10 Self-Lies That Screw You Into Debt

10 lies we tell ourselves that get us into and keep us stuck in credit card debt:

10. “OMG emergency!”
9. “What a deal!”
8 “It’s only a widdle bit of money.”
7. “I’ll only be paying a widdle bit on it each month.”
6. “The reward points I’m getting make up for it.”
5. “It’s for my business. “
4. “I can claim it as a business expense on my taxes.”
3. “I deserve a treat.”
2. “0% APR means it’s free money!”
1. “I’ll make a bunch of money after college and pay it off then.”

What’s your favorite debt-inducing lie? Sound off in the comments. [via monycentral] (Photo: * Photography by Chris *)


Edit Your Comment

  1. axiomatic says:

    11. (men) OMG! Electronics!
    11. (women… or at least my wife) OMG! Shoes!

  2. emona says:

    I need this.
    Hey, I do! I don’t have heels in this shade of black, after all.

    • CFinWV says:

      @emona: Ok, while I’m not a shoe fiend I can understand this. You can’t wear a blue-black with an outfit that’s more of a red-black.

      • polymer girl says:


        Sing it sister! I LOVE shoes. I have several different shades of red heels. My husband just doesn’t get it. However, I just let him build a kegerator and even put it in the kitchen so he has his own obsessions.

  3. badhatharry says:

    The Raider’s can’t lose!

  4. rbb says:

    Hope and Change!

  5. Mollyg says:

    “I have a job.”

  6. Trai_Dep says:

    “Hey, cutie. You’re totally in my league!”

  7. hi says:

    We need these bailouts NOW! No time to read the bill, vote yes now or martial law in America.

  8. jrizos says:

    1. “I’ll make a bunch of money after college and pay it off then.”

    Winnar! There is going to be a day of reckoning in this country (USA) when a tipping point is reached and $60-150K in student loans will NOT be amortizable over one’s lifetime, let alone worth it at all.

    • cabjf says:

      @jrizos: The college loans are a big deal, but even more so are the credit cards and taking out loans larger then enough to pay for school. At least with the loans the plan is to spread it out and pay it back with low interest rates. With credit cards, students are coming out with a large burden of immediate debt at a high interest rate.

    • battra92 says:

      @jrizos: I will agree with that. I know a girl who was 100K in debt coming out of MUSIC school. She literally has no chance of ever paying them off in her lifetime and she never made it in music.

      I think this is where a realistic guidance counselor would have been needed.

  9. ADismalScience says:

    1. should be expanded to reflect general assumptions of future wealth. Leading up to the crisis economists justified debt loads by suggesting “time preference” plays a crucial role in debt accumulation. It does, but “time preference” needs to met with reasonable controls on debt accumulation – either consumer-driven and self-motivated or regulatory – to avoid becoming “time bomb.”

  10. Trai_Dep says:

    “Vote me in. I’ll lower your taxes and make your government both smaller and more moral… Act now, and I’ll throw in ‘Whiter’ for free!”

  11. ichiban1081 says:

    Me to my wife: “But it’s on the front page of Slickdeals!”

  12. Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

    Phew, I only do #9. Most of the others don’t even make sense to me as a way to think.

    I’ve found my biggest ANTI-spending psychological tool is living with a pack rat. Stuff I used to buy because it was fun or cute or whatever I now find myself thinking, “OMG, do I need MORE useless shit in my house?”

  13. Trai_Dep says:

    “I look good in this!”

    (Switch with “Honey, you look great in that. And skinnier too!”, when appropriate)

  14. Belabras ate my dingo! says:


    Like student loans, you’ll be paying that off for a long time…

  15. Papercutninja says:

    Hey if you find something that fits so well, i should by 5 of them. Just in case they stop making them.

    My fiancee is guilty of that. Not that i’m immune to it…

  16. dorianh49 says:

    Hey! I’ll be getting a tax refund in a month or two; or, that person who has owed me money for the last few years said he’d paid me next month for SURE; or, I’ll pay for this with that rebate that should be in the mail any day now.

    I find that I want to spend future (un)certain monies several times over before it’s even arrived.

  17. Trai_Dep says:

    “This eight-ball will last all night!”

  18. JulesNoctambule says:

    I just did #5, and it really is for my business. But hey, yesterday I got an offer from a local shop to carry my work, and supplies are necessary if I want product!

  19. QuantumRiff says:

    Number 1 is the reason I will still be paying on my student loans when my child (who isn’t quite born yet) graduates from college. (assuming they don’t take 8 years like me).

    Good lord, what was I thinking?!

