3 Simple Rules for Curbing Your Credit Card Use

by Jason on November 23, 2009

Many times the simple things have a way of sticking with us and helping change our patterns of behavior better than a list of 25 items we need to remember to do on a regular basis. 

If you’re struggling with credit card problems and stopping the use of your credit cards - you could set fire to them, but I hate the smell of  buring plastic don’t you? 

photo credit: Stargazer95050

Instead, try to focus on changing just one or two things.  Once you master those then you can move on to the next steps. 

I recently read an article from TheStreet.Com called 5 Ways to Dig Yourself Out of Credit Card Debt.  This post is adapted from that article. 

It will be especially important with Black Friday approaching that you have a plan in place to help with your credit cards. 

Here are three simple things you can do to help avoid credit card problems and curb your credit card usage:

1. Delete your cookies

Wait! What? Yes you read that right.  But how does that help? 

Cookies are simply a way your computer remembers information about you to make your internet browsing easier and quicker. 

One thing that your computer stores is your credit card account numbers and information. 

Think how easy is it to jump on a site like Amazon.com, shop for that new book, video game or software you’ve been dying to buy and with a couple clicks of a mouse have the item shipped to your house.

Most people aren’t big dorks like me and have their credit card number memorized  - so by deleting your cookies you at least have to take a few minutes to go dig your credit card out of your wallet and type in the information.

Doing this will probably get old after a while and hopefully will be enough to at least make you pause and think, “Do I really need this?” 

2. Apply the $25 rule

This rule simply says you CANNOT add more than $25 (or $50 or $15 or whatever you amount you decide) to a purchase you were originally going to make.

In other words, say you go to the mall for a new pair of pants, but you notice that sweater you’ve been eyeing for a while is on sale for $29.99.  You need to say, “Sorry sweater, you’re not coming home with me!”  Don’t act like you don’t talk to your clothes!

You should set your target spending amounts BEFORE you go to the store.

Another version of this would be to say you cannot add X amount to your card at any one time – where X is whatever amount you decide ($25, $50, $75 etc.)  This helps avoid those big ticket items that are easy to say to yourself, “Oh, I’ll just pay it off later!”

3. Play the Three Reasons game

This can be one of those games that annoy you to the point of not purchasing the item. 

Basically you need to name three reasons why you should buy that particular item with a credit card.    (Don’t cheat: “Because I don’t have cash on me” is not an answer!).

If you have trouble with cards don’t fool yourself into thinking that getting your cards rewards points is an answer either.

If you can come up with three solid reasons why you should buy with your credit card then go for it.  What you’ll find is that many times it just doesn’t make sense. 

Try these simple rules this holiday season and see what happens with your credit card usage.  What other simple tricks do you use to help curb your credit card use?

Other posts on credit cards you might like:

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Kevin@OutOfYourRut November 23, 2009 at 8:39 am

“Instead, try to focus on changing just one or two things. Once you master those then you can move on to the next steps.”

Well put. We can only handle so much change to our habits and routines at one time. Master one before moving to another. Multi tasking is not only over-rated, it’s also counterproductive most of the time.
.-= Kevin@OutOfYourRut´s last blog ..What Career Will You Have in “Retirement”? =-.

Jason November 23, 2009 at 10:34 am

Kevin – It’s easy to get off track when we focus on too many things at once. Especially when there’s a lot of things that need to be changed, we often want to do a complete overhaul instead of knocking one thing out at a time.
.-= Jason´s last blog ..9 Habits Of The Debt-Free Credit Card User =-.

Miranda November 24, 2009 at 8:05 am

One way I curb my credit card use is to take the money out of my checking account. I’m going to write a check to cover what I spent that month anyway, so I might as well pull it out of the checking account. And then I see how much I’m really spending…
.-= Miranda´s last blog ..What Do You Want Your Children to Get This Holiday Season? =-.

Jason November 24, 2009 at 8:35 am

Great idea Miranda – take it out as you go is a great way to help cut out the risk of racking up some huge balance on the cards!
.-= Jason´s last blog ..What is True Wealth? =-.

Len Penzo November 25, 2009 at 12:54 pm

Good list, Jason. May I add #3a: Ask yourself if you are going to be able to pay off your credit card charge at the end of the month.

If not, then you probably shouldn’t make the purchase!

Len Penzo dot Com
.-= Len Penzo´s last blog ..Talkin’ Turkey: Evaluating My Thanksgiving Dinner Scorecard =-.

Jason November 25, 2009 at 2:08 pm

Good point Len! Even if we only did that one you suggest we’d cut down our card usage immensely!

Money Funk December 3, 2009 at 2:13 pm

Nope, don’t like the smell of burning plastic. That’s why I don’t allow them in my wallet and cut them up into tiny pieces. And when it comes to online purchases, I find sites that take paypal. And if I ever did use a CC on a website, I make sure that I don’t store the information for later purchases. ;)

There is no need for credit cards, especially when I am debt free. :)
.-= Money Funk´s last blog ..5 Winter Hearty Soups =-.

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