Wednesday, June 3, 2009

"Cut " The Plastic (Probably Not What You Think)

Last time, I wrote that we should all add up what we owe on our credit cards. This gives us an idea where we stand presently with regards to debt. Many people have only a vague idea of how much they owe. I remember back when I was deep in debt, I frequently forgot how often I used my credit cards and I had many of them. Ultimately, I didn't know how much debt I was carrying until I finally built up the courage to sit down and add up the balances on each and every card. My best recollection is that I had as many as fourteen credit cards at one time and I owed on most of them.

I felt terrible when I finally realized that I owed several thousand dollars. However, shortly thereafter, I also realized that knowing the exact amount was crucial if I were to stop this terrible trend of unnecessary debting. At first I was guilty, but then I was empowered.

So I suggest that you add up those debts for your benefit. This is not to make you feel guilty or even angry. This is meant to be a "Wake-Up Call." Hopefully, it inspires you to start changing your habits, even if it's just little by little at first.

Now that you know exactly how much you owe, start recording what you buy for the next week. I'm not saying to change your buying habits necessarily, at least not right away. But notice what you buy and more importantly how you pay for it. For example, do you stop for coffee and a muffin every morning? three mornings a week? Do you pay cash? Or do you put it on a credit card? Do you realize that you're doing it?

This is not to condemn; it's to make you aware. So for the next seven days, take a small pad of paper with you and each time you buy something (no matter how relatively inexpensive it may be) write down what it is, how much it costs, and how you paid for it. If you spent cash, write "Cash" next to the purchase. If you put it on a credit card, write "cc" next to it.

After a week, review how you purchased. If you notice that you used credit cards
less often than you usually do, then you are becoming aware that you don't need to use credit cards so often. I suggest that keep that pad with you for at least another week or two and do the same thing.. Remember we are now establishing positive habits and breaking bad ones and it takes time. This also reaffirms/solidifies what you did in week one. In the process, you are convincing yourself that change is possible and that, in fact, it is happening. You'll also see your debt amounts decrease over the course of several months once you drastically lower the number of times you use credit. You have "cut" your use of plastic!!

If, on the other hand, you notice after one week that you used your credit cards as often as you usually do, don't give up. You may have been using credit cards so habitually that it can take a while longer for you to break the habit. Again this is NOT a criticism. Maybe instead of thinking about this as a seven-day experiment, think of it as a ONE-DAY experiment - today. Convince yourself that you will pay cash for EVERYTHING you buy today. And buy what you usually buy for that day - keep it natural. Then notice that you succeeded TODAY. Congratulations!! Now do the same thing tomorrow...and the nex day...and the next day, etc. Soon, you'll notice that a week went by and either you used the card rarely or ideally NOT AT ALL. You, too, have "cut" your use of plastic. Keep doing this day-by-day and see the results!

I'd love to hear from you! Please feel free to comment or ask questions.

Until next time, be positive and see yourself as DEBT-FREE!

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