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This Is How Credit Cards Are Manipulating You Into More Debt

This Is How Credit Cards Are Manipulating You Into More Debt

Unlike payment plans, credit cards are not bad in and of themselves. While some credit cards are worse than others, the main offender is the way we use them. But it’s not a coincidence that the spending habits of many are negatively affected by credit cards. In this article we’ll take a look at some of the reasons why credit cards seem to breed bad economic decisions, indirectly manipulating you into more credit card debt.

1. Credit Cards Are Overly Convenient

Some recent studies show that the convenience might be the biggest factor. When people have to fork up cash, there is a tendency to do much less meaningless spending. But when using a credit card, because you don’t have to deal with the extra middle-man of actual money, or worry about whether or not you can afford it, everything becomes almost too painless. Often leading to little or no consideration before a purchase.

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2. They Enable A Very Instant-Gratification-Focused Mindset

The advantage and, perhaps for most of us, disadvantage of the credit card is that you can use money you don’t have instantly. For someone who needs to restock his supply of ramen to avoid starving, great. But there is a huge downside as well. It enables us to prioritize instant gratification, and forsake long-term thinking and planning. The worst examples of this are people who abuse credit cards to live like kings for a couple of months, only to spend the rest of their adult lives repaying their debts. Thankfully these examples are fairly rare, and most of us manage to keep our inner big spender in check to one degree or another.

3. They Have Absurd Interest Policies

When we think about interest, we’re usually thinking of the annual interest that comes a long with a standard bank loan. But credit cards are different. In return for the perceived convenience, they often offer what amounts to interest rates of well over 20% annually on anything you fail to pay back. But because they count the interest month by month, it doesn’t sound like too much. “Oh, only 2% interest per month! That’s not too bad.” Of course this varies slightly from card to card. Some credit cards also have insane penalties if you miss a payment.

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4. They Enable You To Spend More Than You Earn Or Have For No Reason

The thing that makes the painful process of applying for a loan so reasonable, is that you should have a damn good reason to apply for a loan. And also have done the necessary research and preparation. Credit cards—although on a smaller scale, granted—enable you to spend money you don’t have for no actual reason. Which can lead to things like people buying new clothes “just because they felt like it,” when in reality they had no money to buy them with.

5. They Make It Hard To Keep Track Of Spending

Well, you could perhaps argue the contrary. If you bother to go online and check once every day, the numbers are lined up for you nice and tidy. The problem is that it is so easy to not keep track. When you use cash, you have to continuously withdraw money to then spend it. That way how much money you’re spending always registers, and you have some oversight as to your total spending for the week or month. But when you’re always using a credit card, it doesn’t register in the same way. Even after going way beyond your means, the credit card doesn’t tell you that you’ve already spent last month’s paycheck and then some. It almost encourages it.

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To avoid inducing personal bankruptcy and not getting their money back, many companies have started stricter policies about their credit limits. But sadly, the purpose of a credit card is not our convenience, but to make the issuer money. So it is unlikely that the credit card companies will take further steps that hold you more accountable for your everyday spending. Therefore, it is ultimately only by taking responsibility yourself that you can change.

If you do your research and chose the right credit card, you can actually save money and get bonuses like frequent flyer miles as rewards for your spending, provided you stay diligent and always pay up in time.

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Further reading: The Mental Roadblocks Of Paying Down Debt, And How To Face ThemTravel Hacking Guide | Advanced Travel Hacking: The Credit Card Blitzkrieg | Gaming The System: How To Make Credit Cards Work For You

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Published on September 17, 2018

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

Achieving financial success is not something that just happens. Maybe if you win the lottery or something, but for the average person like you or me, it comes from a series of small steps you take over a long period of time.

With each step, you form a new smart money habit. And with each smart money habit, you build towards financial independence.

So what sort of habits can you form to get on that path? Let’s take a look at smart money habits you can start today to get you closer to a financially independent future.

1. Avoid being “penny wise but pound foolish”

It’s tempting to try saving a couple cents here and there when buying small items. However, that’s not where the real money is saved. You’re putting in extra effort for something that doesn’t move the needle.

You get the most bang when you’re able to cut down on your bigger bills. For example, finding a lower interest rate for your mortgage could save you $50+ per month. And cutting your transportation bill by purchasing a cheaper car or taking public transportation can provide large gains as well.

So, look at your recurring expenses such as housing, transportation, and insurance, and see where there’s wiggle room. It’s a much better use of your time than trying to pinch pennies here and there on smaller purchases.

2. When you want something big, wait

Impulsivity can get you in trouble in most aspects of life. Finances are no different.

It’s human nature to see something and want it right then and there. It starts as a kid in the checkout line at the grocery store, and it continues on through adulthood.

