Young adult man working from home.

Source: fstop123 / Getty

We hear a lot about millennials being saddled with high student loan balances after college. But there is another kind of debt that’s even more worrisome, particularly because it’s cyclical: credit card debt. A new survey finds that college-educated twentysomethings are most likely to carry high credit card balances, with people of color having the most debt and least savings. While borrowing money for school is often considered “good debt,” unless you pay your bill in full at the end of each month, credit debt is always considered bad debt. Why? You’re using a loan to supplement income you don’t actually have.

Back in the day, consumer debt was used for big-ticket items, such as appliances or cars. Nowadays, folks are whipping out cards to pay for everything from toothpaste to brunch. This kind of debt adds up quickly and is often accrued again after it’s paid off, because “issa lifestyle.” Folks dine out, travel, and shop more than ever. But studies from organizations such as Debt.org show that owing is stressful, and people feel it. Still, making the change is hard because spending is often connected to emotions.

Here are a few things you need to rethink to get yourself into a cash flow mindset.

You Deserve a Certain Life

Most professionals have been sold the same dream: You do what’s right, and life will be good. If you’ve paid your dues, graduated from a program that prepared you for your career, and are fairly responsible, so it’s easy to think that now is the time to live your best life. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. If you live in an expensive city or earn less than you desire, it’s easy to use credit cards to fill the gap; emotionally it feels right, but financially it’s all wrong. Eventually, you will have to tally up. Remember that money isn’t the only measurement of success or your value. Minimize your stress by living on less or figuring out how to earn more.

Your Parents Were Supposed to Teach You About Money

The adults who raised you were undoubtedly people with some great qualities, but everyone has some flaws. Perhaps your parents may have indulged your financial whims by giving you everything, whether they could afford it or not. Maybe you were deprived so much (due to circumstance or choice) that you’ve decided to ball out as an adult. Or maybe you simply never sat down and learned how to budget. It doesn’t matter. You’re grown now, so you need to get over it. Learn how to handle your money. Take an online class. Read a book. Find a mentor. Do whatever it takes to get on the right track.

Debt Is Normal

When people read that the average American household carries $16,000+ worth of debt, it can be easy to justify being $11,000 in the hole. But the justification is flawed. Having less debt than the average won’t help you get the property you want, fund your retirement, or allow you to have the emergency fund you need in case something goes down. Be above average. Don’t rationalize or normalize debt.

You’ll Have a Windfall

A lottery win. A super-sized tax refund. A surprise bonus. These are the kinds of things people think will happen and change their lives. Unfortunately, not only do they rarely occur, but most people misuse large sums of money—if you can’t manage pennies, you can’t handle dollars. Learn how to allocate the money you have and live within your means.

Your Salary Is Going to Magically Increase

According to Payscale.com, there’s a 50 percent chance that you’ll get a raise, but the average raise is a measly three percent. Of course, you may get a larger salary bump when changing companies or earning title jumps, but your personal responsibilities will likely increase as well—partners, children, home, etc. Limiting your reliance on consumer debt ensures you can maneuver successfully.

×