Credit Card Debt Lessons Learned

June 17, 2013

credit card debt lessonsConsidering the debt I am slowly paying off, I am probably the last person that should be giving advice on how to spend money. But, since approximately 60% of Americans are in debt, I’m definitely not alone. Hopefully what I’ve learned may help you before you find yourself digging out of a financial hole one teaspoon at a time.

1. Have only one credit card – for emergencies only.

Yes. Like many people I have substantial credit card debt. As a single parent going to college, the credit cards came in really handy. Unfortunately, I did not limit it to emergencies only. For instance, when the car breaks down and you need transportation to get to work, that might be considered a necessity. But, purchasing Christmas presents you cannot really afford is not.

2. Set up a budget, and stick to it!

The idea may sound easy, but it can actually be very difficult. For example, utilities can be a challenge. In the summer the gas bill is no big deal. In the winter, you can soon find yourself wanting to burn the furniture for heat. So, take an average of the last year’s bills and plan accordingly. If you have not lived there long enough, the utility company should be able to look up the history for that address.

3. Plan for the unexpected expenses.

For instance, most people spend more money on the food bill around the holidays. When figuring costs, guesstimate high. It is better to have a little extra at the end of the month than to be caught short.

4. Learn to say “no.”

Most people are great at rationalizing when they want something. Clue: If you have to think of reasons you really need to spend money – don’t! Also, if the kids want new clothes, toys, extracurricular activity money, or whatever, say “no” if you do not have the extra money to spend. Do not suffer with a guilt complex. Consider it a lesson in the value of money and setting priorities – like food and rent. As adults, your children may even thank you.

5. Have fun only after the bills are paid.

Today, it seems like a lot of people feel entitled. As a teacher, I have seen so many children that are bleeding their parents dry financially. With both parents working, it appears to be guilt money for not being around. Kids know how to play the folks.

Anyway, you and your kids will survive if you cannot go to the movies, go out to eat, get sitters so you can go partying with friends – whatever. If you do not have the money to go out or participate in a favorite pastime, you will live. Pay the household expenses, go to the grocery store, and then have fun, if any money is left over.

Have you learned some credit card lessons – the hard way? Leave a comment!

This article was originally published on March 10th, 2008 at


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4 Responses to Credit Card Debt Lessons Learned

  • Francieidy

    “if the kids want new clothes, toys, extracurricular activity money, or whatever, say “no” if you do not have the extra money to spend. Do not suffer with a guilt complex.”

    Love this part. I have a friend who is constantly complaining of being broke yet her son has the best clothes, newest toys and video games, etc… That to me is so sad. Might have to suggest this post to her.


    Step 3, planning for unexpected expenses is crucial! This can really come back to bite you if you neglect this step. I learned this the hard way…

  • Tim

    credit cards are a convenience tool and should be treated as such. they shouldn’t be defined in terms of emergency use only. you should define emergency. Relying on credit when you are in debt for an emergency is a bad idea, since you will most assuredly go further into debt in order to pay for the emergency. keeping a credit card to use in emergency situations where you have the money to pay off in full is what you should aim for.


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