I am a shopaholic.

OK, not in your conventional sense, though. I’ve never really spent more than I knew I could afford, but there have always been some things that feel too hard to resist.

For the longest time, I fought it. I loyally stuck to my monochrome TCF bank card, convincing myself that a piece of plastic with no annual fee and no interest rates would really be all I needed to sustain myself in college.

In some ways, I was right. I wasn’t making enough money to convince myself that I could pay back credit card debts even if I wanted to. On top of that, there was a certain discipline that came with knowing I only had a limited amount to spend — either with cash in hand or balances in my account — and I couldn’t exhaust a cent more.

But as much as I fought it, I eventually gave in. I got my new and shiny clear-plastic American Express credit card in the mail. “Be careful,” my dad had warned, convincing me that this seemingly magical card would be the one thing to move me entirely into adulthood.

It was all a kick in the gut. I finally had access to unlimited money — up to my credit limit allowed, at least — and it was time to figure out how I wanted to manage my money. Instead of letting my new card rot in the back-end of my wallet, I started using it for frequent purchases.

So I learned to think before you swipe, if you can’t avoid it all together.

A large share of credit card balances can come from the interest that card companies charge on outstanding debt at the end of each payment period — on top of the debt itself. It’s punishment, really. But it’s something you can avoid. At the end of every month, check on your credit debt and try your best to wipe it clean, making sure to leave nothing behind lingering on your invoice.

There’s a minimum payment you’ll need to make to appease your card company, and then there’s the payment you should make to keep your finances in check.

It’s not all a burden. Consistently handling credit card charges can go a long way toward building your credit score. Maintaining a high credit score can help you qualify for low-interest loans and future credit cards by helping you validate your reliability as a borrower. Thinking several years down the road, the ability to get mortgages and large purchases such as cars at low interest rates can go a long way toward saving your future wealth. College can be a great place to start, since most of daily consumption needs aren’t necessarily the most difficult to budget and indemnify.

In fact, MarketWatch Financial Journalist Catey Hill called credit cards “the worst way to pay for college tuition,” and in some ways, she’s right. Card companies charge egregiously high interest rates on revolving debt — the debt that you keep pending on your account, month after month. Compare the interest rates that your card charges versus other loan options, and you’ll find yourself better off financing your high-value purchases with other means of borrowing.

A credit card may act like a lender, but it’s far from a responsible one. Pay only for what you know you can afford today, and not for what you think you will be able to tomorrow.

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