Live without Credit Cards: 77 Tips

America, we have a credit card problem. The average American family carries more than $8,000 in debt! Don’t be part of the statistic. Here are some tips to help you avoid becoming a slave to your credit card debt.

Stretch Your Income

1. Take charge of your salary. Get organized and develop a spending plan. Yes, a budget. Keep it simple-track the money you’ve earned and spent. At the end of the month, look at it with a critical eye. Where can you cut and save?

2. Work more. If you can, pick up a little overtime. Work an extra shift or bonus-paying project.

3. Take advantage of your employer. Find out about any employer-sponsored benefits available to you. Wellness programs offer discounts on things you may already spend money on, like a gym membership. Many employers also allow you to set away pre-tax dollars for health and child care.

4. Trim your health costs. Medical bills can come unexpectedly and be very painful. Be smart: participate in an employer-sponsored health plan. These plans allow you to protect yourself from health-induced financial ruin by paying for health-care premiums on a tax-free basis.

5. Got a raise? Save it. If you don’t see the money, you’??re not going to miss it. Instead of charging your next major purchase, you can pay cash with the money you saved.

6. Fix your disposable income. Budget a set amount for your disposable income. Instead of using all of your extra money for a trip to Fiji, first work on paying off loans and set money aside in savings. Sure, it’s not fun to sock away extra cash. But won’t that vacation be more relaxing when you know you can truly afford it?

7. Face the facts. Most of us tend to have a certain level of denial towards credit. Face reality for a change. You can’t control your credit cards if you don’t know how much you owe.

Play Smart With Card Companies

8. Lose interest. Try to pay of credit cards that carry the highest interest rate first. But don’t neglect the others. Make at least minimum payments to avoid expensive late fees and damage to your credit.

9. Ask for a better deal on your high rate cards. If you succeed, you’ll soon notice that your minimum payment is lower. But here’??s the twist: instead of paying the lowered amount, continue paying your old high-rate amount. You’ll see your balance shrink faster without any additional squeeze on your budget.

10. Move on for a better deal. Find a zero percent or low-interest credit card, then transfer your high interest balance. Be careful! One late payment can turn your great deal into another high balance.

11. Improve your credit score. If your score’s too low, you may have trouble getting a good deal on loans and credit cards. Designate a period of time within which you’ll work aggressively towards achieving this goal.

12. Pay on time. It’??s important that you avoid penalties and fees. Your pay-back plans will backfire if you are slapped with interest rate hikes and high monthly fees.

13. Automate. Do you have trouble keeping track of all your due dates? Automate your payments so you don’t have to worry about being stuck with late-payment fees.

14. Pay more than the minimum. By paying only the minimum, you’??ll keep yourself in debt for years.

15. Avoid going over your credit limit. Your credit limit is not a goal to be reached. Hit it, and your credit score will suffer. You’ll also get slapped with fees of $40 or more.

16. Emergencies only. Do not to use your credit card unless it is an emergency. Sales at the mall do not count. Use cash or a debit card for everyday purchases.

17. Lose your cards. Once you’ve paid off your credit cards, get rid of all but one, then save it for emergencies. Don’t carry it in your wallet-lock it away to avoid impulse spending.

18. Never take cash out of your credit card. The rate for cash advances is much higher. Plus, you won’t even get a grace period.

19. Read your monthly statements carefully. A cover-to-cover read will ensure that you don’t miss any hidden charges, like recurring fraudulent charges from Jamaica or sneaky credit insurance.

20. Forgo unnecessary insurance. Card companies will try to hard sell theft insurance for their cards. Don’t fall for it-it’s not really needed.

21. Disable disability insurance. The same goes for credit card disability insurance. The only thing this insurance ensures is a fat return for the credit card company.

22. Pay all loan installments on time. Credit card companies will check your credit report to see if you’??ve made any late payments. Take a look at your contract. Chances are, they can raise your interest rate if you make a late payment-to anyone.

Get Auto Smart

Do you pay for commuting costs and gas bills with credit cards? It’s time to take charge and reduce your auto costs.

23. Take the shortest route if you cannot avoid driving. Stay away from traffic hot spots to maximize your gas usage.

24. Downsize. Perhaps you don’t really need a car for each member of the family. Drop your spouse off at work and share a car.

25. Carpool. If you find it difficult to get enough people for a carpool, try the carpool matching services in your community or search online for a local carpool center.

26. Telecommute. This is a great saver. By staying at home, you save on fuel, vehicular wear and tear, your wardrobe and even lunch.

27. Public transportation. Consider using the mass transit system in your area for great savings and a chance to finally catch up on your SuDoku.

28. Get a discount. If you use public transportation, ask for multiple-ride discount cards, monthly passes and any other deals for riders.

29. Ask your boss for help. Some employers offer discounted bus or train passes. This can save you up to $40 a month.

30. Consider cheaper alternatives. See if you can walk or bike instead of using your car.

31. Reduce your auto insurance. If you’re able to drive less, tell your insurance agent. Some companies will reduce your rate if you cut down on your daily commute.

32. Use a fuel-efficient car. Before you purchase a car, consider how much you’??ll have to pay in long-term fuel costs.

33. Blow off some steam. Air conditioning can be a big drain on your auto costs. When stuck in traffic, turn off your air conditioning and open the windows.

