The thunder and lightning carrying on outside represented my struggle well. Two evenly matched forces were doing battle inside my head. The need to save money whenever possible, and my solid stance that using a credit card to pay for something should be avoided at all costs.
Let me be clear, I do not think that credit cards themselves are evil. When used correctly, they can be a valuable tool in a person’s financial tool belt that can actually save money. However, I have a huge problem with some of the business practices and policies of credit card companies.
My main problem, however, is simply with my own lack of self-control. I fall too easily into the minimum payment trap. I have every intention of paying the balance in full, but when the bill comes I pay the minimum and keep the rest of the cash for more spending. I also fall too easy into the downward spiral of entitlement spending. I deserve it, I have the means to get it, so I’m going to swipe the card and buy it.
On the other hand, I love to save money. Finding ways to pay less for the items you buy leaves more money in your pocket to use for other purchases, or to save for our future. Who doesn’t like to save money? If someone picked an item from your cart right before the checkout lane and asked if you’d rather pay full price or $10 less, which would you choose?
Which is the exact the dilemma Vonnie and I were faced with Saturday afternoon.
Vonnie was in need of some new clothes, for which we had been setting aside money for quite a while. She was having great luck at one of her favorite stores which was reflected by the near $300 total illuminated on the cash register. We weren’t surprised at the total, nor were we concerned as we had had the money to pay for it. Then the employee dropped the question that began the financial battle royal in my head.
She asked if we would like to save 20% by using their store credit card.
Utilizing my math skills, I calculated that it would save us about $60. I knew we didn’t have a store credit card for that particular store, which added an extra level of intensity to my personal Clash Of Titans playing out in my subconscious. Not only would we have to use a credit card, but we’d have to actually open a new account. My wife and I had a short conference, the result surprising us both.
We opened up a store account, and reduced our bill by just over $58.
We didn’t take our decision lightly, however. We came up with a well thought out plan to ensure that we don’t misuse the account:
Move the Funds: When we returned home, I transferred the exact amount of the bill from our checking account into an unused escrow savings account. By having it sitting in it’s own separate account will remind us of it’s purpose, and reduce the temptation to spend it.
Pay it off: As soon as we’re able to access the account online, we will pay the balance in full. This should be only a few working days according to the employee.
Don’t Carry The Card: When the card comes in the mail, it will be placed in a drawer with the other cards for the few credit lines we have open.
The deal we have is that we will NEVER use a line of credit unless it will save us money, AND we have the cash to pay for it immediately. Since we won’t carry that (or any) credit card in our wallet or purse, using it will have to be a conscious decision to dig the card out of the drawer, hopefully reducing the chances of impulsively using it.
I’m still worried.
We don’t have a good track record with credit cards. We’ve seen the kind of negative impact misusing credit can have on our finances and we definitely do NOT want to go back there. On the other hand, the root of our financial issues was really a lack of communication. We’ve fixed that issue, and discuss our finances often and freely.
The desire to save money was strong that day. Let’s just hope we’re more responsible than we used to be.