Throughout my life, I’ve had a complicated relationship with debt. First, the debt was a tool. I needed it to go to school and to get an education. To me, taking on debt to go to school was a necessary evil.
Once I got my first credit card, however, the honeymoon period was over, and my relationship with debt got distinctly more complicated. While student loans represented a well-measured and calculated use of debt, credit cards were much more…messy.
I used credit cards for all sorts of things that weren’t good for me. As a starving student, I swiped my credit card when my bank account couldn’t handle whatever I needed to purchase. I remember feeling so much guilt and anxiety whenever I used my credit card to buy something I couldn’t afford. This guilt kept me from getting into too much trouble with my $500 student credit card, and I managed to pay off the balance every time I landed a well-paying work term for my co-op program.
My relationship with debt didn’t take its dark turn until I graduated from university. I was up to my eyeballs in debt from my student loans and the car I needed to purchase after I totaled my husband’s car. Suddenly I was $38,000 in debt. I reacted by locking myself down and trying to pay it off as quickly as possible. I was pretty successful in this respect and managed to eradicate my debt in two years (read the full story here).
My Toxic Relationship with Credit Card Debt
I always had a good relationship with my student loans and car loan. It was my credit card that continued to be the problem. During the two years that I paid off my big loans, I battled with credit card debt. I was living on such a strict budget that I’d often forget about upcoming expenses and put them on my credit card. Or, I’d get so fed up with being frugal that I’d snap and swipe my credit card for something I’d been wanting.
In both cases, I’d end up scrambling to pay off the card by the end of the month. Usually, I could use my freelance income to cover this, but the whole process would start over the next month. This swipe-scramble-pay cycle was stressful, and it was toxic.
Breaking Up With Impulse Spending
I’ve been in this cycle for the past three and a half years, ever since I got serious about paying off my student loans and car loan. Honestly, I didn’t even realize it was a problem until my husband got his new job and for the first time, we had enough money to save aggressively and handle these little purchases.
I didn’t realize how terrible it felt to always be paying off my credit card until I no longer had to worry about if I could afford the purchases. This change in spending patterns opened my eyes. I realized that I didn’t have to be forever on the swipe-scramble-pay treadmill, and it felt great.
So I’m officially breaking up with my credit card debt, once and for all. Two months ago I got my first rewards credit card, and I resolved to clean up my credit card behavior and be an adult with my plastic.
So far, I’ve paid off every purchase before the 21-day grace period, no questions asked. I’m still budgeting very carefully, but I’ve loosened up my purse strings just enough that my frugality-induced spending splurges seem to have subsided. I also have enough extra cash in my savings accounts that covering forgotten expenses isn’t an issue.
My new and improved relationship with debt is healthier and more sustainable. I’ve ended the toxic, guilt-ridden relationship forever, and I’m glad to see it go.