Cutting Edge: Resisting the Credit Temptation

What to do when you can't say no

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Around mid-December, I promised myself I would pay off my credit card by the New Year and refrain from using it to make any more purchases (unless I was in dire need). Things were going well. I had a zero balance on my card and no impulse to pull that plastic sucker out–that is, until I “needed” a new digital camera.

It was an investment, I rationalized, weighing out the pros and cons of purchasing the camera at that very moment. I wanted to test out some new multimedia stuff I hoped to eventually use at work and an upcoming event would be the perfect opportunity. I devised a repayment strategy–since I did not want to pay interest–planning to put half down one pay period and the other half down the following pay period.

Weeks later, I wondered, how do you resist the temptation to make purchases on your card when there’s no emergency?

Jessie Abercrombie, a financial planner at Edward Jones Investment in Dallas, says if you can’t control an impulse (or need to make an “investment”) figure out what you can cut for the rest of the week so you can pay cash for the item. “Go a whole week and see where you typically spend money,” he says, urging card holders to take the seven-day challenge. Take care to record all your spending, keep every receipt and add up all your expenses at the end of the week.

“Look at whichever one of those things you’re typically doing everyday and reduce your exposure to that activity,” Abercrombie says. If you do this now, when you get the urge for a little retail therapy or that impulse seafood dinner, you’ll automatically know what item you will need to cut for the next seven days so you won’t use your card for the purchase. In my case, a quiet weekend with family instead of going out with friends, and one less trip to the salon would definitely keep me from whipping out the plastic.

Have you taken a vow against credit card usage? If so, how do you fight off the urge to spend? If you still use credit cards, how do you control–or lose control–of your spending?

Renita Burns is a staff writer at Black Enterprise.

  • Thank you for making it plain. The truth is most people can’t distinguish between wants and needs and so we end up buying any and everything. Personally, I feel we need to cut up all the plastic and go back to paying with C-A-S-H. I know it’s dirty word, but when you only carry a limited amount of cash, you are not able to succumb to every impulse. I actually wrote a fictionalized account of a young black woman who is a victim of the credit crunch, “DIVA BY DEFAULT” ( It is loosely based on my personal experience with credit. I have even gone back to saving money in a jar. When you can actually “watch” your money grow, you are less inclined to want to waste it for unnecessary purchases. You are lucky that you were able to pay off your purchase quickly, but for too many people, especially Black women, the message of fiscal responsibility has still not sunken in. Thanks for writing about this-it is very necessary.

    • CJAYJR

      What I find helps me is that I get paid twice a month so I make payments on my credit card bill twice a month too. Why wait and pay the bill only once a month before the due date. Paying twice a month will reduce you interest and pay off your debt faster. Just because there is a due date do not mean you cannot make another payment before that date or right after if you’ve made youre initial payment before the due date. So try paying your credit card bill twice instead of just once!

  • It took the real estate bust to teach me a lesson. Credit went south and as a result I had to learn how to live with no credit. It’s been a great teacher. The few cards that remain, have been shredded. When the true emergency comes where it’s needed I can request for a replacement and when it arrives, we’ll see if it still is an emergency.

  • Renita Burns

    @Eugene Unfortunately, you are not alone. It takes a very traumatic experience for many to become more financially astute. At least you are more aware now. How long have you been living without credit cards? It’s funny how ingrained those pieces of plastic have become in our lives. For someone to say they are living without credit cards in our society almost sounds foreign.

    @CJAYJR I agree, the twice a month method is the best. Depending on how much you owe you can avoid finance charges and get the bill paid off twice as fast. whew. I just paid off that camera and I am really going to hide that card now.

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