We get an idea in our head of something we want, and it’s hard not to go out and get it right then.

A good example is wanting a new car. Perhaps you’ve had your car for several years. It’s crossed the 100k mile mark. Maybe maintenance is due, and you’re annoyed that you need to replace the timing belt or purchase new tires.

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So, you get the itch.

You start digging around online, and you realize you could trade in your current car for something newer and more exciting… all for a few hundred bucks a month. Then you get obsessed.

Here’s where you have to take a step back.

Your newfound obsession is clouding your judgement. Rather than giving into the impulse, wait it out.

Set a timeframe for yourself. Maybe you come back to the decision three months down the road. See if the obsession lasts.

It might, but often, a funny thing happens. Often, you forget about it. And often, you find that the new car wasn’t a need at all.

The impulse faded. And you just saved yourself a ton of money.

3. Live smaller than you can afford

You finally get that big raise. And you want to celebrate – and why not?

You’ve been looking forward to this forever. And after all, it was all due to your hard work.

That’s fine, splurge a little. However, make it a one-time deal and be done.

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Don’t get caught in the trap that just because you’re now making more money, you should spend more.

Too often, people get more money and feel like they that gives them the means to buy a bigger house, a bigger car… you know the drill. Resist.

The fact is that living smaller than what you can afford is one of the fastest ways to build savings.

But if you constantly upgrade as you begin to make more, then you’ll never get ahead. You’ll just build up more debt along the way and have just as little wiggle room as before.

4. Practice smart grocery shopping

Food… it’s one of the biggest portions of any budget. And if you’re not careful, it can be one of the biggest drains on your wallet.

But luckily, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you stay smart with your money when buying groceries.

Create a grocery budget

Set a strict weekly grocery budget. When you know how much you can spend on groceries, you can then plan your weekly menu around it.

Once you know what all you need, you can go shopping and keep a running tally as you shop to ensure you’re on track.

I tend to do this in my head, rounding for each item. However, writing it down as you go would probably work best for most people.

Make a list… and never deviate

Never go to the grocery store without a list. If you go to the store with a ballpark idea in mind, you don’t have a true ide of what you need.

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You’re not well-researched. You don’t know what the sales are. As a result, you’re going to make decisions on the fly.

These impulse decisions will lead to overspending, which will derail your grocery budget.

Eat before going grocery shopping

It’s also important to eat prior to going to the grocery store. Hunger is a powerful force.

If you’re shopping on an empty stomach, everything is going to look good. In particular, you may find a lot of ready-made, processed snacks will look enticing.

After all, you’re hungry now and that food is easily available. So subconsciously, you may lean towards those items.

Unfortunately, not only are those items typically less healthy, but they’re likely more expensive. You pay for convenience.

However, when you eat prior to shopping, then you’ll shop with a clear mind. Your hunger won’t cloud your judgement, influencing you to make poor decisions like a cartoon devil resting on your shoulder whispering in your ear.

This makes it much easier to stick to your grocery plan.

5. Cancel your gym membership

Now that you’re all set on your food, it’s time to get smart about managing your budget in terms of physical fitness. And let’s begin by avoiding the gym. The gym bill, that is.

The average gym membership costs around $60 per month. That’s $720 a year.

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Yet, two out of three gym memberships go unused. That means two-thirds of people who have a gym membership are literally giving away almost a thousand bucks a year. It’s crazy!

I recommend seeking an alternative. One good alternative is to look into fitness streaming services.

Streaming services allow you to stream hundreds of workouts like Insanity and p90x, right in your own home for around $10-20 a month. That’s $40-50 less a month than the average gym membership.

Of course, then there’s the free option. The internet is full of free workouts that you can do on your own with minimal or no equipment.

For example, there’s the Couch to 5K program, that I personally used a decade ago to ease myself from couch potato to running my first 5K race. If I could do it, anyone could.

Then there are free resources like reddit that have limitless information on workouts. The Fitness subreddit has done all the research for you, populating workout tips and detailed workout routines for anyone to use in their wiki.

There are several routines that require no equipment. And you can join in on the subreddit to become part of the community, making it easier for those seeking comraderie and encouragement in their fitness goals. All for free.

It’s baby steps… And baby steps can start now!

I’ve never met anyone that can’t stand to be a bit smarter with their money. And on the flip side, anyone can get smarter with their money. But remember, it doesn’t happen all at once.

Begin by fighting your impulses. Prepare for the week and be smart at the store. And cut monthly expenses like gym memberships that are overpriced and you probably aren’t getting your money’s worth out of anyway.

The devil is in the details. And the details can change your lifestyle and prep you for a financially independent future.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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