New to BFS?

If you are new to Budgeting in the Fun Stuff (BFS), please click here. It'll give you a little background and a starting point for browsing BFS. See you in the comments soon!

As Seen On

Forbes

Yahoo
DailyFinance

Get Rich Slowly

House Logic

Check Out My eBooks!!!

How I Make Money Blogging Managing Your Monthly Nut

Categories

The Convenience of Credit Card Debt

The following is another post from Lyle, a self-employed guitar instructor, performer, web-designer and blogger. For the past twenty years, he has adopted the tenets of voluntary simplicity to live a thrift shop life and has recently began blogging with these concepts in mind at The Joy of Simple.

If you read my previous guest post, How Being A Credit Card Delinquent Saved Me Thousands of Dollars, you might recall that for more than twenty years I had been happily credit card free…well…at least that’s the way it was until about six months ago when I received a MasterCard in the mail.

Credit Cards

How They Got Me

Normally I don’t fill out credit card applications, but I felt sorry for the woman who was being constantly passed by and ignored by this particular stores’ customers. So when she sheepishly asked if I wouldn’t mind filling out the application for some free doo-hicky, I nodded and signed on the dotted line!

To be honest, I never thought I would even receive the card because while I didn’t have bad credit, I actually have no credit. I found out that little fun fact as I was searching for an apartment to rent four years ago.

How I Mis-Handled It

To make a long story short, I did receive the card and was grateful that the credit limit was only $200.00. I figured this would be a great way to start rebuilding my credit, and really, how bad could I screw up with a limit of only 200 bucks!? Well…I’ll tell you how…by maxing out the card, which didn’t take a lot of effort or time, believe me!

A few dinners out with friends, a couple of trips to the grocery store and voila, a maxed out credit card! And even though the plan was to use the card for emergencies only – yeah right!! – and then pay it off immediately afterwards, that concept really did not go according to plan!

And Again

Funny thing happened though, as I eventually paid off the balance in full, I received a notice not long after that I was entitled to increase my credit limit. All I had to do was call a certain phone number and that would be that!

My first instinct was to decline their offer and run for the hills. Yet, I was curious as to how much they were willing to increase my limit…so I made the call.

Less than a minute later I was now the proud “owner” of a $700.00 credit limit. This was now a little more dangerous – relative to my cash flow – but I figured “Hey, I’m much more in tune with my simple living/frugal side – now more than ever – and I shouldn’t have any problem using the card responsibly and only when needed!”

Less than four months later, my card was nearly maxed out and really, what did I spend it on. A bunch of meals out with friends, a few Blu-Ray DVD’s that were on sale, some groceries when cash was a little tight, and that’s basically it.

Surprisingly, I realized that because of the card, and the fact that I wasn’t taking cash out of my pocket, I was buying more expensive brand name items at the grocery store, along with food items I never really bought before (tub of Ben and Jerry’s anyone!!). And when out at a restaurant, I was spending more than I normally would have if I was paying solely in cash! I mean after all, the surf and turf is only a few bucks more than what I was thinking of ordering in the first place so why not!

What was happening to me!!!???

I’ll tell you what, I was falling into the trap that many, many credit card holders fall into…the trap of convenience and forgetfulness. You obviously don’t forget that your spending money you may or may not have, but when all you have to do is input a PIN and your bill is taken care of, you may forget to parcel some cash away to pay that expense the day after! Do that more than a few times and it begins to add up…fast!

And Again?

Well, thanks to a decent paying web design gig, I was able to pay off the full amount, and wouldn’t ya know it, when my next statement arrived in the mail, there was yet again another notice stating that I could increase my limit if I wanted to! AND I DID!!! Was I crazy!? Possibly! But I was once again curious as to how much they would increase my limit to. A few minutes later I had my answer, $1000.00! And that’s where it is going to stay! No more limit increases for me!

I realize that this is almost second nature for some folk who have one, two, three or more credit cards taking up space in their wallets or purses. But I had been credit card free for so long that it was kind of exciting for me to see how far I could go. It was also a little scary! My previous history with credit cards was not good to say the least, and if they hadn’t taken them away from me, I would have probably had to deal with massive CC debt back in the day.

Well, sad to say, this pattern appears to still reside within me even though I have become a very different person since the 20-ish year old me. It’s kind of like being a chronic gambler where the call of the game is stronger than the will to resist. I actually surprised myself a few times on the amount of money I was adding up on the card and while I wasn’t pleased with my behavior, I kept on doing it. I guess some old habits are really hard to break!

Learning

Thankfully, things are a little different now as I leave my credit card home when I go out so I won’t be tempted to use it. This way, I’ll only spend as much as I am comfortable with spending in actual cash.

Once again, I have adopted a cash only lifestyle and will continue to do so. However, I will use the card every now and then to keep it active. I’ll make sure though that I have the cash on hand to quickly pay off the expenditure the next day so that my balance doesn’t creep up.

To be honest, having a credit card is not all bad if handled responsibly, and the silver lining, at least for me, is that my credit rating seems to be on a positive up-swing. And even though I won’t be looking for a loan, or wanting to apply for a mortgage in my lifetime – yes I know, never say never – at least I’ll have a decent credit rating…which was my intention all along.

So, are you as responsible as you would like to be when it comes to credit cards? Or are they just a dang too convenient when cash flow is kinda tight?  Take care and all the best!

Be Sociable, Share!
Get the Weekly Newsletter!

