Americans carry credit card debt toppling $775 billion, CBS News reports. And according to Credit.com, the U.S. issues more credit cards than any other country with nearly 700 million. While slipping behind on bills or facing financial hardships is a common occurrence, diving into recurrent and habitual debt signifies an underlying issue. Here are some reasons why you might be habitually overspending:
You Lack A Healthy Sense of Self-Worth
Does a poor childhood, bad marriage or difficult health and family issues make you feel less than adequate? Many people overspend and rack up debt as a means to perpetuate a low self-worth cycle. They use spending as a means to punish themselves. Mounting credit card debt can confirm an unconscious signal that your life really is a mess and you deserve to struggle.
You Are Looking for Temporary Joy
Do you buy things to make yourself feel good? Whether you believe shopping can be an addiction or simply a bad habit, many people use it as a source of pleasure. You might justify the instant gratification of shopping because work and family schedules are too intense for less immediate relaxation. Buying new clothes, furniture or even a big-ticket item like a car can temporarily leave you feeling euphoric. Even small, daily indulgences like fancy coffees and cocktails can also give you a feeling of accomplishment. But gratification through shopping usually wanes, and mounting bills make you feel worse than you did before.
You Are Trying to Gain a Feeling of Control
For some, the more tangible items they have, the more in control they feel. You can live in that downtown loft, go on exotic trips and indulge in evenings out with your credit card in hand.
Using credit cards also keeps us from facing the truth about our financial control. George Loewenstein of Carnegie Mellon also notes that credit cards desensitize us to the pain of purchasing. We don’t have to really face what we’re spending without sorting through our money.
You’ve Fallen Into a Scarcity Mindset
When finances are snowballing downhill fast, it’s almost impossible not to get caught up in the mindset that you’re poor. But Eldar Shafir, a professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton, told the New York Times that feeling poor can lead to further reckless financial behavior. When we have enough money to get by, we aren’t succumbing to the allure high interest loans to keep afloat. But when bills start to spiral, it’s easy to get desperate and convince ourselves risky loans and tactics might help.
Get in Charge of Debt, Not the Other Way Around
While cutting up credit cards and slashing your expenses can help with your debt, it won’t resolve the underlying issue. Find out what’s really bothering you and find healthier alternatives to overspending—it’s the only way to stop the cycle in its tracks.
Find some financial control without relying on credit cards. Consider meeting with a financial expert, streamlining your bills and finding creative ways to generate income. Companies like J.G. Wentworth can potentially buy your future structured settlement payments for a lump sum of cash now, which can be used to pay down your mountain of debt.
Bob is a financial counselor from the Southwest who helps families dig out of debt.
Originally posted 2014-01-10 00:47:36.