they are always having some kind of 40% or 50% off sale that lures me into buying several non-sale items.  I find myself justifying purchases by thinking something like, “well, it’s ok because these are work clothes. You have to look good at work.  This is part of your personal brand.”
  • I need to get uncomfortable. “Get comfortable being uncomfortable” is my motto for 2010 yet I haven’t applied it to this little addiction. It’s time to allow myself be uncomfortable by saying NO.  You will not die because you didn’t buy new zebra print towels at TJ Maxx.  Yet, I don’t often let myself leave the store disappointed.

I’m sharing these confessions with you because I know a majority of you has struggled with credit cards at some point in your life too.  As much as I joke, I’m very lucky that my spending isn’t as major as it could be.  My credit score is over 800 and at this pace I’m debt free within the next few months (if I stop swiping that is!).

I know many others aren’t as lucky.  Most people struggle with spending because they aren’t willing to talk about their spending habits or debt.  Avoidance seems easier, right?  So they hide their ”addiction” and their problem becomes worse and worse.

I’d love to have your help and I’m sure others would too.  Please consider- anonymously if that’s more comfortable- responding to these questions to cultivate a support system.

  • Have you struggled with credit card “sobriety”?  How did you quit?
  • What tips do you have for those who are struggling with over spending?
  • If so, do you have an accountability partner?  What role do they play?
  • Would you ever consider joining forces with a group of local women who also struggle with over-spending?
  • Do you consider yourself unable to handle even one “swipe” the way an alcoholic may not be able to handle even one drink?

Nicole Emerick

Nicole Emerick founded Ms. Career Girl in 2008 to help other ambitious young professional women thrive in a career they love. Ironically, growing MsCareerGirl helped Nicole transition her own career from commercial banker to digital marketer. Today Nicole leads the social media team at a large advertising agency in Chicago. Nicole also served as an adjunct professor at DePaul University where she helped develop the careers of PR, Advertising and Communications students. Tweet with Nicole @_NicoleEmerick.