What Not to Do is a series based on the numerous mistakes that I have made in my life. I am not a financial adviser, I can’t tell you want to do but I can tell you what NOT to do. I hope you will use this series of posts to help educate those you love about the dangers of debt and how they can affect your life. Use the trouble that I have gotten into as a springboard for your own discussions, please.
I am an adult with ADHD. I was a child with ADHD. And I was a 20-something with tons of credit and ADHD.
It is no secret that the majority of my debt is due to impulse control. As a college student, my girl friends and I would often hit the mall for fun. We would purchase clothes and brag about who had more credit cards.
As a college graduate, credit cards fed my emotions when I was alone or bored. They helped make ends meet as a young teacher living beyond her means. Credit cards were there for me when I wanted to go out or just hit the mall out of boredom.
As a new mother, credit cards were for used when we lost a second income but continues to live like we hadn’t. I suffered from the need to make myself happy with things. I shopped to feed my emotions while I was in a failing marriage.
Post-divorce, credit cards were used to have fun. I was so happy to be out of an less than satisfying marriage that I had a lot of fun at the expense of my finances.
During all of this time, I knew I shouldn’t be using my credit cards. I knew that I was not able to pay more than the minimum payment due. I knew each time that I handed over my card that it should be my last purchase. Yet, I never could say ‘no’ to myself.
I had absolutely no ability to stop myself.
Or so it seemed at the time.
In actuality, I did have the ability to control myself, it would just take more work than I was willing to exert. At that time, I was lazy and very uneducated about the effects of debt.
If you experience regular lapse in impulse control, I want you to know there are things you can do to help you. Whether you need an extra step in your life to avoid using credit cards or whether a professional might be a better assistance, I thought of a few tips for you to try.
- Freeze your credit cards…literally. Wrap it in plastic, stick it in a bowl of water and freeze that sucker. When the urge to shop hits, think about why you want to shop as you chip away at that block of ice. Remember, heat could ruin that magnetic strip so don’t so sticking it into the microwave or pouring hot water on it.
- Put a sticky note on them. For each card you have, place a sticky note on them with a financial goal written on it. When you take out that Visa and it says “Save $1,000 for Emergency Fund” maybe you’ll be more inclined to ignore the impulse.
- Don’t take them with you! If you are heading out to run errands or shopping, leave your credit cards at home. Take cash and stick to the budget that you have set for yourself. I don’t care if there is a great sale and you may bump into it, leave them at home!
- Make an agreement. Whether it is with your spouse or your best friend, make an agreement to talk to them before spending a certain amount of money. If you are about to check out at Target, call up your husband and talk about what is in your cart and see if there is anything that should be put back.
Evaluate the psychology behind why you are spending money. Think about why controlling your impulses is so difficult. Could you have depression or another mental health issue? Is it possible that you have ADHD (Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder)? After you have thought about this consider doing one of the following:
- Seek out a Debtors Anonymous or similar shopping addicts support group and attend meetings with others who are like you.
- Consider individualized therapy. This really helped me and I know it can help you if you feel that your situation needs something more severe than a sticky note.
- Is medication an option? If you do suffer from a disorder that involves impulse control issues, medication may help you. I know that it helped me tremendously.
This lesson isn’t one just for you to consider either. Be sure you are talking to your children as well. If you notice your children wanting to spend their money as soon as they get it or if they are buying small items instead of saving for a larger item that they really want, consider talking to them about what you are seeing.
Remember, I write these and share my mistakes with you in the hopes that you will talk to those you love, especially your children and help them avoid going down the path that I went down.
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