Cutting Edge: Resisting the Credit Temptation

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.