Did you know that the cost of living in this country overtook household income a little over twelve years ago? This is a recipe for debt. It is also a recipe for disaster. More than interest, there is but one contributing factor that we consistently overlook: ourselves. For those who are honest with themselves, this may not be much of a revelation. However, once you realize how greatly underestimated or underreported debts tend to be when coming from the lender, it will hopefully become even more apparent how key your role is in reversing the destructive effect of debt.
There is a stigma attached to debt. Who can deny it? Apparently, lenders have no problem. In 2013, based on figures from the Federal Reserve Bank, lenders reported 155% less credit card debt than what borrowers reported. So, be honest with yourself. Empower yourself to impose the following restrictions on yourself:
No Minimum Payments!
It is a classic delusion that sadly signifies adulthood for so many. Credit companies set the monthly goal low. Just being able to “pay the bills” delivers a temporary measure of satisfaction. One day, you realize that you have been stuffing someone’s pockets and your credit card balance has barely changed. The delusion is gone. True adulthood sinks in. The good news is that it is never too late to stop paying just the minimum. In fact, you should always pay more than the minimum. Lenders do not arrive at a minimum payment with your best interest in mind. There is interest to be charged on every cent you owe. So, take control of your financial fate by setting your own limits based on what you can actually afford. Once your balance drops to that figure, pay it in full. Then, lay off using the card for a while.
No Cash Advances!
Remember when you used to have to actually enter a bank to take money out? If you do, the fact that machines stuffed with cash exist in every corner convenience store may still be wondrous. The rude awakening, of course, is always going to be those service fees. Those are just the ones that apply to debit cards. Of course, now there are cash advances. They incur separate fees, typically 3% of the amount you took out. On top of that, credit card companies will hit cash advances with interest rates of 25% or higher as soon as you take them out. If you are unable to pay these immediately, they have a tendency to become permanent fixtures in your monthly statement.
By nature, cash advances are emergencies. Just think of what other resources you may have under such circumstances. For one, if your reason for needing the cash advance does not warrant tapping your usual resources, it is not worth taking that cash out then, is it? If it truly is an emergency, be sure to exhaust other resources before incurring more debt. A personal loan from a friend or family member will hopefully come with less interest than a cash advance from a credit card company.
No Foreign Transaction Fees!
If you are buried in credit card debt, it may not be the right time to start travelling the world. That is not to say that you have to be debt-free in order to do so. Just be sure your card does not hit you with foreign transaction fees when you travel abroad or make a purchase from an international retailer. Of course, more frugal measures would go a long way in terms of refraining from incurring more credit card debt. Smart travel budgeting is recommended even if you do not own a credit card.
No Maximum Limits!
There can only be one thing worse than being stuck in a hole and that has to be the knowledge that the hole can always grow deeper. Once you max out your credit card, you can end up stuck with that debt for decades if you stick to those minimum payments. If only that was the worst news regarding maxing out your credit card! Credit bureaus do not take kindly to maxed out credit cards. Credit card debt could be just your private business. Once you hit that maximum limit, it becomes the business of employers, landlords and anyone else with access to your credit report.