A simple trick to get control of credit card debt

Living Without Plastic

by Chantelle Hosner

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For years, I have been playing the credit card game. I thought myself pretty darn smart for the tricks I learned to manipulate the system. I actually benefited from using cards. I cashed rebate checks regularly for buying the things we needed anyway and checks for trying "free insurance." I collected tons of free stuff from joining clubs. Yes, my new found skills for juggling interest rates and bringing in extra income were nearing perfection.

However, the problem was that we were always short on cash. Our spending budget paid our monthly credit card balances, and because I didn't want to pay any interest, I was forced to pay the bill in whole. Therefore, whenever we needed anything, we used our cards. It created a terrible cycle. And frankly we were sick of always being broke.

So, a few months ago, I canceled our credit cards. My husband handed over his Visa without much fight, his MasterCard without a flinch. I pried the Cabela's card from his white knuckles and together we chopped up our plastic money.

The first month was torture. Seriously. I still had to pay off our old balances so spending was tight. No more quick spending sprees at the grocery store. I had to follow the list. With a credit card (or check for that matter), it's easy to go a few bucks or more over budget. But with cash, who hasn't had to put a thing or two back? I actually found myself crossing things off the list at the last minute. And you know what I found?

Would you like to pay off your credit cards in less time for less money?

I can live without another can of oranges! It is possible to spend less than thirty bucks at the Dollar Store. This is the point. We can control our spending by using cash. Going on a double date needn't be so complicated. We didn't need to pay for everyone's dinner on our card so they could pay us cash so we could have money at the movies. We weren't broke, just penniless.

As for the extra income credit cards generated, it's not completely gone. We saved one card for emergencies and big purchases. I can still earn rebates. I just don't have to be broke to do it. I save enough to make up for the rest of the lost income by not buying. And no one even misses the fifth choice of cereal.

Chantelle Hosner is a fanatically frugal freelance writer in Michigan.

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