For me, credit cards are not all that bad. I think it simply comes down to how a consumer is able to manage them – responsibly. Are the balances paid off entirely and on time each month? If not, are they strictly used for emergent purposes only?
Ultimately, it is up to you to choose how these plastic pieces of money will define your life.
Dave Ramsey Fans Don’t Approve
It’s true, devoted Dave Ramsey fans do not want to hear fellow debt free journeyers mention the words credit cards. In fact, most of them prefer to hack up their credit cards into tiny little pieces as a sign of defeating the plastic evil.
I don’t blame them at all. They can be very addicting.
As a Dave fan myself, I began my journey trying my best to follow his methods to a tee. I even thought about giving up the use of my credit cards altogether. That thought did not last long.
As time went on, I felt too restricted. Eventually, realized that money had no real power over me.
So, ladies and gents, things had to change. I am sorry to break this to you, but I still use credit cards (one, for the most part) – even though I am working towards paying off my debt.
Here’s why this works for me:
1. I Am Stronger Than Plastic
In other words…I am responsible with how I use my credit cards and don’t allow them to take control of my life.
If I am out shopping and see an item that I want, I do a quick mental scan to determine if I actually need to buy “X item”.
Most times, I walk around with the item in my hand before realizing I don’t need it at all. It’s just another “something” to stow away in my house. So back on the rack, it goes.
*I don’t shop for the fun of it.*
On the other hand, if I do happen to justify the proposed purchase, I always use my credit card. It’s quick and easy. Yeah, dangerous choice of words. However, this is why I always have the available funds in my “fun money” budget to pay off my balance later.
After I purchase things for myself that are not accounted for in my monthly household budget, I log into my Mint.com account and record it as a deduction from my “fun money” budget.
Mint is a budgeting tool that can help reshape your finances and launch you toward reaching your financial goals. It also monitors your spending.
If you have not created a budget yet, I highly suggest that you do. You can read more about creating a budget here.
2. High Credit Limits Don’t Excite Me
According to Credit Card Catalog, “the average limit on a credit card in the United States is $4,600″. If you were to include all of the credit cards that an average American carries, “the average available credit per person on credit cards is $17,756”.
That’s a lot of money to be spending! Give this credit amount to an irresponsible credit card user and I would think a financial catastrophe would likely take place.
I’ve been offered an increase in credit limits on several occasions but declined every time that an opportunity arose. Having access to high credit limits simply does not excite me.
The credit card that I do have is shared, has a fairly low limit (by choice), and is always paid off by the end of each month. A lower credit limit actually helps keep me in line with my spending.
3. I Don’t Rely on Credit Cards for Emergencies
If there is one thing that I believe everyone ought to take away from Dave’s crazy advice, it would be to have an emergency fund. He recommends saving $1,000 in this fund as preparation to begin paying off debt.
How much you want to stow away is entirely up to you. I opt to save well over that amount.
An emergency fund should be put in place in the case of – you guessed it, an emergency. As I like to say, “Credit cards should not be your financial source for rainy days”.
If you face an unexpected $1,000 medical bill or a $500 car service and cannot pay for it in cash, you need to start building your emergency fund.
Not sure where to start in regard to building your fund? Start small. Save a $20-$30 bucks a week and increase as you go. Just remember, don’t touch your emergency fund unless it’s a real emergency.
Make note, vacations or the need for new furniture don’t count as emergencies. You should budget, save up, and eventually pay for those types of things in cash.
4. I Get Free Money
I love getting free money. Who doesn’t?
Another reason why I use my banking credit card for every single purchase is that I earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all of my purchases. This is a major no-no in the Dave World.
If perks are your jam and you are a responsible credit card user, I say take advantage of it!
Remember: When opening a credit card, always read the disclosure/fine print. In most cases, a low introductory rate is offered. This introductory rate applies only for a certain period, maybe 12 months. After the low introductory rate promotion ends, it will increase.
Not paying off your balance before the introductory rate expires may very well put you at risk for being charged retroactively at the new charged interest. So watch out for that.
- If you cannot figure out how to use your credit cards responsibly, stick to using cash or your debit card. It’ll save you a headache in the long-run.
- If you’re looking for a credit card, make sure to read the fine print. Always double check to see what penalties you face: interest rate fees, late payment fees, etc.
- Pay your balance off each month.
- If you do carry a balance, a least pay the minimum payments until you can figure a way to pay it all off. Late payments can hurt your credit score.
What do you think about using credit cards while trying to pay off debt?
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