For years, friends have been telling me about the benefits of credit card rewards and I balked at the idea. Credit cards are evil after all. At least that’s what my 15+ years of experience with them had taught me. That was until I realized they were only a vehicle for my spontaneous whims. A credit card was the equivalent to a bag of chips for me. It was an open invitation to enjoy the entire bag, or in this case, max out my spending limit. The evil thoughts I had about credit cards were a result of my own inability to restrain myself. Just like that empty bag of chips, I was left with a mountain of debt (or extra pounds) while my heart started to flutter at the sight of another credit application.
During college, I lived at home with my parents and was able to work part-time, pulling in a decent amount of money. I was young, had a new Mustang, and more money than I knew what to do with it. I’ll never forget the day I received my first credit application. It was from Discover and they wanted me! I felt worthy and like I’d finally arrived into adulthood. I submitted the application and within a couple of weeks received my plastic. That Christmas, I went all out! Do I remember what I bought? No. Do those I bought gifts for remember what I bought them? Probably not. Yet by the time February rolled around, just four months after applying for the card, I had maxed it out. I’d officially entered dangerous territory without even knowing it. I didn’t need to use my credit card for that lavish Christmas. If I had just saved for a couple of months, I would have been able to pay all cash.
That February when I received the credit card statement, my jaw hit the floor and I was quickly slapped up side the head with reality. My previous abundant paycheck was now tied up in a credit card payment and there wasn’t anything in return. I had already ridden that cloud to the point of dissemination. The buying high was gone and I was left with buyers remorse and nothing to show for it. Did my family or friends love me more because of the gifts I bought them? No. Duh! What was the point? Show gratitude but at the expense of my future financial freedom.
I’m sad to say that this cycle continued for many years and it’s now, in my 30s, that I’m realizing that credit cards aren’t evil. It’s how I managed them that created my negative relationship with them. The Boof and I are in the midst of digging ourselves out of debt. We’ve put a spending freeze on most of our cards, but continue to use the card that provides us with the greatest benefit – travel reimbursement. Travel is a necessity in our family. Hotel stays, gas, airfare – they can all add up fast. We’ve done a lot of work to turn our perspective around and we are now making our credit cards work for us. We use one card to pay normal monthly expenses and immediately pay them off each month. Doing this has paid for our anniversary trip for the past two years. More on that later.
So if you are like me and think that credit cards are evil, take some time and figure out why you think so. Is it the way you use them? It’s time to take back control of your financial future and make credit cards work for you.