San Diego Financial Literacy Center

Avoiding Bad Spending Habits that Affect Your Budget and Get You Into Credit Card Debt

We hear many stories on why people are struggling with credit card debt. Occasionally people are overwhelmed because of circumstances beyond their control, such as a medical debt or loss of income. It’s important to remember that life happens! Not all situations can be entirely planned for, although good spending habits can reduce the threat of debt.

Often people get into financial trouble by buying more than they need. We were approached by an individual who asked, “I have credit card debt, what can I do to get out of it?” We mentioned that regardless of the strategy she chose to pay back her debt, she should stop buying things that she wants and stick to only things that she needs. “That’s what my mom said, but I need to buy new clothes!,” she responded. It was clear that she needed to change her spending habits (and she knew it) or no debt management plan would be able to help her become and stay debt-free.

Not everyone spends their money the same way. Even when making the same purchase, the emotional and logical reasons may be completely different. An example is someone overspending on a newer model vehicle over the previous less expensive model. Some rationalize the decision to overspend with safety concerns. Others may have purchased it as an attempt to “buy” their way into a certain social circle or to attract the affection of a certain individual. It’s important to understand what caused the troubling debt in the first place, in order to help you pay it off and avoid falling back into new debt.

Here are some examples of the different types of spenders. Take a look, see if you can identify one or a few of the reasons that you are tempted to take that credit card and go on a shopping trip. Knowing what drives us to buy can help in paying back debt or avoiding debt all together.

Impulse spenders are those who buy things before stopping to think about financial implications. If this is you, a good idea is not to save credit card information online and not enable one-click buy features. The extra time it takes to input the information will allow you to reconsider the purchase.

Avoidance spenders are individuals that use shopping as an escape from the stress of everyday life. It’s important to remember that overspending and getting into credit card debt will lead to more stress. Instead of shopping, try reliving stress by doing your favorite outdoor activity. It’s free, so you can leave the credit cards at home. And it is healthy for your body, too!

Therapeutic spenders are spenders who shop as a method to cure whatever problems that they may have. With the possibility of high interest rates and increasing payments and fees, credit card debt can lead to years of added problems that will compound to current issues. Find an activity that you can do with friends and family to pass time and clear your mind. Don’t add credit card debt to your list of problems!

Esteem spenders are individuals who will not hesitate to charge items to a credit card and get into financial hardship just to own things that they think will impress others, often without even noticing that’s why they are doing it. Trying to keep up with the Joneses can lead to mounds of credit card debt and years of financial hardships.

Recreational spenders just shop in order to pass time. They use shopping as a pastime and don’t mind going into debt in order to have a good time. With shopping available 24 hours a day, these individuals can fall into credit card debt fast. Understanding that shopping has become a hobby and working on changing that mentality can go a long way toward becoming debt-free.

It’s important to realize that an individual can be more than one kind of spender and spending habits can change over time. It is not necessary to cut out spending entirely, but it’s important to stay within your budget to avoid credit card debt and all of the extra stress that comes with it. If you figure out what drives you to overspend, it will be easier to catch yourself before credit card debt gets out of control.

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