Just when I thought I had conquered the debt habit, I found myself in the midst of temptation.
I almost didn’t have a post ready today. I had a hectic day yesterday, and my brain was spent by the time my kids went to bed. I turned in for the night without writing a post.
But then I couldn’t sleep. I got up for a while, and decided to read my feeds. I came across a post by Gibble about a nightmare he had about credit cards. That got me thinking. And soon, I was writing. And this is what I think about in the wee hours of the night, when there are no distractions.
At the end of Gibble’s post, he promised his readers that he would never carry another credit card in his wallet. Since I cut up my credit cards, I feel the same way. Especially lately.
I don’t know if the rest of you are like me, but there’s a mental process that happens when I change a habit. At first I’m gung-ho. I know it’s going to be hard, but I’m up for the challenge. That’s how I felt when I started this blog. I knew getting out of debt would be hard, but I was committed. I still am committed, though getting out of debt isn’t a new challenge anymore. It’s just a way of life.
The next stage is fear. That’s what I felt right after I cut up the credit cards. I was excited for sure, but I also had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. “What if there’s an emergency, and I need the card?” During that stage, I had to reassure myself that God had provided for my family thus far, and I needed to continue to trust Him. And I needed to continue to better my financial situation, so worry wouldn’t be an issue anymore.
And that brings me to the next stage in my mental process. Overconfidence. April 2008 marked the one year anniversary of the last time I used a credit card. And in May my husband and I paid off the last of our credit card debt. I was flying high, and I was convinced that my debt habit had been cured. Certainly I would never succumb to the temptation of overspending again!
My friends, overconfidence is the most dangerous feeling there is, when it comes to managing finances. It is when we feel invincible that we get careless. We begin thinking we can handle things that we can’t. Much like an alcoholic who has been sober for a year thinks when he walks into a bar. “I can handle it.” And then it’s too late.
As we’ve been preparing to move, I’ve been looking at appliances. We need a refrigerator, and I’d like a new range. And as I was browsing different websites, looking at different appliances, I found myself coveting appliances that are beyond what I can afford.
And these appliances come with some great offers. 12 months same as cash. 10% off if you use your Sears card. Only $26 per month. I could easily afford $26 a month.
As I sat there looking at these websites, I realized that if I had a credit card on hand, it would be easy to talk myself into making the purchase right then and there. Just like the way I talked myself into the upgrades on the computer we charged a couple of years ago. And the clothes I used to buy for my children, even though they didn’t need them.
I came to a sinking realization. I’m not cured. I may never be cured. The temptation to buy more than I can afford may always be there. And it’s not helped by all the clever marketing techniques used by the stores. And who can blame them? Their job is to make money. My job is to control my spending.
That sinking realization soon turned to hope. It’s good to realize I’m not invincible. If I know I can’t handle credit cards, I can always be on guard to stand against temptation. This is where my mind needs to be. I need not fear. I dare not be over confident. But recognizing the situation for what it is enables me to deal with it.
I’m reminded of a Bible verse that has to do with temptation.
Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2:22
Flee and pursue. Even though this verse isn’t specific to debt and overspending, it is applicable. It’s easy to remember to flee. Shut down the internet browser if you’re shopping online. Walk out of the store.
But unless your replace the bad behavior with a good behavior (the pursuing), your mind will remain stuck on your desire, and you will be tempted to return to shopping.
But if you pursue righteousness…balance your checkbook, check in with an accountability partner, write down all the reasons you’re glad you’re getting out of debt…the temptation fades. At least that’s what I’ve found in my own life.
So if you’re facing temptation, flee the bad, and pursue the good.
Have you ever backslidden in a habit you thought you’d conquered? How did you deal with it? And how do you deal with temptation to overspend?
Photo by szlea.
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I'm just an average mom, trying to live a frugal life and get out of debt. I write about things that have (and haven't) worked to improve my family's financial situation. What works for me may or may not work for you, and you should always consult a financial advisor before making important financial decisions.
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