Seven years after the Great Recession came to an end, consumer credit card use is on the rise. Americans didn’t rush to become saddled with debt again, but they’ve slowly made their way back. As of the second quarter of 2016, Americans’ household debt skyrocketed by $35 billion to just over $12 trillion, primarily driven by credit card use, according to the New York Federal Reserve.
Meanwhile, Christmas is just around the corner, and debt balances aren’t likely to shrink any time soon. The average American household tacked on nearly $1,000 in credit card debt in 2014. This might not sound like a lot, but consider a 15 percent interest rate and minimum monthly payments of $25. A balance like this would take you a decade to conquer. In 2016, consumers plan to spend more than $1,100 on holiday purchases.
So what can you do to be sure not to tip the scales with debt in your home? Develop discipline, and you will be OK. Here are some tips.
Credit Card Freeze
No, we’re not talking about calling up the bank and asking them to freeze your credit limit. We’re talking about literally putting your credit cards on ice. Find a Tupperware container in your kitchen, one that you seldom use. Fill it with water and drop your credit cards inside. Next, put the container in the freezer and let the appliance work its magic.
Chances are there an opportunity will present itself to you in the not-too-distant future to use your credit cards. To do so, you’ll have to remove the frozen cards from the freezer and wait for them to thaw before you make any purchase.
Meanwhile, while the ice is melting, the temptation to use the card for something you don’t really need anyway could subside. If the urge remains once the cards are free, here’s another trick before you take the plunge into more debt.
Identify someone in your life who you can be accountable to for purchases. Perhaps while the ice is melting use the opportunity to reach out to the individual you’ve selected. This will give you another chance to resist the urge to spend once the cards are freed up from the ice.
Last but not least, keep track of your spending this holiday season. Don’t fall for store-brand credit cards if you are not a frequent shopper at the retailer as otherwise; you could fall into a trap of spending just to qualify for rewards and discounts.
Go on a “Cashless” Diet
Here’s another savvy option. Leave your credit cards at home and instead use your debit card for all purchases, making sure not to go over your budget limit. This has the benefit of allowing you to track everything you spend, without racking up more debt.
Having a plan in place, particularly for the holidays, can prevent you from tacking on more debt than you can handle. Contact us at TetonPines Financial to discuss your plan of action today.