Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Frugal Person's Attitude Toward Credit Cards

At best they are a necessary evil in today's society as more and more shopping is done through online stores.  At worst they are a temptation to spend and live beyond our means so the credit card companies can dip into our wallets for a continuous stream of fees and interest income.  They run contrary to the goals of the frugal who are trying to live below their means and kept debt off of the family balance sheet.  So in this day and age of electronic commerce what is a frugal person to do:
  1. Use cash and debit cards wherever possible.  There is nothing wrong with being old-fashioned and there were some sound financial principles in the way our grandparents coming out of the Great Depression handled their money.  
  2. Carry no more than 1 to 2 credit cards in your wallet and use them sparingly.  Credit cards do have a purpose when it is impossible to use cash to make a purchase, or when emergencies arise that require large expenditures.
  3. Only get credit cards with reward programs.  Might as well get something in return.
  4. Pay off the entire credit card balance religiously each month.   Avoid all interest charges and fees.  If you can't, stop charging and cancel the credit card immediately.
  5. Resist temptation for frivolous purchases.  Advertisers play on our human weaknesses everyday to convince us to buy things we don't really need.  Tune them out.
  6. Don't use credit cards to build credit scores.  Contrary to what I've read on many money blogs, credit cards are not a tool to be used to build credit scores.  They should be used sparingly, and only for necessary purchases.
  7. Don't set a bad example for your children.   If little eyes see you swiping your credit card for every purchase, they will fail to realize that items cost real money, and you are helping to establish their attitude about money.
Credit cards are a losers game for most consumers who cannot control their impulse to spend.  Frugal people should be wary of this temptation and discipline themselves to continue to live within their means.  If the temptation to spend cannot be resisted, then ditch the credit cards; go back to a cash only world.

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