The Weird Way To Cut Credit Card Debt
Tom Kerr writing about credit card debt…
After the well-publicized Equifax hack, I mentioned that implementing a credit freeze can be a great way to protect yourself from identity theft.
After Equifax let criminals steal the financial data of millions of Americans, they promised…while being grilled by Congress…to do better.
They asked you to trust them again, without really explaining why, and to take advantage of their customer service solutions…some of which cost you a subscriber fee.
But already they’ve removed one of their customer service help pages to investigate reports that it was the target of yet another hack.
That made me glad I froze my Equifax files and steered clear of their website…so I didn’t risk jumping out of the frying pan and straight into the fire.
But today I realized that there is another compelling reason to institute a credit freeze, and it has nothing to do with cyber threats.
Following the typically frantic and expensive holiday shopping season, a credit freeze seems like a good way to beat impluse shopping.
Where I come from, that’s real money.I’m not just talking about the impulse to buy a bar of chocolate or a $30 cigar. A recent study found that one out of every 10 people will make an impulsive purchase costing them a thousand dollars or more.
The research also revealed that men who have had a few drinks can be the most vulnerable to overspending on a whim.
But one of the most effective ways to avoid the quicksand of debt is to momentarily put your “buy now” impulses on pause. That’s the budgetary equivalent of taking a deep breath and counting to 10 before you do something you might regret.
Experts in behavioral economics at Duke University join me in recommending the credit freeze technique.
But I use the term “freeze” as a figure of speech…whereas they want you to literally freeze your credit cards. Take your plastic out of your wallet, put it in a sandwich bag filled with water, and then toss that into the freezer – next to the frozen peas, vodka, and the fish you caught last time you went to the lake.
There’s method in their madness. To use a credit card that’s inside of a block of ice, you have to exercise a modicum of patience…as it slowly thaws on your kitchen counter.
You have to look before you leap.
I’m old enough to remember when they invented Visa, American Express, and MasterCard. Ever since then, credit cards issuers have connived to relieve us of that little reality check you feel when you splurge on something useless. The kind of thing that just clutters up your house and blows-up your budget. They want to deprive you of your own sense of individual financial responsibility…and mold you into a modern indentured servant or shopaholic zombie.
Spending your cash with authentic self-direction and genuine intent is a whole different experience.
You don’t have to wait a month for your credit card statement to arrive to find out that you’re in the hole. Purchasing becomes more than just a knee-jerk, Pavlovian response you’ve been programmed to act upon by slick psychological marketing campaigns. You aren’t manipulated by sneakily invasive advertising…and you don’t need an ice trick to keep your budget from doing a melt-down.
You’ll have that innate sense of personal pride and satisfaction that so many people wish they could regain. You’ll know what your forefathers knew…that when you put in an honest day’s work, doing what you enjoy, you earn more than money. You earn the freedom to spend what you made the old-fashioned, sensible way…with no buyer’s remorse or financial puppet strings attached.
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