  20. RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

    Uhh, I did the second one when I opened a new card that had 0% APR on purchases until April 09. I just paid off the balance. Of course, I didn’t think of it as free money, just an interest free loan.

  21. Snowblind says:

    I can pay it back in inflated dollars!

  22. Yokai Monsters Spook Warfare says:

    “I’ve been wanting this forever!”

  23. cynical_bastard says:

    But I do deserve a treat…

  24. HarcourtArmstrong says:

    #2 is not a lie. I’m often prepared to pay cash for something and am offered 0% APR. Why not take it?

  25. VanceCodrus says:

    11. My car just exploded, I never learned to ride a bike, and this city’s public transportation smells like cat urine!

    (checkmate, pocketbook.)

  26. Etoiles says:

    The problem with #1 — student loans — is that NOT doing it is also not a tenable answer. In my early 20s I was getting considerations, responsibilities, and promotions that equally talented co-workers in their 40s weren’t, because I had a college degree and they didn’t.

    Fair? Not particularly. Reality? Yes.

    So my massive student debt — from being an in-state student at my public university — has saddled me down beyond my ability to live comfortably with it, but NOT having it wouldn’t do me any better. My in-pocket net pay is probably about the same either way: no-degree means less gross pay, degree means much higher gross pay but massive debts.

    Basically it’s a no-win. At least this way I have a chance of rising and a shot at industries that interest me.

  27. Joe Filip says:

    Umm its from Apple :)

  28. exploded says:

    I will be able to pay this off at the end of the month, NO PROBLEM!

  29. YourTechSupport says:

    Number #9 owns me.
    I realized yesterday that I had, after counting them out and adding it up, i had 65gb worth of flash drives and SD/MicroSD cards in my backpack, only about 3gb of that was useful stuff, the rest were empty in case I needed them.

    Most of them were, of course, 2for1 deals or 40-60% off.
    I tossed alot of them in my ‘spare parts’ drawer but i keep the old, beaten, or ‘disposable’ ones handy in case I need to do a PC cleaning or loan someone a flash drive.

  30. moore850 says:

    “Extended warranty? How can I lose!” (Homer Simpson)

  31. ElizabethD says:

    My new challenge is to STOP READING the Morning Deals on Consumerist.com. 8-/

  32. rattis says:

    The lie that gets me the most is:

    “Go ahead and expense it”. Or it’s brother “I can expense this when I get back”.

    I usually can expense it, but it takes a while to get the money from Finance (they’re getting better), and I usually end up in negative numbers between the time I submit the receipts, and when I get the money back.

  33. mongchacha says:

    “i’m rich!”

  34. GorillaEmperorOfEarth says:

    #1 got me when I was young and dumb…

  35. Cat_In_A_Hat says:

    “I’m doing my part to help stimulate the economy”

  36. h3llc4t, breaker of office dress codes says:

    “I’ll just cut back a little somewhere else.”
    No I won’t. I’ll keep buying video games and worrying about my balance come rent time.

  37. theblackdog says:

    “I deserve nice things”

    Totally guilty of that one a few months ago.

  38. SpearXXI says:

    It’s only my tip money.

  39. karlsl says:

    I know I might ostracise for what I say, but I want to say it anyway. I am still a big believer of spending our way out of depression. As long as people don’t spend, businesses are going to continue to lose money. When businesses lose money, they will lay off more employees. Capitalist country survives on people buying stuffs. no buying = no jobs. Case in point, Japan has one of the highest saving rate in the world. The result is that it has been in recession for years, maybe a decade. it relies on export to survive. The reason US was able to rebound from recessions one after another was because of consumerism. We used to spend out way out of recession. It is impossible to save our way out of any recession or depression. Instead of discouraging people from spending, we should do the opposite. If every persons in this world start spending again, we would be out of recession in a year, maybe in a few months.

  40. mac-phisto says:

    since i’m charging it anyway, i might as well upgrade…

  41. Anonymous says:

    The college thing actually worked quite well for me. I had a job offer with the U.S. governmeny that I accepted and planned on going backpacking in Europe before I started to work. The trip would have been significantly shorter and less fun if I only had the little bit of money I saved in school. However, I charged a few thousand dollars on my credit card and had a trip of a lifetime – something that once you get a full time job (and a sense of desiring not to sleep in youth hostels) you will never have the time off to do. It took me 6 months after beginning work to pay off teh debt (I had planned on 3), but it was well worth it. Charging responsibly can be ok.

