So you've got student loans, a mortgage, car payments—what's a little credit card debt on top of all that? Well, there's a big difference between good debt and bad debt. Good debt: money borrowed to purchase an asset that will build your wealth (like a home you can afford) or invests in the future (like getting an advanced degree). Bad debt: money borrowed to buy something that immediately begins to lose value, like a car or, sorry, a vacation. As Suze Orman puts it, bad debt finances "a want rather than a need."
Plus, not to be boring, but you're paying a lot more interest on credit card debt (up to 20 percent) than on, say, a 30-year mortgage (under 4 percent). Adding even a little bit of bad debt every month is going to create a snowball, an extremely harrowing snowball. So restrict your debt to the good kind and your snowballs to the snowy kind.
Lie #5: I know I'm supposed to give up $14-per-pound artisanal cheese, but I cannot live without a few tiny treats.
We've all heard the financial advice not to let seemingly small splurges add up. Let me admit that I hate this advice. It's so painful, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels like little treats are the only treats I'm likely to get. So let's add an addendum here, which is that this is not a treatise against treats. Rather, we should all consider trading those daily latte-esque indulgences for other treats that are actually free: Instead of the cheapie manicure, promise yourself a bubble bath after the kids are in bed; instead of ordering in Thai food again, convince someone else to cook you dinner. (Feel free to forward this to the relevant parties.)
If you're not convinced, why not add up the piddly indulgences you've been telling yourself you need all month. Now think about that number: How much of your credit card debt would it erase? How about if you put a month of "nothings" into a special "nothing" account? Think it might eventually become "something" instead?
Lie #6: If things get really bad, there's always Santa. Or phantom Aunt Tilda.
We all bob along through the ocean of life buoyed by subconscious lies we use to convince ourselves we aren't about to be swarmed by sharks and chomped to bits at any moment...wait, where was I? Oh right, subconscious lies. I recently had a conversation with someone who had made a financial mess of his 20s and who said, not really joking, "I'll probably just declare bankruptcy and start fresh." Um, not really, though, right? That's like saying, "I'll keep eating doughnuts for every meal and then get liposuction." Not a good plan. For one thing, bankruptcy will affect your credit score for years to come. This seems obvious to most of us, but there are those subtle, not-quite-believed but not-quite-dismissed ideas of financial salvation rumbling around your brain: Maybe yours is that your parents will be able to get you out of a jam, or a great-aunt you never knew about will leave you a voluminous inheritance. Another terrible plan I've heard (only half-joked about) is marrying someone rich.
This is your life, and you are the boss of your life. Which means behaving like the smartest, most supportive, fiscally responsible boss you know.
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