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Why I’ll NEVER Cut Up My Credit Cards

Why I’ll NEVER Cut Up My Credit Cards

    It’s been just over two years since I got my first credit card. I now have three and I’m never looking back. Ah, credit cards. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

    ·         Credit cards track my spending. The problem with withdrawing money from an ATM and paying for everything in cash is that you often struggle to remember exactly where your money went. With credit cards, I can review the statements every month and reconcile each line item to my Quicken records to make sure even a few bucks here and there are properly accounted for. I couldn’t do that with cash.

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    ·         Credit cards boost my credit score. As a college graduate with no student loan, no car repayments, and no mortgage, credit cards have helped me ‘get into the system’ and build a strong credit profile. By using them wisely, I’ve already qualified for lower rates that I can take advantage of when I eventually buy a house. If it weren’t for credit cards, I’d pretty much be off the financial grid.

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    ·         Credit cards give me awesome rewards. Each of my credit cards rewards me in a very useful way. One gives me up to 33% off food. Another lets me earn interest on any positive balance at a rate banks would only offer if I locked in a far higher amount for a far longer time. But my favourite is a 90% discount on my monthly membership to an amazing gym. This includes free wireless internet, not to mention unlimited classes like yoga and FUN’k off (don’t ask), for just $7 a month! When’s the last time cash treated you so well?

    At this point, you might be feeling uncomfortable. Heck, you might be downright appalled. But please put down the pitchfork and step away from the comments. Allow me to offer some clarification before you write me off as yet another 25-year old on the road to disaster and destitution:

    ·         I am NOT advocating excess spending. Most people avoid credit cards because they’re too much of a temptation to overspend. Given that the key to wealth is to spend less than you earn, this makes perfect sense. Credit cards should NEVER be used to spend money on things you can’t afford. In other words, NEVER buy on credit what you can’t already buy using cash. Period. I’ve never been a particularly extravagant person, which is why I actually like the fact that I’ve had the same pair of All Stars for about five years. My credit cards are only used for things I can already afford (mostly things I have to buy anyway), which is why the charges only amount to around 25% of my income every month. Nothing gets charged that cannot be paid.

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    ·         I am NOT advocating getting into debt. Another reason people avoid using credit cards is because they fear debt. This makes sense too. Debt. It’s a horrible word that conjures up images of shackles and a burdened life. But not all debt needs to be portrayed so negatively. One of the key things I learned at Rich Dad Coaching (and wrote about in The Beauty of Debt) is the distinction between good debt and bad dad. Good debt, like that used by Robert Kiyosaki to buy investment properties or that used by Bill Bartmann to become one of the 25 richest people in America, puts money in your pocket. Yes, credit card debt is bad debt, but it won’t cost you a cent as long as you ALWAYS pay the balance off in full (and can negotiate waived annual fees). This means your cash can stay in the bank longer (earning interest as it does so) and only be used to pay off the debt when the due date arrives. In some cases, that can be as far as 55 days away. Score!

    ·         I am NOT advocating getting credit cards purely for rewards. Too many people have been tempted by the promise of low rates and other amazing benefits only to find that they were temporary offers at best. Before settling on a card, make sure you do proper research and read the fine print. Since interest rates only matter if you have existing debt that you’re trying to consolidate, you have total freedom to find a card that works for your situation. Your best bet is to find one that rewards you for purchases at stores you already use all the time and/or rewards you with benefits you can actually take advantage of. Perhaps you’ll get lucky and score a free European trip!

    In conclusion, I hope it’s clear that credit cards are not the homewreckers everyone paints them out to be. If you already have a good dose of financial discipline (control your expenses by spending less than you earn) and use them with wise self-control (pay off the FULL balance every single month), they can be a really great part of your overall plan. But if you don’t and won’t, then burn this post immediately (figuratively, of course) and stick to what you know.

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    What do you think? Have any of you had good success with credit cards to help me build my case? Would you share your story in the comments, pretty please?

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    Last Updated on July 10, 2020

    The Definitive Guide to Get out of Debt Fast (and Forever)

    The Definitive Guide to Get out of Debt Fast (and Forever)

    Debt can feel crushing, like a weight that is always weighing you down. Looking at those numbers, it can feel as if you’ll never get out from under it. However, if you really want to learn how to get out of debt, it is possible with a great deal of focus and self-control.

