When I was in college and grad school I used credit cards to “finance” things, get out of tight spots, carry me over, pay for things I sometimes had the money for and sometimes didn’t. All that ended up happening was that I owed credit card companies more and more money and found myself getting in more tight spots that I’d need the cards to get out of.
Back in 1996 I cut them up and have never looked back. I have a Visa check card attached to a checking account. I can buy airfare, rental cars, nights on the town, goodies from the Internet, etc. Occasionally a rental car place will balk, but then I just tell them I’ll do business with their competitor—this is even better when I’m in the airport and they get to watch me walk over to the next counter and walk away with a contract and a set of keys.
Here’s the problem
- credit cards are not about finance but about behavior. People make deals with themselves for instant gratification and then reneg on those deals later in favor of other better instant-gratification deals. “Right now I want that new GBV CD but can’t really afford it, but if I put it on a credit card I could pay it next week when my check comes in. Done.” But next week comes in and it’s “I just got paid and I haven’t gotten my card bill yet, so I can afford a night on the town.” Then the bill comes in and it’s “Crap, I need a new starter for my car - I need to just pay the minimum this month to get by”. Etc., and 18 months down the road there’s a $4500 credit card bill and it’s time to start bouncing balances from card to card and getting limits raised.
Some of the people I’ve seen in the worst credit card holes are those same people who 2 years earlier were going on holier-than-thou about how “I use it like a checking account and pay it off every month.” Eventually everyone gets weak and racks up a credit card balance. You’d be better off without them.
Cut them up. Throw them in the cross-cut shredder, call the company and tell them, repeatedly, against all counter-offers that you want them out of your life, for good, NOW. Then start paying them off.
Put yourself on a written, beginning of the month, every penny accounted for before it’s spent, BUDGET. Do a new budget every month, for that REAL month (not some “ideal” fiction month that’s never going to happen).
Pay the minimum payment on every credit card (and every other debt you have) and put every spare penny you have into paying off the smallest debt you’ve got. When that’s done, take the money you were throwing at that debt, plus the extra it freed up (because it will), and throw it at the next largest. Lather, rinse, and repeat.
Take your freakin’ lives back, people.