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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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    Published on October 8, 2018

    13 Incredibly Useful Tactics to Help You to Stick to Your Family Budget

    13 Incredibly Useful Tactics to Help You to Stick to Your Family Budget

    Are you having trouble sticking to a family budget? You aren’t alone.

    Budgeting is difficult. Creating one is hard enough, but actually sticking to it is a whole other issue. Things come up. Desires and cravings happen. And the next thing you know, budgets break.

    So how can you stick to a family budget? Here are 13 tips to make it easier.

    1. Choose a major category each month to attack

    As the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” With that in mind, one approach to help you get into the habit of sticking to a budget is simply starting slow.

    Spend too much on Starbucks runs, eat out too often, and have an out-of-this-world grocery bill? Choose one bad habit and attack.

    By choosing one behavior to focus on, you’ll prevent yourself from being overwhelmed. You’ll also experience small victories, which help you gain positive momentum. This momentum can then carry over into your overall budget.

    2. Only make major purchases in the morning

    If you’re making large purchases in the evening, there’s a good chance you’re doing so after a long day and you’re probably tired.

    Why does this matter? Because our judgement tends to be off when tired – our willpower is compromised.

    Instead, only make major purchasing decisions in the morning when you’re energized and refreshed. Your brain will be firing on all cylinders and your resolve will be high. You’re less likely to give in and settle at this point.

    3. Don’t go to the grocery store hungry

    Have trouble with impulse buys at the grocery store? If so, there’s a good chance you’re going grocery shopping while hungry.

    The problem here is that when you’re hungry, everything looks good. So you’re more likely to make split decisions on things that aren’t on your grocery list.

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    Instead, make sure you eat prior to your grocery store trip. Then take your list, along with your full stomach, and go shopping. Notice how food doesn’t look quite so good when you’re not fighting cravings.

    4. Read one-star reviews for products

    Is there a product you just have to have (but maybe not really)? Check out the one-star reviews.

    By reading all the horrible reviews, you may be able to basically trick yourself into deciding that the product isn’t worth your time and money.

    Next thing you know, you didn’t make the purchase, you saved the money, and you feel good about the decision.

    5. Never buy anything you put in an online shopping cart until the next day

    If you are making a purchase online, it’s typically a two-step process. First, you click “Add to Cart” and then you go in to review your cart and pay.

    The problem is that there not typically much reviewing during step two. It’s generally click pay and there you go. However, this is the perfect point to stop for reflection.

    Once you add to your cart, your best bet is to step away until the next day. Let the item sit there and grow cold, so to speak.

    This gives you a night to “sleep on it” and decide if you really want and need to spend that money. If you wake up the next day and still find the purchase viable, then perhaps it’s time to go for it.

    6. Don’t save your credit card info on any site you shop on

    One of the other pitfalls of shopping online is that fact that most sites ask you to save your credit card information.

    While the sites will frame it as a method of convenience, the truth is they know you’ll spend more money in the long run if your credit card information is saved.

    The “convenience” takes away one last decision-making point in the purchasing process. True, it’s a pain to get out your credit card and enter the information every time. But guess what? That’s the point. If that inconvenience helps you stay on budget, then it’s worth it. Which leads into the next tip.

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    7. Tape an “impulse buy” reminder to your credit card

    Credit cards make spending much easier than cash. When you spend cash, you can literally see your wallet emptying. A credit card comes out, then goes back in. No harm, no foul.

    That’s why it’s a good idea to tape a reminder to your credit card. Customize a message that is something along the lines of “do you really need this?” or “does it fit the budget?”

    That way when you pull out the card, you get one last reminder to help you question your decision and stick to your budget.

    8. Only use gift cards to shop on Amazon

    Amazon is probably the easiest place online to blow money. It’s just so easy to click and buy. However, one way you can slow the process down is buy only using gift cards. Here’s how it works.

    If you plan on making a purchase on Amazon, go to the grocery store and purchase a pre-loaded Amazon gift card of the proper amount. There’s no convenience fee, so you literally pay for the money you’ll spend.

    Now take that gift card home and load it to your Amazon account. There’s your money to spend.

    Why does this help? It makes you have to purposely go to the score and purchase the card in order to purchase the item. That’s a pretty deliberate thing that takes some time, commitment, and thought.

    This process will effectively kill the impulse buy.

    9. Budget using cash and envelopes

    As mentioned earlier, it’s a lot harder to spend cash than swipe a credit card. You can take this even farther by using only cash, and separating that cash by budget category.

    Create an envelope for each category and stick the cash in there at the beginning of each month. When the envelope is empty, no more spending on that category, unless you borrow from another (be careful of that approach).

    This can be pretty helpful for people that have a hard time following transactions in their checking account, or keeping a budgeting spreadsheet.

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    The envelopes simplify the tracking process, leaving no room for error. Nothing hides from you because it’s tangible in the envelopes in front of you.

    10. Join a like-minded group

    Making the decision to stick to something like budgeting is difficult. It takes long-term commitment.

    You’re going to feel weak sometimes. And sometimes you may fail. That said, support from others can help strengthen resolve.

    Support can come from a spouse or a friend, but they won’t always have the exact same goal in mind. That’s why it’s a good idea to join a support group that’s likeminded.

    No need to pay here, as there are tons of free communities that fit the bill online.

    For example, reddit has multiple subreddits that deal with budgeting and frugal living. You can follow, subscribe, and get active in those communities.

    This will open your eyes to new tips and strategies, keep your goal fresh on your mind, and help you realize there are others dealing with the same struggles and being successful.

    11. Reward Yourself

    When you set a budget, it’s usually with a large goal in mind. Maybe you want to be debt free, or perhaps you want to see $10,000 in your savings account.

    Whatever the case, the end goal is great, but the end is often far away, making it hard to see the end of the tunnel.

    With that in mind, it’s a good idea to set mini-goals along the way. This helps you still look at the big picture but have something that’s attainable in the short-term to help with momentum.

    But don’t stop there – set rewards for yourself when you reach that small goal. Maybe it’s an extra meal out. Or a new pair of shoes.

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    Whatever the case, this gives you something in the near future to look forward to, which can help with the fatigue that can result in pursuing long-term goals.

    12. Take the Buddhist approach

    You don’t have to be a Buddhist to recognize some of the wisdom in the teachings. One of the tenets of the philosophy involves accepting that we can’t have everything we want. And that’s okay.

    Sometimes you won’t feel good. Sometimes you’ll have cravings. You can’t deny them. But you can recognize them, accept them, and let them pass by. Then you move on.

    Apply this to the times you want to do things that will break your budget. You’re going to have the desire to eat out when you shouldn’t. You might want to stay out and spend too much at happy hour with your work friends.

    The feelings will come. Recognize them, accept them, but let them go.

    13. Set up automatic drafts to savings

    If you wait until you’ve spent all your budgeted money to deposit money into savings, guess what? You probably aren’t going to put any money into savings.

    It’s too easy to see that as extra money and end up using it to treat yourself.

    Instead, set up automatic savings withdrawals. That way, the money is marked and gone before you can even think about it. It becomes a non-issue. It’s no longer “extra.” It’s just savings.

    Conclusion

    Sticking to a budget can be difficult. No one is denying that.

    However, if you can do a few things to set yourself up for success, and put some practices in place to curb impulse buys, then you can (and will!) be successful sticking to your family budget.

    Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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