My love/hate relationship with credit cards

Once upon a time, I had credit cards… A LOT of credit cards. I had one for every store in town, plus the Costco card, several visas, and so on. I could get one, so why not? I used every single one when there was still month at the end of the money. The splurge for having a great day… It didn’t take long until not only was our income not quite enough, then it became MUCH less than enough, with the credit card payments added in. It’s the worst feeling in the world… when you have to decide which bills are going to be lucky enough to get paid that month. Should I pay my car insurance or buy groceries? That’s when the depression sets in, and the stress and worry takes over.

Fast forward several years, and my credit cards are finally all paid off, thanks to some very creative financial means. I have closed several of my credit card accounts. I want to close them all, honestly. They’re nothing but trouble for me.

This is where my love/hate relationship comes into play. Credit cards have their place, and there are so many things in our lives that require one… rental cars, hotels, online shopping, among a variety of others. My problem, however, is that I have a very hard time finding balance when using them. I have them stashed in a secret place in my home. This way there is no way for temptation when I am in town. Online is a whole different thing entirely. I have given myself an allowance every month. I got a prepaid visa credit card from Walmart.  This card gives me peace of mind when I shop online, and doesn’t allow me to go over my budget. Along with that, if by chance my information gets stolen, there are limited funds available. It depends on which card you choose, but, the one I chose has a $3 monthly fee, along with a $3 fee when you have funds added. For me, $6/month is a small price to pay for piece of mind and control of my spending. My address is assigned to the card, so any online purchases are possible, unlike prepaid visa gift cards.

The one thing that my husband talked me into was the Amazon rewards credit card. I was hesitant. I didn’t want another credit card. I made a deal with him. We were going to be making a larger purchase on Amazon, and getting this card would not only give us $70 off that large purchase, but also pay us 5% back. If I use it for gas, I get 3% back. Anything else, I get 1%. That was hard to pass up. I closed several of my other credit card accounts to offset this one. Some say that closing accounts can damage your credit score. Some say that it doesn’t. I really don’t care either way. Honestly, I’m not planning on making any big purchases for at least the next 5 years, so I’d rather close them, and build my credit back up. I don’t intend to use it for everything. I will however, use it for my Amazon and gas purchases. I get points that I can use on Amazon on the next billing cycle. walmart-moneycard-preferred FREE MONEY! I’ll make it a point to pay that credit card every week, if it has been used. If I don’t have the money in my account to pay cash, I won’t buy it. Period.

I get an offer to open an account at every store I go to.  I’ll save money, they say. As hard as it is for me to say no when they dangle the carrot of savings in front of me, I simply say, “No thanks. I get in too much trouble that way”. They smile knowingly, and then the little impulsive, hazardous moment passes. Whew!

What it comes down to is this…  If you have credit cards, that, in itself isn’t bad. When they start to become a habit and a necessity, that’s when problems start to arise. I urge you to take a step back and really look at your financial habits. See if there’s an alternative method that can better your financial future.

YOU ARE IN CHARGE of your financial future.  Make it work for you!

 

Getting rid of clutter

There is nothing more frustrating than getting my hands on a potentially informative “how to” book, only to find upon completion, that I have learned absolutely nothing new. I have high hopes that there will be great insight for making my minimalist hopes a reality. I need an easy, realistic, virtually pain free, “baby steps” process to make all my dreams come true. I need something to be spelled out for me and tell me exactly what to do. I look around me, see all the stuff, and immediately say, “Nope. I can’t do this”. I have failed before I have even started.

I am definitely NOT a hoarder. I have, however, inherited the pack-rat gene. (Obstacle #1) Yep, it’s true. Admitting the problem is the first step to recovery, am I right?! It has taken me a very long time to get a grip on it. At first, I was in denial. I couldn’t possibly do what my parents AND grandparents did. Then, through some in depth soul-searching, my eyes were opened, and all my stuff stared me down and slapped me in the face. Oh. My. Gosh. I hold onto stuff, “just in case”, exactly like they did. I didn’t think it was a problem, until it WAS a problem. At that point, I decided I needed to dig in and get rid of things. Obstacle #2- I have a great deal of emotional attachment to my stuff. I have good reason to be this way. I have a pretty small family, and both my parents have passed on. I am so afraid that if I get rid of things, I am going to forget all the memories that go with them. Most of these things have no real value to anyone but me. Obstacle #3- I have things set aside for all those amazing creative, craftsy ideas that are floating around in my head. I have A LOT of great ideas, and they always reveal themselves when I lie down for bed, or wake me up at 2:30 in the morning. Seriously. So now, I have piles, bins, and baskets stuffed full of these projects in various stages of completion. Ostacle #4- I also have piles of broken things that I feel I can fix. I am a handy person. I love to fix things. I’m good at fixing things. I SHOULD fix the things.

My tips for MY obstacles seem to work for me. I would love to think that they will work for everyone, but, we know how that goes. If you haven’t tried them, by all means, give it a try. It might surprise you.

Obstacle #1- Admitting you have too much stuff is a HUGE deal. You’ve recognized it. Now you notice all that stuff sitting around.That’s good! It’s time to watch it go away.

Obstacle #2- When it comes to MY emotional obstacles, I decided that taking a digital picture(s) of the item, and getting rid of the actual item will still allow me to recollect the memory associated with the item without actually having the item IN MY HOUSE. It works, and I love it.

Obstacle #3- This one was one of the hardest for me. I have these visions of amazing projects becoming even more amazing things I will cherish forever….  HA! I have such a giant pile of projects, I don’t think I’ll be done by the time I’m ready to retire. Having said that, I have become very brutal with my decisions of what to keep. Honestly, I threw away probably 100 projects I wanted to do. Why? I have had some of these projects since before I moved into my current home… 18 YEARS AGO. Yep, you guessed it. Buh-bye! It’s not going to happen if it hasn’t by now.

Obstacle #4- This obstacle very closely resembles obstacle #3. Most of the items in my “to fix” bin have been there for years. My intentions for wanting to fix these things is warranted, but, obviously, I haven’t missed it enough to bother with fixing, so, out it goes. It feels good, doesn’t it? I’m breathing a deep sigh of relief right now.

I am going to spell it out for YOU and tell YOU what to do. I have two ideas that will rock your world. The first one is “5 things”. I want you to commit to getting rid of 5 things a day. That isn’t hard to do. It could be as simple as those sad socks that lost their mate a year ago, or the ink pen that writes terribly but is oh-so cute. Seriously, throw it away. Just let it happen! 5 THINGS will change you! If you started today, by the end of the year you would have 1,825 less things! Really!

Here’s idea number two… My friend introduced me to a little pot of gold… two simple words…  POWER HOUR.  This may not seem all that great, but, this will soon be your best friend. Imagine an entire phone free, facebook free, snapchat free hour, listening to your most motivational music, focusing on one thing, and taming the beast. Throw things away. Clean. Organize. Exercise. For one incredibly focused hour. Then, at the end of your hour, look around at what you’ve done and celebrate! You deserve it! By all means, if you feel like continuing, do it! You don’t have to though, and that’s okay. It’s progress.

My take on the “how to” of decluttering works for me. I have gotten rid of so many things! I literally breathe a sigh of relief when I look around and things have a home. I feel less stressed. That, my friends, is what it’s all about.