    Getting out of debt isn’t impossible. Like any big goal, all that it takes is an action plan to identify where you are and creating a plan to zero out your debt.

    Identifying All of Your Debts

    The first part of paying off your debt is getting a complete picture of what you owe. When you have everything written out in front of you, it makes it much easier to create an action plan. Depending on how much you owe, it might also help you realize it’s not as bad you might have originally thought.

    Here’s how you can get started identifying your debts:

    1. Own Your Debt

    Before you start identifying all of your debts, take a moment to process that you have debt but want to get out of it.

    Forgive yourself for any past mistakes, missed payments, or overspending. It might be painful to accept how much debt you have at first, but you must own it.

    2. Make a Debt Tracker

    It’s astonishing how few people ever created a tracker to understand their total debts. Most likely, it comes from not wanting to accept the guilt of having debt, but, if avoided, it can make it nearly impossible to get out of debt.

    Open up a new Google or Microsoft Excel sheet and list out all of your debts. Start with the name of the creditor, interest rates, total balance, loan term length (if any), and the minimum amount due each payment. This will include student loans, credit cards, and any other type of debt owed.

    3. Get Your Debt Number

    Once you’ve made your debt tracker and taken the other steps, identify your total payoff number. This is crucial, as you will have a starting point and a clear goal that you are trying to achieve.

    Prioritizing Your Debts

    All debt is not created equal. It’s imperative to understand that there are different types of debt.

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    1. Understand Bad and Good Debts

    Bad debts are usually paying for things you want instead of always need. While there might be some emergencies that max out your credit cards, often times it’s excessive spending[1].

    There are three main types of bad debt:

    • Credit Card Debt: The average American household owes over $16,000 in credit card debt!
    • Auto Loan Debt: According to CNBC , the average auto loan in the US is $30,032!
    • Consumer Loan Debt: Consumer loan debt isn’t as common as credit card and auto loan debt, but it’s still considered bad as interest rates are usually between 10-28%.

    Good debt is identified as investments in your future. Here are three common types of good debt:

    • Student Loan Debt
    • Mortgage Loan
    • Business Loans

    2. Decide Which Debt to Pay off First

    Once you know each type of debt and their interest rates, you can begin to pay off debt quickly.

    Focus on paying off bad debt first, regardless of if it is a credit card or auto loan. Start by paying off the loan with the highest interest rate first.

    If you have several credit cards with different interest rates, you want to focus on the one with a higher APR. You will actually save more money by eliminating the card with the highest interest rate.

    3. Don’t Pay the Minimum Amount

    Paying the minimum amount digs you into a hole as interest rates will offset your payment. Even a small amount more than the minimum can help you pay off debt much faster.

    Removing Obstacles to Pay off Debt Quickly

    Creating a debt tracker and prioritizing a plan is simple, but avoiding temptation can be difficult.

    1. Set a Reminder to Track Your Debt

    “If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it.” -Peter Drucker

    It’s so important to track your debt to ensure that you get it paid off quickly. Similar to working out and measuring your results, you need to track your debt constantly. Start with a weekly reminder, where you sign on and log your updated number. Did you increase, decrease, or stay the same?

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    Regularly tracking your student loan balance can be incredibly motivating, as well. You will get a huge confidence boost each time you see your total debt amount decreases.

    Set weekly and monthly goals so you can have short term wins and keep the momentum going.

    2. Hide Your Credit Cards

    If your biggest debt is credit cards, you need to eliminate temptation and remove them from your wallet.

    Some people have gone to extreme measures by freezing their credit cards. Why? This would create an ice block around your card, which would require you to chip away at it slowly. This will give you time to think if it’s the best idea to buy that thing you’re about to buy.

    3. Automate Everything

    Willpower can be a huge downfall to paying off your debt. By automating your bills each month, you will ensure that willpower isn’t involved.

    4. Plan Ahead

    Getting out of debt will require some sacrifices, but with enough planning, you can make it work.

