How to Avoid Credit Card Debt

Most of us like to flip out that gold card (or platinum card or green card), sign the receipt, and then walk away with whatever purchases we have selected. It can generate a feeling of power and prestige, not to mention the security that we can get what we need. Credit cards are such a part of contemporary culture that it is difficult to imagine economic survival without them. They help us establish credit so that we can rent an apartment or purchase larger items such as cars and houses. For example, it isn’t even possible to rent an automobile if you don’t have a credit card. Some hotels insist on having a credit card number on file even if you plan to pay for your room with cash.

But credit card usage has a dark side. Just ask the thousands of people who have gotten into serious debt through unwise use of their cards. Most have no malice of intent (even though there are always a few swindlers). Most are ordinary folks who have too little money and too much to buy. It is easy to lose track of what we have charged until the bills come in. A few tanks of gas, a couple of meals with your friends, a new shirt, some groceries, and suddenly…the credit card bills are in the triple digits and your bank account is in double digits. What to do?

It is important (mandatory, really) to limit your number of credit cards. One card is probably all you need, especially if you get one with a credit limit that is high enough to cover any emergencies that may arise. When you get that tempting 2.9% offer on a super exclusive card (but the interest rate jumps to 17.9% after six months), throw it away.

The next rule is the most difficult: pay off that bill every month. It may take a while to pay down your existing credit card debt, but do it. Then pay off any future charges on a monthly basis. If you don’t have the money to do so, you are outspending your income.

Some say our culture is one of immediate gratification, but unless you have the spending power of a billionaire, it is important to purchase carefully and wisely. Only when your spending is under control is it okay to say, “Charge it!”

 

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