As the holidays roll around, more and more people will be swiping their plastic credit cards to purchase gifts for everyone on their list. After working in the retail industry for a number of years, I often noticed an increase in the amount of people who would use credit cards during the holiday season. I mean, I totally understand circumstances where you may need your credit card to buy the necessities that you cannot immediately afford, like food, but it also provides a false sense of wealth in those who depend on it more than they should. Unlike the physical cash that you have in your wallet, credit from the bank is not tangible. The card in which the credit is kept may be tangible, but the “money” contained within it is not. Subconsciously, the lack of a physical barrier between us and the “cash” often promotes over-spending of money that we do not actually have.
As consumers, this reality should prompt us to differentiate between the things that we need, and the things that we want. Unfortunately, credit cards help blur this line by assuring us that we do have the “money” to buy the things that we “want”. The result – thousands of people are plunged into a debt that can be very difficult to get out of. Suddenly, the television that you thought you could afford on credit, is not something that you can pay for in reality. Before making any purchase on credit that is not considered a “need”, make sure you can pay it off as soon as possible! The longer you go without paying it off, or at least paying the minimum, the more interest it will accumulate. Thus, it will be harder for you to pay down overtime. Failing to make payments will also affect your overall credit score, making it difficult to get a loan in the future.
The key to maintaining a good balance between your credit and cash expenditures is knowing the difference between a want, and a need. Ask yourself, based on your income, what can you afford strictly on cash? If your bill's take up most of your income, don't make outrageous purchases on credit. Since most of your cash will be tied up in bills, there will be none left to pay down the credit. Strike a good balance between the two so you don't loose everything to money that technically “doesn't exist”.