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  • Kimberly Stone

6 tips to avoid a credit card catastrophe

Credit card debt is like dragging a heavy ball and chain around with you every minute of every day. Who needs more stress in their life? If you cannot pay cash, plan instead to save up the amount needed for the desired item and then make the purchase. In many cases, you might find it harder to let the cash go rather than charging it!

Credit cards should be a convenient short-term way to pay, not a source for everyday spending. Unfortunately, many of us have a hard time staying true to this concept. Instead of paying off the entire balance due on the card each month, we let it grow and pay only the minimum amounts.

If this sounds all too familiar, it's time to start following a few credit card rules:

  1. Pay the entire balance due each month if you can or at least more than your minimum. Set it up as an automatic payment.

  2. If a balance remains unpaid at month's end, do not use the card again.

  3. Do not use more than one credit card at a time.

  4. Do not accept credit cards from retail stores.

  5. Do not pay off one credit card with another.

  6. Do not purchase gifts for people with your credit card. It's often too easy to let your generosity exceed your ability to pay.

Spending habit monitoring tip: Track your credit card charges each month. Make note of which charges are for essentials such as utilities, medical, or housing and which charges are for optional spending, such as restaurants, recreation, or entertainment. This can give you a snapshot of where excess charges are coming from.

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