5 Ways to Control Impulsive Credit Card Spending

Credit cards are nothing if not a temptation to spend money you don’t really have. Many people make the mistake of thinking that credit is the same as cash, but where cash is an asset, credit spending equates to taking on debt. So in fact, the two are polar opposites. And yet, it is certainly more convenient to carry a credit card than cash, and it’s a lot easier to track your spending thanks to a monthly bill that lists all of your purchases. Plus, credit spending helps to improve your credit score, provided you can pay it in a timely manner. The problem is that we often spend on credit without thought for how we’re going to pay it back. And this is how interest accumulates and we end up digging ourselves deeper and deeper into debt. It’s a vicious cycle, but one that can be easily avoided so long as you develop wise spending habits and control impulsive credit card spending. Here are a few tips to enjoy the benefits of credit without getting in over your head.

  1. Keep a low limit. You can’t spend more than you have available, so if you know you can only afford to pay a certain amount every month, set your credit limit accordingly. And if your creditor insists on raising your limit or refuses to lower it as requested, simply pay off the card, close your account, and go with another credit provider that is willing to offer the terms you prefer.
  2. Limit spending. This sounds pretty obvious, but rather than limiting the amount of money you spend on your credit card, limit the number of places or items you purchase. For example, you might use your credit card only at the grocery store or the gas station. Or you might use it to pay your utility bills. If you only use your card for specific purchases every month, you should have no trouble paying it off (since you’d make these purchases anyway and they’re probably part of your budget already). And you can pay your bill in full and continue to build your credit without having to pay interest on unnecessary purchases.
  3. Steer clear of temptation. There are likely certain stores or specific items that are more likely to make you ignore your spending limits and splurge. Perhaps you can’t go into a department store without finding a cute little outfit that you absolutely can’t live without. Or maybe you can’t control yourself in a hardware store, picking up items for home improvement projects that you’ll really never get to. If you know what triggers your impulse spending you can find ways to avoid situations where you’ll be tempted to make unnecessary purchases.
  4. Consolidate and cut up your cards. If you’re having trouble controlling spending where your credit cards are concerned, your best bet is to get rid of them. Of course, you need at least one card on hand for emergencies or large purchases like airline tickets, just for example. So figure out which card offers the lowest interest rate and the best rewards and pay it down. Then transfer all of your other balances to that card, cancelling accounts and cutting up cards as you go, until you only have the one card left. And if you still have an issue with impulse control, keep the card locked up at home for emergencies only, or give it to your spouse to hold for you.
  5. Use cash for impulse buys. If you simply can’t seem to get your credit card spending habits in check, perhaps it’s better if you switch to a cash-only system, especially for impulse buys. Just give yourself a weekly or monthly allowance in cash and spend it until it’s gone. If nothing else, this will definitely decrease your credit card spending. But it will also teach you how to track and budget your funds. If you know you’ll need a dress for an event at the end of the month, you can’t blow all your fun money on a pair of shoes you really don’t need. And you’ll never spend more than you can afford if you stick to this system.

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