Lisa Whitley — You have heard it before, and so forgive me for repeating the point: When you pay with cash, you are less likely to overspend. You need not believe me; there is ample research behind this.
Are you the classic credit card “convenience” user? That term refers to someone who pays their entire balance off in full every single month, never paying interest charges. Some do this in order to gain credit card rewards (cash back, airline miles, gift cards, etc.), and others do it simply for the, well, convenience. Even with full knowledge that this is perhaps not an optimal financial behavior.
I am not going to tell you to stop. Full confession: I am that convenience credit card user. And I am every bit as likely as you are to overspend as a result of this. So here is my pro tip: Look at your credit card balance regularly throughout the month, at least every week and ideally twice a week. A smartphone app makes this simple to do. You know the feeling…the billing statement comes and while you are able to pay it in full, you are nevertheless surprised, or even shocked, by the sum. How did that happen?
Check in with yourself. Checking in early and often allows you to put a brake on your spending. Checking in builds mindfulness. Likely you carry a vague idea in your head of what your monthly bill ought to look like. If your check-in shows that you are on a path that will result in a much higher balance, you have the opportunity to pull back before the billing cycle ends.
Some people go further…paying off their credit card balance every week or every two weeks, when they receive their paycheck. Who says that just because the credit card company only sends the bill once a month that you have to follow their schedule? This can be a great way to get closer to a cash-like experience with your credit card.
None of us have perfect financial behaviors. And while I do not want to give you an excuse to “misbehave”, it is important to recognize where we fall short so that we can tweak the “ideal” advice to get us closer to our goals.
Lisa is an Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC) leveraging her professional and educational experience in finance and economics. Lisa’s 18-year career in international development has given her the opportunity to appreciate the value of diverse societies, and to work across cultures to improve lives. As an AFC, she plans to continue that perspective, working with all households to achieve financial wellness.