  42. edwardso says:

    It’s not like I could pay my credit card off if I didn’t buy this dress…

  43. veronykah says:

    Seriously?? People believe in #1?
    When I got a job that paid quite well while still in college the FIRST thing I did was pay off my credit cards. I knew there was no way I was going to want to be paying those AND student loans when I graduated.
    I also didn’t sell my car when I moved to NYC for school. I knew I would move back to Cali and who wants or has the money to buy cars after college?
    Am I just smarter than the average person?
    To use a phrase I hate, it all seemed like a “no brainer”.

  44. Outrun1986 says:

    There has to be a good balance of spending and saving. There are things you should spend for, and then there are things you should probably hold back on.

    If your living to the point where your saving every penny and don’t have any debt, have a decent emergency fund built up, and your not spending because the news tells you to save your money and we are in a recession, you should probably be spending a little more. Especially if you really need something. Hoarding money if you are in a good financial situation is very bad, people you aren’t going to take it with you. Walking around in rags because you refuse to spend money for clothing also isn’t cool. We need people who are financially sound to start spending so the economy can grow.

    However if you have a whole garage of unused power tools and you go out and buy yet another one, you probably need to control your spending, and you should probably take a good hard look at where your money is going. Make sure you are also using what you buy, instead of buying more tools, more clothes etc when you already have a ton of the unused item. I see lots of unworn clothing with tags still on it from the thrift so when you buy clothes take the time to try something on and make sure its something you will actually wear before you buy it!

    Its fine to buy a new computer if its a planned purchase and your old one is not doing what you want it to do anymore, and its on its way out. However if you just bought a new expensive computer last year you probably don’t need to buy one again this year, unless you are doing very specialized work.

    Its the same with anything else, if your old digital camera craps out then its fine to buy a new one (or its so old that it doesn’t take good pictures anymore), however you don’t need to upgrade to the latest model that offers only slightly better features than the one you have every year. Apple I am looking at you..

  45. edwardso says:

    @edwardso: an by saves me money I mean, makes me spend

  46. th1nwhiteduke says:

    Most people buy cars after college, that’s often why people go – to make money to buy things.

  47. David Thatcher says:

    Here’s one… but I have to have a credit card to rent a car!
    Better solution… apply for an overdraft line on your checking account, at my wife’s bank they actually issue a separate card for the overdraft line so you can use it directly (like a credit card).

  48. AcceleratedDragon says:

    11. I need to “build up” my credit rating. You can’t get credit, unless you use credit.

    Most ppl don’t realize that paying your monthly: rent/mortgage, electric, water, phone, internet, cable/satellite, cell phone bill each month ON TIME. Will improve your credit score.

    • johnva says:

      @AcceleratedDragon: No, they don’t, unless they are getting reported regularly on your credit report. And most of the time, those things ARE NOT part of your credit report.

    • oneandone says:

      @AcceleratedDragon: None of those are on my credit report. And I pay all of them.

      I hate that the system thinks that the Macy’s card I got 5 years ago and used twice is more reflective of my financial character than my ongoing (financial) relationship with my cellphone carrier, landlord, cable company, and Netflix. If they included Netflix in credit reports/scores, I think a lot of people’s credit score would improve!

      /half serious

  49. WalrusTaco says:

    Don’t make me cry

  50. TWSS says:

    “I’m stimulating the economy!”

  51. econobiker says:

    Lie #44: I needed that free t-shirt / drink cooler.

  52. AstraBabble says:

    11. Convince yourself you really NEED and will die without all that crap that is now cluttering the garage and hasn’t been touched in years.

  53. captadam says:

    Me: “I need this now, but I’ll have it paid off in two months. I just need to be disciplined and aggressive.”

  54. kwsventures says:

    11. The guy next door has that gizmo and I need to keep you with him. Of course, the guy next door is in credit card debt up to his eyeballs and 1 missed paycheck from living in a cardboard box on the sidewalk. Of course, I don’t know this added information.

  55. TEW says:

    Hindsight is always 20/20.

    #4 is something that I do spend more than I would normally if I could not deduct it. I am not in debt but I do fall in the trap of spending more then I should.

  56. mcjake says:

    1. “I’ll make a bunch of money after college and pay it off then.”

    Yeah, big time.

  57. jmujeff says:

    If you’re still in college, take heed – #1 is dead on. Everyone and their mother thinks that they’re going to make a six figure salary and set the world on fire within 2 years of getting a bachelor’s degree.

    Hate to break it to you but chances are you’re going to start near the bottom of the corporate ladder and have to work your way up over time.

    I work for a large company and make a pretty good salary at 27, but that doesn’t change the fact that I will be paying my 20 grand in student loans until I’m in my early thirties.

  58. SillyinPhilly says:

    We can pay if off when my bonus comes in.

  59. TaraMisu says:


    Mmmmmmmmmm shoes!!

