Over the past month or so, I’ve gone into detail about some of the specific choices of our debt reduction journey, and why we’ve decided to do the things that we do in the way that we do them. I’ve talked about saving for college, paying off a 0% credit card well before the 0% offer elapses, the $1000 emergency fund, and paying off debts in interest order vs size order. And yes, I still believe that the $1000 emergency fund was the right choice for us at the time we made it, even with the recent emergency-fund-draining car problems.
The next personal choice I’ll discuss might be one of the most polarizing, or it might not really make a difference to anyone – who knows. I carry my credit cards in my wallet. In fact, so does my spouse. I have taken them out on occasion and kept them in my drawer, usually when I’ve felt like I “should” because that is the prevailing wisdom when you’re getting out of debt, but I’ve always put them back. I have three basic reasons, one of which my spouse actually shares with me.
I’ll start of with the one I think is kind of the oddest, but yet it is a reason anyway. If I have them in my wallet – I feel like I have them under my control. They aren’t just randomly stashed somewhere, or destroyed and the numbers are just out there in the universe. I know where they are, and I know where to find them. This makes me feel less nervous about my identity being stolen. It may sound strange, but it is true. If the numbers were just out there and I had no tangible record of them, I feel like they are more vulnerable to being ripped off. Honestly, typing that out, it seems odd, but it is how I feel. My spouse had his identity stolen several years ago and I’m still not over it. However, this isn’t the reason my spouse carries his.
Second, honestly, I just don’t need to take them out to not use them. Different people have different ways they need to deal with things. For me, I was okay just deciding not to use them anymore. I was never really an “impulse” credit user. I always knew before I even started shopping if I was going to use credit or not. I just wasn’t a responsible user. And I did a whole lot more damage to myself with those credit card convenience checks than I ever did with the actual card.
Third, they serve their purpose as the “just in case” strategy. And I’m not talking about as an emergency fund – even when we decided to use credit in this recent emergency, we didn’t do it impulsively by whipping out one of our credit cards, it was a deliberate process that ended up not involving any of our existing cards. The “just in case” I mean is “just in case” our debit card stops working. This actually did happen, and we were fortunate enough to have it resolved before we would have had to use credit, but if it had happened when we were already on our trip instead of just starting on our trip, we might not have been so fortunate. At Gather Little By Little, glblguy talks about setting up a second bank account to serve this same purpose, and that might be something I choose instead in the future. At this moment, I’m still balancing keeping as little money as possible in my pocket and as much of it thrown at debt reduction as I can, and I think that the debit card not working is unlikely enough that I’d rather use my credit card as the backup plan. Oh and for those keeping score, this is the reason my spouse carries his.
In summary, I feel better knowing exactly where they are and honestly, I don’t think about them all that often. I think about the debt, but the cards themselves? I don’t give them much thought. So for me, being in my wallet doesn’t make their use more likely to happen. To each, indeed, their own.
This does not mean I think everyone should carry their credit cards. We all have our own spending triggers, and the key to navigating this is knowing what yours are and avoiding them. I can’t carry cash. I just spend it on randomness. I’d end up much further in debt if I just took all my money as cash and carried it around. I’d end up having to use credit to pay my bills and all would not go well. That’s the devil I have to eventually conquer.
Are you in debt? Do you carry your cards? Or have they gone through the shredder? Leave a comment and let me know!