ENOUGH About Credit Repair! Let's Talk About DEBT PREVENTION
The time for self-education on the credit game is now, not when debt has already come to you. I'd rather it stay far, far away, thank you very much.
Is there anywhere we can go, either online or in a magazine, that talks about ways to help us, as individuals and consumers, avoid the black hole of credit card debt altogether, rather than just assuming were all in debt right now? If there is, Id like to see it. At the moment, all I read on the subject are tip sections like "Repairing Your Credit," or articles titled "10 Ways to Get Out of Debt." Which are all well and good, I suppose, but wouldnt it be more helpful to everyone if we knew some ways to stay off that slippery slope completely?
As we should know by now, credit card debt is all too easy to incur, and many banks and financial institutions are experts at seducing the American public into it. After all, they have been doing it for many years, and they know exactly what works. However, we as a society allow it to happen when we dont take the time to educate ourselves until we may already have a serious debt problem. The time for self education is now, not when debt has come to you. Speaking for myself, Id rather it stay far, far away, thank you very much.
Before going any further, Im stating for the record that I am not recommending that you shun all credit no matter what. There are times it is necessary for us to utilize credit, but it is also important that we start learning how to use it to our advantage, rather than that of the bank or financial company who issues the credit or should I say debt card. As someone who has "been there, done that" in the past, there are a few things I know now that I wish Id known then. If you really want a credit card, keep them in mind, so youre playing the credit game by your rules, not theirs.
1. A credit card is really a debt card. Author Jerrold Mundis makes an excellent point about credit cards in his book, How to Get Out of Debt, Stay Out of Debt, and Live Prosperously. It is simply this: "A credit card is a hand grenade. It is instant debt." I couldnt agree more with this statement, and Ill take it one step further. Since we owe a debt to somebody the second we use a credit card to make a purchase, why not call it by its correct name; a debt card? It makes a lot of sense, when you think about it. If you begin training yourself to think of a credit card as a debt card, you may be able to keep your debt at an acceptable and controllable amount, rather than allowing your debt to control you.
2. You only need ONE! The biggest mistake consumers tend to make is applying for several credit cards instead of sticking with just one. When you have that Mastercard or Visa card, it is good anywhere. Their commercials never fail to remind us of that, by the way. So although you could apply for more cards, why would you want to? We know of all the tricks the stores and banks pull on us to hook us to get their cards. They constantly tell us how "prestigious" their card is, and how "lucky" we are to be getting their special offer. Right. And maybe theyll try selling us the Brooklyn Bridge while theyre at it. So, once you get your credit card, do what actor David Spade does in his commercials for the Capital One card: keep saying "NO" to the rest. After a while, theyll finally get the message that youre not interested.
3. YOU choose the maximum spending limit. Make it a point to ask your customer service representative what your maximum spending limit will be. If the amount sounds higher than what you would be comfortable with, insist that it be lowered to a figure you like and can manage. If you have your own apartment or home, you already have monthly obligations that must come first. You know, those little pesky things like rent or mortgage payments, utility bills, groceries, clothing and transportation. Things you really dont want to do without. Figure out what your expenses are for these essential items, and how much disposable income you have left after paying your regular bills. You want to keep your hard-earned money for having fun after work and on the weekends, rather than paying it all to the bank.
4. If you still manage to "max out" your card, put it away! Make all your payments in cash, check or use your debit card which takes the amount out of your checking account until you have paid off a good portion, preferably all, of your debt. Dont even think of applying for a new one.
5. Ask yourself, "is it a need or a want?" Every time you consider using your credit card for a purchase, make sure you really need this item first. If its just a want, chances are you really dont need it. If you want it, go ahead. But use your cash, check or debit card to purchase it instead. Or if you dont have the money for it now, why not wait? Odds are, the desired item will still be there when you get your next paycheck.
6. Dont settle for the first card, get the best. Shop around, make calls on their nickel the sales toll free number and ask a lot of questions. Ask what interest rate youll be paying. Ask about all of their fees; late payments, infrequent card use, annual fee and anything else that comes to mind. If they start getting irritated by your questions, thank the rep for his or her time and call around elsewhere. And dont stop until you get a card that you can live with.
7. Read one or all of the following books. You owe it to yourself to read at least one now, rather than later: How to Get Out of Debt, Stay Out of Debt, and Live Prosperously by Jerrold Mundis (my personal favorite), Life Without Debt, by Bob Hammond, and Debt-Proof Living, by Mary Hunt. You could purchase them, or borrow them from your local public library. Its the best kind of financial seminar you can get; from the comfort of your sofa or recliner. And only a few feet away from the refreshments.