It’s no secret that more and more people—especially seniors on fixed incomes—are sinking deeper into credit-card debt. Why is this? I don’t think it’s because we’ve had so many emergencies (the reason to have credit cards, right?). It’s because we don’t want to feel poor.

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At this point, I should define this term, “feeling poor.” It’s not easy, but it’s real. And I’ll bet you’ve felt it from time to time no matter your season of life.

It’s a sad, sorry feeling of inferiority. It’s that feeling you get when faced with an invitation to join all of your rich friends for a chi-chi lunch and you’ve got $8.43 to your name. It’s that feeling you get when you hear your friends are all taking a Caribbean cruise and you can barely scrape together gas money to visit your grandchildren. 

The worst response when feeling poor is to do the very thing that should prove you’re not: spend money. Sure, that might make the feeling go away for a time. But as soon as you realize you’ve just plunged yourself deeper into debt and made your situation worse, you’ll feel even poorer. It’s a vicious cycle that comes to no good end.

I have a better idea. Stop feeling poor in the first place. Here are three surprising steps to follow.

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COMMIT TO A CLEAN CAR

No matter how old, how scratched, how new, how leased or how ugly, if you keep your car sparkling clean inside and out, you won’t feel poor.

Related: Car Dealer Spills the Beans on Treating Leather Interiors

Remove every coffee cup, every paper and every item other than the emergency equipment in the trunk every time you leave the car. Wash it weekly. Make sure the windows are always spotless, the tires scrubbed and the chrome shiny. Do this and you’ll feel like a million bucks.  Read more