12 comments to The Convenience of Credit Card Debt

  • Hi Crystal and thanks again for the guest post opportunity :)

    It was a little scary to write because I am basically letting readers know that I too am vulnerable to credit card shenanigans even though I try and live a life unencumbered by such things. It’s definitely a learning experience!

    Thanks again Crystal and take care. All the best.

    Lyle

  • Oh, I know this story very well, Lyle. I am exactly the same way. My wife and I just completed a debt relief program paying of $109,000 of credit card debt – we also cannot be trusted to carry a credit card. We have one for absolute necessities. It’s behind glass in a secret room in our house with an alarm system tied to the President’s office for authorization before use (maybe that’s not necessarily the best plan either….lol).

  • Hey Travis and great to see ya :)

    You and your wife paid off “$109,000 of credit card debt”!!!??? That’s incredible and truly amazing…huge kudos to you both!!

    I like the fact that even though you have been through a trying time paying off your CC debt, you still realize that you both cannot be trusted with a credit card. It’s a powerful force that can really be detrimental to many, many lives! And even though you joke a little about it, having your credit card out of reach is the best way to curb your temptations!

    Take care Travis and all the best.

    Lyle

  • Christie

    Lyle, thanks for the post. It is a good reminder to us all. I am amazed at how easy it is to get in to debt. I have to stay mindful everyday. If I am distracted or something and I am not staying mindful things go downhill fast. Isn’t it amazing how much you can spend on little things in a short amount of time.

    Christie

  • Hi Christie and thanks for dropping by :)

    “I have to stay mindful everyday” – That is the key Christie! Which is why I am the majority of the time a cash-only kinda guy! At least with cash, you have to think about how much you have on hand, and how much you want to part with! As you know, with a credit card it’s just insert or swipe and it’s done, seemingly invisible until the statement comes due! And that’s how they get ya!

    Take care Christie and all the best.

    Lyle

  • It’s truly fascinating how that pattern stuck with you two decades later. I’m glad that you’re only using the card every now and then because for you it doesn’t seem like a great idea. I, on the other hand, can’t imagine paying cash. One time I left a $20 bill in a plastic grocery bag and recycled the bag! Ugh. I was so mad at myself. Cash stresses me out the same way that credit cards stress many others. As I always say, you gotta do what works for you!

  • Hey MFM and thanks for dropping by :)

    I was just as surprised to find out that all that I had learned – and lived – over twenty years of simple living fell by the wayside when it came to that credit card! And while I should just send it back to the company, I can’t seem to do that. It is now become my “emergency fund”!!

    Losing twenty bucks to recycling is a bummer and I know how you feel. And yes, you are quite right to say “…you gotta do what works for you!”

    Thanks again for the comment and take care. All the best.

    Lyle

  • JMK

    Maybe the problem some people have with credit is the delay between the purchase and the pain of paying the bill? If it’s not immediate you figure you’ll enjoy yourself now and deal with it later.
    We lay out all our planned essential spending a year in advance. Everyday I take maybe 5 minutes to update the spreadsheet. If I bought groceries or gas I replace the weekly planned amount with the actual amount. If we bought something unscheduled (batteries, kids sneakers) we must add a row to include the extra expense. A running balance beside every entry (like an old fashioned check book) tells us how much is actually still available at every moment in time. It doesn’t matter if the purchase was made with cash, debit, credit or magic beans! Once the purchase is made the money is spoken for and gone. We use credit for everything to earn the flight rewards and I pay it off weekly rather than monthly, including charges that aren’t even showing up yet in the online visa statement. Whatever “extra” is left each week after the visa is cleared and the pay is in gets transferred to savings or an extra mortgage payment. If we had an unscheduled purchase that week, there is just that much less for savings than expected. By cutting our planned spending down to only the bare essentials, it is more obvious, and frankly painful to us, to have to add any extra rows to the spending plan. It becomes very obvious where excess spending is happening when you see the direct correlation between adding an unecessary $100 purchase and reducing your extra mortgage payment by $100. We’re making it our mission to retire early and any non-essential spending gets the evil eye around our place because we know every dollar of spending avoided puts us that much closer.

  • Hi Lyle! I can’t believe Mastercard got their claws into you!! :) But I can understand first hand the temptation of upping your credit limit. To start with it feels great that this company wants to lend you more morey… but sadly, it doesn’t always end well. I have a credit limit of £15,000 on my one and only credit card and I’m pleased to say that I owe nothing on it. I will need to use it eventually I’m sure to keep my credit rating going well but I have no desire to!

  • Hey JMK and thanks for dropping by :)

    Wow!! You and your family have gotten the spending and saving down to a science…way to go :)

    It’s great to be able to see where every penny ends up. This is one of those things I keep on thinking of doing – creating a budget – but for some reason I just never end up doing it! Or I start one and then it trails off after a week or so. It’s definitely a commitment and I should really take the extra time to be fiscally prudent!

    Thanks again JMK for the solid advice and take care. All the best.

    Lyle

  • Hi Harley and great to see you here :)

    “I can’t believe Mastercard got their claws into you!!” – I know! Believe me, no one is more surprised than I!!!!

    That being said, I have taken back control of my usage of the card and getting back to my own “cash is king” self again :)

    Kudos for not using your credit card…and yes, while you may have to use it a few times to keep your credit score from wavering, I know you will have the cash to pay off the purchase before you even place it on the card.

    I originally wanted to rebuild my credit and as such, I am doing just that so all is not lost :)

    Take care Hayley and my best to all.

    Lyle

  • Hi again Hayley…my apologies…I realized that I made a typo when typing out your name :( So sorry!!

    Lyle