  60. jc364 says:

    Student loans… my biggest source of debt right now. No regrets, though.

  61. MrsLopsided says:

    “It was on sale. I ‘saved’ $500.”

  62. synergy says:

    Numbers 1, 7, 8, and 10 got me into serious debt during college. Thankfully that’s over!

  63. edwardso says:

    @jmujeff: I’m in the same situation. Though I do make a ton of money compared to what I made in college. I forgot to factor in that I would be paying for my health insurance, the car I had since high school would die and that I would grow tired of grilled cheese and cheap beer as my main sustenance

  64. Brontide says:

    It’s only $X a (day/month/quarter/year)! ( doesn’t matter how small X is since it adds up over time ).

    The worst offender is cell phones, especially smart phones. Yeah, sure, with discounts on your plan the iPhone can be had for what, $60/month before overages. That’s a cool $720/year or $2160/3 years for the service alone! For a family of 5 iPhone users without a corporate discount it’s a cool $10k/3 years before adding a TXT’ing plan, apps, and overages!!!

    • Trai_Dep says:

      @snowmoon: Yours is a great tip.
      I always calculate the yearly cost of subs, much to the annoyance of my friends (it depresses them). Sigh. Great friends, but spendthrifts.

    • Outrun1986 says:

      @snowmoon: Yeah, at this point you have to ask yourself if its really worth it or not. Also factor in upgrades since a new Iphone gets released every year and sometimes more often. It might even get to the point where they discontinue service for old models, and hey if your buying into the plan why not upgrade your phone as well! The type of person who buys an Iphone isn’t going to stick with the same Iphone for 3-4 years, they are going to buy the latest model as soon as it comes out.

  65. runswithscissors says:

    To my mind, the single biggest lie we tell ourselves that screw us into debt is this:

    “Everybody else is doing it, so why can’t we?”

  66. Jabberkaty says:

    “That’s purdy.”

    Or as @Trai-Dep said, hubby says I look hawt.

    /done spelling things wrong. Just feeling phonetic.

  67. Pandrogas says:

    But it’s so… Shiny….

  68. 4ster says:

    “I’ll sell the old one on Craigslist or eBay to offset the cost!”

  69. zapwizard says:

    3: I paid off $100 of the balance last month… I can spend $100 this month and it works out, right?
    2: I have 3-months to pay it if I just spend another $50 (Home depot $300 deal)
    1: I will pay it before the bill even comes.

  70. varro says:

    No matter what I do, the cats seem to thwart my plans on being debt-free.

    “OMG, human haz moneyz. I has hairballz in my gutz.”

    “Human haz moneyz – I needz thyroid treatz.”

  71. wellfleet says:

    1. This DOES make my butt look smaller
    2. This small size is such a bargain and If I just eat lettuce and cardboard for the next three weeks it will totally fit

  72. Kevin says:

    Ha Ha, it’s for my business. I thought that was my little secret.

  73. u1itn0w2day says:

    Should just switch the list from the point of view of the business that endorses the use of credit to buy their stuff wether it’s a car dealer or TV/electronics store .

    I’ve frequently had the 0% financing tauted as free money and you get reward points .

    On a related note I read in USA Today that 0% financing know as ‘ same as cash ‘ in the industry is going to be much more regulated due to the number of people getting caught by the interest/fine print when they don’t pay it off on time . 0% offers are frequently a seperate entry on your credit report as well .

  74. battra92 says:

    Biggest Lie that screws us into debt: The Democrats will make everything better.

    Well that Hope and Change sure worked out just swell. :P

  75. TheJinManCan says:

    Well, the emergency one kind of hits home for me, as in REAL emergencies. As in I don’t have thousands of dollars for house or car repairs emergencies. You can’t fake that shit…

  76. kaceetheconsumer says:

    I don’t do any of those. But I have had a lot of friends stick themselves with stupid debt with this line:

    “It’s for the baby/kid!”

    Which is good for me, because all those chumps who still buy full-retail boutique clothing then desperately try to get money back by selling it to resale shops, where I buy it at $5 fill-a-bag sales that average about 25-50 cents per article of clothing. And it’s usually hardly worn because these same people buy current-size and then their kid grows out of them in two weeks.

  77. Skrpune says:

    I’m a female techie, so for me it’s electronics AND shoes that are my weaknesses!

  78. Nicholas Ossa says:

    Wow man all these reasons are so true !! I believe that I have participated in everyone of these lies to get me further into debt. It has been so stressful. I finally got into a program and am starting to see the light. I found a great settlement program at [www.creditcarddebtconsolidationsite.com]
    I will never use a credit card again. I will treat myself and buy electronics whenever i can officially afford it with cash.