Published in: Credit Cards | Aug. 22, 2019

You're More Likely to Abuse Your Credit Cards if You Do These 3 Things

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The last thing you want is a pile of credit card debt in your name. But these habits make it likely to happen.


Pile of credit cards

Image source: Getty Images

Americans aren't strangers to credit card debt. Among those who have credit cards, 55% have managed to rack up some type of unpaid balance.

The problem with credit card debt is that the longer you carry it, the costlier it becomes. You’ll wind up throwing away a lot of money on interest.

Not only that, but high levels of credit card debt can bring down your credit score. Once that happens, it becomes more expensive for you to borrow money when you need it. And, depending on how bad things get, you run the risk of being denied financing completely.

It pays to do what you can to avoid credit card debt. If you have these three habits, it might be time to make a change.

1. Winging your spending rather than budgeting

There’s a reason you’re supposed to follow a budget -- without one, you can't track your spending to prevent yourself from going overboard.

Spending freely without understanding where your money goes increases your likelihood of landing in debt. Chances are your credit card will give you the option to charge more than you can actually afford. If you don’t like the sound of that, break the pattern by carving out some time to set up a budget. 

To create your budget, go through your bank and credit card statements to list your recurring expenses and see what they cost you. Then factor in once-a-year bills like annual memberships and subscriptions.

Once that’s done, compare your total spending to what you earn and see how the numbers align. If you’re spending your entire paycheck or, worse yet, spending more than what you earn, consult your budget and make adjustments to avoid debt. At the same time, you’ll be in a better position to be more mindful of how much you should charge when you shop.

2. Giving in to impulse buys

How often do you head to the store for a couple of grocery staples only to come home an hour later with bags full of treats?

It’s difficult to shop without being tempted by additional purchases. And when you have a credit card in your wallet, impulse shopping becomes even easier. If you give in every time you’re inspired to buy something extra, you’ll increase your chances of ending up in debt. 

Rather than let that happen, institute the 24-hour rule: The next time you see something you weren’t planning to buy, wait 24 hours before completing that purchase. Much of the time, you’ll come to your senses and realize don’t need or can't afford the item in question.

3. Shopping out of boredom

Many people shop in stores and online as a means of entertainment. If you do the same, you run the risk of charging expenses you don’t need and can’t swing financially. And when you’re paying for things with credit cards, it’s easy to lose track of how much you’ve shopped, since you’re not handing over physical cash or seeing your wallet get emptied. 

Rather than continue to shop as a means of alleviating boredom, start making shopping lists every time you leave the house. Force yourself to stick to them. And find different things to do with your downtime that don’t cost money (or quite as much money).

You might take up photography or start training for a half-marathon -- the choices are endless. And if you really can’t get into any hobbies, get yourself a side hustle. That way you can use your spare time to earn money rather than waste it.

The last thing you want to do is rack up serious credit card debt and suffer for it after the fact. If you start following a budget, resisting impulse buys, and avoiding needless shopping sessions, you’ll be less likely to end up with a dangerously high credit card balance on your hands.

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