These days just about everyone has some kind of credit card debt. Whether we’ve hit some bad luck and needed the help or we’re just plain lazy and bad with money, we all know what debt looks like. In fact, a recent report estimated that the average American family has around $8,000 in credit card debt alone. That’s well over a trillion total!
Kind of makes you want to throw your credit card in the ocean, doesn’t it? Well, as much as we’d all like to get rid of our credit cards, it’s not as easy as you think. I know this because I actually tried it! And while I’m happy to be rid of my debt and won’t likely build anymore, it was still a lot harder than you’d think. Here’s everything I learned from the experience.
First and foremost, the most important thing I learned is that getting rid of your credit card (or credit cards) is very, very hard. Mostly because so many things these days require that you have one! Booking hotels and flights, setting up accounts online, putting down a deposit or a “soft hold,” etc, etc. Sure, debit cards work sometimes, but not all the time. So, if you’re thinking about pulling this off yourself, just be prepared to put in the work.
The next major lesson I learned that should be blatantly obvious to all of us, is that if you can’t pay for something with cash, you can’t afford it! Now, I’m not saying you should only keep your money in cash form and just constantly walk around with thousands of dollars in your pockets. That, of course, would be very stupid.
Basically, it means, if you can’t pay for something using the real money you have in your bank account (check, debit card, cash), then you really shouldn’t be buying it all. So many of us convince ourselves that we can put a charge on our card and we’ll definitely pay off the card at the end of the month. No problem. But then, come the end of the month, all of a sudden we don’t have the money to pay off the credit card and now we’ve got a bunch of fun, new debt! So if you’re really looking to get rid of some debt, stick to your checking account.
At this point, many you reading this might be thinking, “Yeah, I hear ya. Debt is scary and easy to rack up. But I just love my rewards!” And, trust me, I hear you. The benefits that come from credit card purchases can be great! Emphasis on can. More often than not, our credit cards are already so full that we’re facing pretty steep interest charges. So if you’re getting a sweet $35 reward on a given purchase, but you’re paying $85 a month in interest charges, you’re not exactly saving yourself any money, are you?! (Hint: No. You’re not.)
Then there are the ever-dangerous store cards. You know, those credit cards you can start that are specifically for H&M or Victoria’s Secret or Old Navy? I’m not going to beat around the bush here, folks: if you open one of these cards you are terrible with money. The interest rates on these cards are typically higher than any other credit card and the rewards are rarely worth it. So if you’re still struggling with the idea of ditching your proper credit cards, at least do me the favor of getting rid of these foolish cards.
And now it’s time for one of the greatest benefits I found when I got rid of my credit cards: I actually started being as frugal as I always wanted to be! When you can put something on your credit card that you promise yourself you’ll pay off later, what’s another couple hundred bucks?! Just go for it – buy both of those sweaters you love!
And therein lies the basic problems with credit cards. It so rarely even feels like real money. So when you get rid of them and start actually using real money, it turns out you’re much smarter about how you spend it and only spend exactly what you need! And when it’s all said and done, I promise you, the things you wanted to buy, and would have bought if you had a credit card, will not be missed whatsoever. In fact, you’ll probably be happy you didn’t bother.