First Person: Surrendered Consumers Charge More

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COMMENTARY | Economists wonder whether Americans are charging more to their credit cards for the second straight month because they feel more confident about the economy.

According to the Associated Press, credit card use is up.

I know I'm not feeling confident about the economy. In my opinion, the fact that people are using their credit cards more points to a "surrendered consumer" waving his or her white flag. Consumers are saying, "I give up."

People are just tired of denying themselves and their families. If anything, I think it's feelings of insecurity and depression about the economy that led me to rack up credit card debt in my 20s.

Going on a budget is a lot like going on a budget. Eventually you just can't take it anymore and you do what you aren't supposed to do. You eat some cake or buy a completely unnecessary blow-up Santa lawn ornament for the front yard.

To me, using a credit card for items that you can't afford is as bad of a habit as eating fast food. Ironically, I used to buy my fast food with credit cards.

Now, before I pull out the plastic, I get real with myself and decide if there is something else I need on deeper level.

Needing to feel included

One of my friends told me she was tired of watching all of her friends buy new homes. She bought a house because she felt like she was missing out. She started making major purchases such as new furniture on her credit cards. It reminded me of the way I bought clothes in college on credit to feel like I was part of the "in crowd."

Now when I want to feel included, I spend with my family instead of buying things to impress others.

Needing to matter

I have a friend who has a terrible credit score because she co-signed on a car loan for a granddaughter who got behind on payments. My friend is broke because she always bails out her relatives. She told me she accumulated $10,000 in credit card debt in one year. I once put $5,000 of environmentally-friendly products on credit as part of a multi-level marking "business."

Now when I want to feel like I matter, I work on a project that I can feel good about such as my butterfly garden.

Needing a morale boost

When I had credit card debt, it was the little purchases such a pizza delivery or a sweater here and there that added up over time. I justified using the credit card because I needed a little lift to my hard day.

Now when I need a morale boost, I call a friend or watch a comedy on television.

Needing to believe in something

I know in the past, when I ran up credit cards, it was because I lost all hope for a better financial future. Some of my senior citizen friends know they are never going to get a higher Social Security income or a job so they use their credit cards. They expect to die broke. I can relate because ran up $10,000 in consumer debt when I felt hopeless about my unemployment in my 20s.

Now when I want to believe in something I attend a church service or spend time with my dog who I can always count on.

I'm as tempted as the next person to buy things I don't need. But after climbing my way out of credit card debt, I realized I was just filling a void. I figured out what I really needed so I wouldn't need to spend money I didn't have.


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