Many people today depend on their credit cards to survive. It’s not just a while thing, it’s a full on addiction – take away most people’s credit cards and what happens? Apart from getting the shakes and jitters, people don’t know how to live.
The average person today doesn’t carry cash on them. Why bother? Between gift cards, credit cards, tokens, passes and all the other forms of non-money money, cash isn’t needed any more. However, people who think that could not be farther from the truth. All those other forms of payment are different from credit cards in one major way – they are all paid for up front, but credit cards are paid for after the fact. Take gift cards – if you buy someone a Starbucks gift card, you have to purchase it before it can be used. That means money up front, so when you go to use that gift card there is no worry about when the bill will come because there is no bill. The same is true for subway tokens, public transit bus tickets, and so on. Credit cards are the only form of payment where it catches up to you later.
The trick is how to get rid of your credit card dependence. While some people will tell you to simply stop buying things on credit and pay cash for everything, that is not a realistic first step. If you never use cash, you need to get used to carrying it around before you come to depend solely on it again.
It’s better to start off by paying off your credit cards, and destroy all but one of them. You can use that one but keep its balance at zero. That means if you have lunch at McDonald’s and put it on your credit card, before you go to sleep at night transfer that much money to your credit card. This way you can still use your card, but by not carrying a balance you are not paying potentially costly interest, and also by paying off your purchases right away you know when your money runs out.
So your money ran out? It happens to everyone at some point. You really have two options at this point. The first is – don’t spend anything until you have more cash. While this will keep your bills down, it may not be practical to say “buy no food” when there is a week left until payday. The second is – use your credit card for the bare essentials, and when you get paid make sure you pay it off right away.
By this point you are using your credit card responsibly. You may still be dependent on your credit card, but you are much more aware of your spending and likely even not spending as much as you used to. This is a good time to start using cash to pay for things. Set yourself a limit on how much cash you will take out of your account for the week, and when its gone stop spending. This is likely how your parents and grandparents did things before the internet, credit cards being accepted everywhere, and banks being open 24/7. You are essentially setting a budget for yourself so you don’t overspend.
If you are able to follow those steps, by this point you can take it or leave it – your credit card that is. When you get to this point it really is the true feeling of freedom to know that you don’t owe someone a big pile of money, that you can’t spend yourself into debt, and that you will finally have some change in your pocket to give that nice homeless guy on your way to work!