I was at a get-together recently and I had this conversation with someone that, if I’m being 100% honest, I think I have had mentally about a thousand times before it actually happened out loud.
“I need your help with my money.” my friend asked.
I, eager to help, said, “Sure what can I do?”
“Well, I’m good with money, but it’s my damn credit card spending. I always pay it off in full every month, never had a late payment, or an interest penalty. But every month it feels like this card wipes out all of our funds. What should I do?”
“Umm….” I said, “Have you tried not using the card?”
“Well yeah but,” he continued, “I get cash back for everything I do. If I’m spending $2000 a month, I want to get back my $20 to $80 depending on what I’ve bought. It seems like a waste otherwise.”
“I totally get that. I’m the same way. If I’m spending money, then I want to get something in return, whether it’s cash or points.”
“Right?!!” he said. I could see that he was surprised that I was on his side with all of this. He probably thought I would go into a rant about credit cards being evil.
“So what do I do???” he asked.
“I’ll get back to you” I said.
A few weeks went by, and I was still about that question. I think we’ve all been there. It seems like every month, your credit card bill is larger than you want it to be. For years now, I look at how much we spend as a family, and it drives me mental thinking about our credit card statement. I obsessed over this question. How do I control credit card spending, without cutting them up?
Every month it’s the same cycle.
Credit card bill comes in. I look at it, puzzled as to how this could have happened. I decide something needs to be done about it. I have no clue what to do besides saying, “I’ll just pay closer attention to what goes on the card.” Fast forward a month. Credit card bill comes…
I have given this a ton of thought lately. Here’s how I see it:
needwant to have a big enough credit card limit, in case there is a need for a large purchase (car repair, or something sudden).
- I view myself as an adult (largely because I’m older than 18 and have kids, and that’s the lowest definition I can come up with), and therefore somewhat good with my money.
- I deserve things and stuff (two very technical words there, but you get the point).
- I haven’t had a problem paying off my credit card every month, so there really isn’t a problem.
That last line is the important one.
I haven’t had a problem paying off my card every month, so there really isn’t a problem.
That’s like saying, “I haven’t had a heart attack yet, so I must be healthy.”
It’s just one of those little lies I tell myself (and come on, we all do it). I think because I meet my monthly bill obligations, I think I’m doing a good job adulting. When really, I’m not.
This needs to change. I need to get better with my money, if I want to break free and move on to bigger and better things. And to get free, I need to make changes. They don’t have to be huge changes, but I do have to change. Remember: it’s the little changes that add up.
Simplest Way To Control Your Credit Card Spending
The simplest way would be to cut up your credit cards and go to cash, or debit with no overdraft protection. That will sober up your spending pretty quickly.
But I don’t really like that idea, mostly because it feels like I’m leaving money on the table. I have a cash back card (actually two), and I like to use it for my everyday purchases. Because around November, I get a nice check for the spending I’ve done through the year. If I don’t use a card, then I don’t get that cash back.
Instead of going cash-only, I’m calling the bank and lowering my limit. I don’t ever, EVER want to spend more than $3,000 a month on my card, so I’m not giving myself the opportunity to be able to. That’s the new limit; that’s the amount I can stand to get in the mail every month and say: “Oh, it’s in line with our plan.“
This is going to put me on guard. Big time!
If you have ever had a card declined at a store, you know how embarrassing it is. You imagine the clerk thinking, “Looks like someone didn’t pay their bills,” while you fumble around searching for another way to pay.
That’s a situation I’m going to avoid.
Andrew Daniels is the blogger behind Family Money Plan, where he writes about how he and his family paid off their mortgage in 6 years and are now beginning their journey towards financial freedom.
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