So, I’ve used credit cards irresponsibly in the past. There is no question of that.
And, it has been a very long time (if one can call multiple years a long time) since I have done that. It could be said I have seen the error of my ways and learned from it. That’s my story at least.
And I stand here looking at a future conundrum. Not a current conundrum, because there is no way I am going to start using a credit card right now while I am still in credit card debt, no matter how organized or efficient I might think I could be at it.
But at some point in the future, I will have no credit card debt. And I might, then, start using a credit card again.
Say it isn’t so!
This is what I keep thinking about. I started this blog in part to help myself learn about and make better financial decisions. And I think, in many ways, I am accomplishing that. I’ve become better at tracking my money. I’m much better at not spending it. I’ve increased the amount I snowflake by a whole lot. And I have learned a lot of things about…. credit cards. Some bad, but some potential good too.
It is all about my coupon/rebate/freebie loving nature. The word is… cashback. Say it with me…. cashback.
Doesn’t that sound so… nice? Enticing? Happy? I know it is supposed to. I know it is supposed to give me nice happy warm feelings of gooeyness right inside my stomach. Cash………back.
If I am going to spend money anyway (which I am, I mean, one needs to eat) and I can get basically a rebate on everything I buy in the form of 1-5% (depending on the car and the purchase) back in cash at a later date well…. wouldn’t that be a *good* thing? Wouldn’t that help me out?
But what about all those studies you hear about that when you use a credit card, you inherently spend more? I believe that it is generally true. I know for myself, before I started the zero-based budget and completely tracking all my spending, I was definitely spending more with my debit card than I would have if I was carrying cash. The flip side to that is I may not have spent as much at the point of sale carrying cash, but when I carry cash I tend to be sucked in to those little purchases, the latte factor if you will. I never bought more actual lattes than when I used to carry spare cash in my car ashtray and I drove past a Starbucks taking my son to and from preschool. So I may spend less at the grocery store if I have cash, but I spend any change on a pretzel on the way out and a vanilla half-caf latte the next morning when I am barely awake.
Since I have started the “hard-core” budgeting and the zero-based every dollar working for me philosophy though, I have reduced overall spending. I may still spend too much at the grocery store, but I definitely pay more towards my debt every month and have more available cash left over to do so. So I could handle a credit card, right? I mean, I’m doing this right now with a debit card with is also a bitty piece of happy plastic….
I guess it comes down to… do I feel credit cards are inherently evil? Do I think I could behave responsibly with them and make *credit* work for me in the same way I want to make *cash* work for me? Do I really believe I have changed in the core of my nature? And is the cashback (I still love the word….) worth it?
I don’t know yet. I still have at least a year to find out though. The best lessons take the longest I guess.