    For example, if you know that you have a friend’s birthday or family dinner coming up, plan ahead for the costs. Whether you need to cut back on spending the week before, pick up a side job, or meet them after dinner, do what is needed.

    5. Live Cheaply

    The only way to get out of debt is to make some sacrifices on your spending habits. Find ways to save money each month so you can apply that amount to your outstanding debts. Here are some ways to save money each month:

    • Live with roommates
    • Cook dinners and prepare lunches for work instead of eating out
    • Cut cable and choose Netflix or Amazon Prime
    • Take public transit or bike to work

    Finding the Lowest Interest Rates

    The higher your interest rates, the harder (and longer) it will take you to pay off any debt.

    If possible, you want to find ways to lower your interest rates to help get out of debt quickly. Here’s how you can get started:

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    1. Maintain a High Credit Score

    Your credit score will have a large impact on your ability to refinance your loans and receive a lower interest rate. If you have a low credit score, it’s unlikely you will be able to refinance your loans. Use these credit tips to increase and maintain an excellent score:

    • Never miss a payment
    • Don’t exceed 30% of your credit limit
    • Don’t sign up for more than one card at once
    • Limit hard inquires, like auto-loans and new credit cards
    • Monitor frequently with free credit-tracking software

    2. Find Balance Transfer Offers

    Start by opening a free account on credit.com. Credit.com offers you the chance to open a free account and see what type of balance transfer offers you can receive. Some of your existing credit cards might already have 0% or lower APR balance transfer offers available.

    Contact each of your credit card providers to ask about lowering your rate for a one-time balance transfer offer[2].

    If you do take advantage of this option, make sure that you use a balance transfer and not a cash advance. Cash advances have a ton of high interest fees (15-25%, depending on your credit card) and will only compound your debt problem.

    How to Get Rid of Debt Forever

    Setting up a plan, removing temptations, and getting the lowest interest rates is the first step to get out of debt.

    1. Keep Monitoring and Adjusting

    Once you have a plan, don’t get comfortable. Track your debt payoff plan and make the necessary adjustments when needed.

    Monitor your credit scores with a free site like CreditKarma. The higher your credit score climbs, the more likely you will be to secure a new, lower-interest loan.

    2. Earn More Money

    There are only so many ways to save money. Instead of clipping another coupon or making sacrifices for your morning coffee, find ways to earn more money!

    Think about it…it is much easier to find ways to earn an extra $1,000 per month than find $1,000 to cut from your budget.

    Here are some examples of ways to earn more money:

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    Talk to Your Boss

    Have a conversation with your boss about current salary and/or commission rates. If you’re not satisfied or want a change, don’t be afraid to look around at other positions. Some of them might even have a student loan debt reimbursement plan!

    Start a Side Hustle

    This could be coaching students on the weekends, driving for Uber, or taking paid online surveys. There are tons of ways to make money outside your 9-5. Now that you have a clear plan to pay off your debts, you’ll be more motivated than ever to figure out creative new ways to earn money.

    Build an Online Business

    There are so many websites and blogs that earn money from ads, affiliates, and other online products. Find your niche and get started.

    3. Celebrate Your Wins

    As you progress in your debt payoff journey, don’t forget to celebrate your wins. You need to always reward yourself for the hard work and discipline that is required to get out of debt.

    While you shouldn’t celebrate so big that it increases debt, make sure to factor in little rewards to keep you motivated.

    4. Set New Financial Goals

    Eventually, with a plan and these steps, you can rid yourself of your debt. Once you do, make sure to celebrate your monumental achievement, but don’t stop there.

    Now, you can focus on acquiring wealth and increasing your net worth. Set new financial goals so you have a new target to aim toward. Here’s how to set financial goals and actually meet them.

    These could be anything now that you are debt free! Think about where you want to travel, buying your first home, or saving for your future retirement. Just like before, make sure that your goals are specific, measurable, and achievable.

    Conclusion

    Congrats, you can now set a plan in motion to finally pay off your debt quickly (and hopefully forever)!

    Remember, if you want to get out of debt quickly, it’s not always easy. Just like any big goal, there will be sacrifices, challenges, and problems to overcome.

    More Tips on Getting out of Debt

    Featured photo credit: Pepi Stojanovski via unsplash.com

    Reference

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