November 26, 2009, 5:00 am

The Devil (Visa) Made Me Do It (Wow, Have We Really Come to That?)

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Pay off your Debts
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This is a guest post from Joel at Credit Card Chaser.

devilDoes it bother you when people not only refuse to take any personal
responsibility for their own actions but even go so far as to blame their
actions on someone or something else entirely?

It seems that all too often when we are confronted with the realities and
consequences of our negative behavior we take the attitude of the comedian
Flip Wilson’s character Geraldine when we say some kind of variant of the now
popular phrase, “The Devil made me do it”. One of the more current
variations of this phrase is essentially that “My credit card company made
me do it”.

For example, “My credit card company sent me some cash advance checks in the
mail so I just had to immediately go use them to max out my card at the
mall. They shouldn’t have sent out those checks to me because they knew that
I would be tempted to use them. I don’t really feel like learning how to manage credit because then that means I have to have
some self control and that is just all kinds of boring. That credit card
company is just preying on people like me. It’s not my fault. My credit card
company made me do it you know.”

Before you say, “Oh boy, here comes another lecture on personal
responsibility. Go tell it to someone that needs it. I am reading a personal
finance blog that has all kinds of stuff on
estate planning
, how to choose a financial advisor, and more that I have
already read you know.” and tune me out I would like to quickly take a look
at a few things that I think that all of us could improve on in our lives
and utilize to become better stewards of our money and possessions.

The Natural Way is Not the Best Way

No, I am not talking about giving birth “the natural way” vs. giving birth
with an epidural but rather I am talking about the types of ingrained
motivations that are naturally within each of us (yes, I realize I should
have probably just changed that horrific paragraph header but now it just
seems funny so let’s just leave it 🙂 ). This may seem like common sense but
it is worth remembering that what comes naturally to all of us are things
like laziness, selfishness, greed, and pride.

It’s difficult to fight the desire to just blow your paycheck on new clothes
or a new TV rather than socking away money into your 401k. It certainly
becomes easier to do the financially responsible thing as you develop strong
habits but nonetheless it can still be difficult sometimes to work hard day
in and day out, live within your means, and plan for the future.

We could all use a reminder that being financially responsible takes hard
work and a dedicated proactive mindset. The opposite of this proactive
dedicated mindset is the mindset where nothing is ever your fault and if you
rack up huge bills on your credit card and don’t have the money in the bank
to pay off the balance at the end of the month then it’s the credit card
companies fault and certainly not your own.

Everyone Should be Held Accountable

Because of the pride that is naturally ingrained in all of us it can be
tempting to assume the high and mighty attitude of, “I would never live
beyond my means and not pay off my credit cards every month but those poor
low income people on the other side of the tracks should not be held
responsible for their actions. They just don’t understand what they are
doing. No one ever taught them to have discipline and self control. It’s all
just the credit card companies fault for preying on those types of people.”

Have you ever caught yourself saving something similar to the above? If so,
it is important to keep in mind that no matter who one is – whether a CEO of
a Fortune 500 company making tens of millions of dollars a year or a gas
station attendant making $25,000 a year it is still each and every one of
our responsibility and ours alone to be held responsible for our own

Sure, there are unique challenges faced by those with lower incomes than
those with higher incomes but that still does not give those with lower
incomes a get out of jail free card and excuse them of all responsibility
for their actions. There is a right and a wrong. Each of the choices we make
have consequences. These things apply to all of us no matter who we are.

Yes, it is difficult to make next to nothing and constantly see things that
you want to buy but cannot afford without being irresponsible and going into
debt. It is very difficult to even have to tell yourself that your treat for
the week will be a 99 cent double cheeseburger at McDonald’s instead of the
usual Ramen noodles (hey, I was a college student once too and I can
remember the days of working to put myself through grad school while working
2 jobs).

(Note: It may seem like I am reverting to the opposite but equally false
position of what I have just described as if I am somehow absolving any of
the relatively small percentage of credit card companies that practice
deceptive marketing techniques from accepting responsibility for their
actions but I assure that I am not overlooking them. It is despicable and
very wrong for anyone to take advantage of anyone via deceptions and flat
out lies. Period. However, my intention is to communicate some things that
are beneficial for all of us as consumers as we seek to control our own
finances rather than making this a lesson for the credit card companies –
unless of course anyone reading this article just so happens to be the CEO
of a credit card company then just let me know and I will be happy to
redirect my focus 🙂 )

Think Long Term

What is the remedy for falling into so many of these personal responsibility
destroying snares? I firmly believe that one of the best remedies is to
focus on the long term.

Having a long term focus means weighing the cost of the new flat screen TV
against the decrease in money that you will have available for your
retirement. It means cutting back now to have enough for the future. It
means moving forward by choking down pride and taking responsibility for
past mistakes instead of playing the “blame game”. It means using credit
cards responsibly by finding a credit card with rewards and paying off the balance in
full every month rather than racking up large balances and large interest

I would challenge myself right along with you to strike the kind of thinking
that says, ” The credit card company made me do it” right out of our
vocabulary and replace it instead with a dedication to not only encourage
the growth of personal responsibility in our own lives but also in the lives
of those around us.

image source: goodnight photography

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I like your statements. If you are not accountable to yourself then who else. To blame others for your own actions, reactions, misactions, and the like is crazy.

Financial awareness dosn’t mean cutting your own hair to save a buck! Simply put, live within your means and you are one step closer to easy street every day.

When you’re dealing with personal finance, you have to realize that you’re responsible if you want to improve your situation. Like many people, I didn’t truly appreciate that until I was finishing college. It took some effort to pay my credit card bills off, but achieving that goal has been a great motivator for other goals.