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Let's face it: We all love our credit cards. Between the convenience that carrying plastic provides and the rewards we're busy racking up, shopping with a credit card is a usually a good experience.
But what if you find the experience a little too good? At what point does loving your credit card cross over into being an addiction? Assess yourself using the following five warning signs -- and then get to work on breaking the habit.
1. You're hiding your spending from your partner
If you're spending so much with your credit cards that you feel the need to hide the bills from your partner, this is a surefire sign that your spending has gotten out of control. If you're constantly covering up how much you're charging -- or, worse, secretly piling up credit card debt -- it's time to take a hard look at your money habits and make some changes.
2. Your cards are maxed out
Sometimes a serious emergency comes up that we don't have the cash to cover -- if your credit card is maxed out for this reason, you don't necessarily have a spending problem. But if your card is charged up because your day-to-day spending has been significantly exceeding your income, you may be addicted to your credit cards. Be honest with yourself about why your cards are maxed out, and if you can't explain where the money went, it's time to be a little concerned.
3. You become panicky at the idea of not being able to use your card
People who are overly reliant on credit often get uncomfortable with the idea of being in situations where they can't use their cards, but true addicts get downright panicky. This is because they're so short on cash that credit is their only way to make purchases. If this sounds like a familiar feeling, you may be truly addicted to credit cards.
4. You keep opening new cards, even though you're deeply in debt
Most people take a maxed-out credit card as a sign that they need to be more careful about their spending, but plastic addicts simply open more cards when they charge their old ones to their limit. If you find yourself constantly opening new cards without paying off your old ones, you should take this as a sign that your finances are in trouble.
5. You've considered desperate options to pay your bills
Eventually, a credit card addiction will catch up with you, and this is when the truly troubled consider turning to expensive (or even dangerous) options for getting their hands on more cash. If you're so maxed out that you've considered taking out a payday loan or a cash advance, it's time to take drastic steps to deal with your spending problem.
If you think you might be addicted to your credit cards, start dealing with the problem with these tips:
- Come clean -- tell your friends and family that you're dealing with an overspending problem and ask for their help to keep you in check. Not only will you feel less burdened, but you'll also be creating a built-in support system.
- Cut yourself off from cards -- stop using your credit cards immediately. Cut them up or freeze them in a block of ice if you must, but it's very important to stop charging right away.
- Consider credit counseling -- if you really can't get a handle on your overspending, consider consulting a non-profit credit counselor in your area. These professionals will help you sort out your finances and provide you with options for dealing with your debt.
The bottom line: Credit card addiction is a serious problem, and recognizing the warning signs is key to dealing with the issue. Use these five tips to take control -- before it's too late.