34. Shop around for fuel costs. Keep an eye out for a service station that consistently has the lowest price and become a frequent customer.

Save Smart

35. Think small. Take a good look at your spending habits, can you make that latte at home? Even if you can save $50 each month, it’??s worth the effort.

36. Make a habit of saving. If you have a hard time doing it, treat it like a bill or automate payment from your checking account to a savings account.

37. Keep paying. If you’??ve managed to pay off an auto or other loan, don’t stop paying the amount, just make it to yourself instead.

38. Avoid temptation. Turn off the TV and shred sales fliers and mail-order catalogs. In short, stay away from anything that tempts you to spend money and buy unnecessarily.

39. Count to 10. Every time you decide to buy anything on credit, stop awhile and think about it. Is it really worth is?

40. Conserve energy. Every few months, do an energy check around the house. If you find something that needs work, ask yourself: do you need to repair, replace or renew it?

41. If you subscribe, make sure you’re reading it. Avoid magazines you don’??t read. Don’t mindlessly renew subscriptions to magazines you don’t even crack open.

42. Make saving a family affair. It’??s not fun when you are the only one scrimping and saving. Involve every member of your family and let them help you find ways to cut corners.

43. Make it fun. Saving is probably not an enjoyable task for you or for your family. You can make it exciting by planning a treat for the family every time you reach a critical goal. Ensure that whatever you plan is fun, but not expensive, like a day at the zoo or the beach.

44. Put your savings to work. It’s hard to stay motivated if you don’t know what you’re saving for. Make a plan, set a goal and aim to reach it.

Spend Smart

45. Take a hand up. There is no shame in taking freebies. Look for offers and search online for useful items that you can get cheap or for free.

46. Make the Internet your ally when shopping for best deals and prices. You’??ll be able to cover a lot of ground in a short time.

47. Keep your scissors handy. Cut costs by using coupons when you shop. It’??s foolish to spend full price when have the opportunity to pay less.

48. Get some variety. Never frequent only one shop. If you like the produce prices at one store, and the dairy at another, split your shopping trips up. You can trim your food bill by nearly 20 percent with this method.

49. Plan before you shop. Write up a weekly menu and buy only the things on your list.

50. Stock your freezer. Ready-to-eat foods are often unhealthy and expensive. To save money and time, cook in large quantities and freeze.

51. Shop alone. Bringing your kids along can send your bill soaring.

52. Shop when you’re satisfied. Don’t visit the grocery store when you’re hungry. You’ll want to buy  everything you see.

53. If you like a product, say so. Call your favorite product’s manufacturer and tell them how much you enjoy it. Sales reps usually offer cents-off coupons to appreciative customers. It never hurts to ask.

54. Have a calculator handy. Don’t try to compare costs in your head. Use your brainpower for more important questions, like paper versus plastic.

55. Buy in bulk. If you know you’re going to burn through a case of diapers before Junior outgrows them, don’t go running to the store every other day for a 15-pack. Buy more now and save in the long run.

56. Keep all receipts. If the product you buy is faulty or does not meet safety standards, you’ll want to bring it back and get a replacement or refund.

57. Brown bag your lunch. Save your money and your health: wake up 10 minutes early to pack a healthy sandwich.

58. Don’t tie up your income on fixed costs. Live by this rule: debts should never be more than 36 percent of your gross monthly income.

Change Your Attitude

59. Please yourself. You don’t have to keep up with your neighbors. Only make a purchase if you want and need it, not to impress others.

60. Psyche yourself out…of debt. Seasoned gym enthusiasts will tell you that when you’re first starting out, you have to constantly remind yourself to exercise. The same holds true for tightening your budget, you must constantly remind yourself that you cannot afford to spend too much.

61. Change your emotions towards money. Get out of the habit of spending when you feel sad or stressed. Explore ways to feel good without spending money. Try volunteering for a local charity or train for a marathon.

62. Buck society. You don’??t have to "have it all." If you’re happy with your modest home and 10 year old car, keep them. You’ll reap the benefits when they’re paid off. Your neighbors, meanwhile, will be working 60 hour weeks for the rest of their lives to pay for their McMansion.

63. Convert your college-bound children to the save and pay culture. Your kids are sitting ducks for credit card companies. Teach them habits for responsible spending. Start by being a good role model.

Conjure Money From Thin Air

64. Respect your pennies. Spare change is real money. Hang on to it and save it for a rainy day.

65. Plan your fun. Now is the time to open a Christmas savings account. You can set up an automatic deposit from your paycheck. This year, when the holidays arrive, you can have fun without worrying about January’s bills.

66. Get yourself a piggy bank. Every night, make it a habit to empty out your pockets and purse. Put all the change into your piggy bank.

67. Keep the change. Round off your payments from your debit card. This will leave small amounts of extra money in your account. At the end of the month, tally up the difference and transfer it to your savings account.

68. Stop smoking. Quit smoking and save on the cost of cigarettes and higher insurance premiums. If you cannot stop altogether, try cutting your habit in half-it will save over $100 in just a few months.

69. Combine weight loss with saving money. Every time you feel the urge to eat dessert or candy, don’t go to the vending machine. Just put the amount you would have spent into your piggy bank. You’ll get slender while your piggy gets fat!

70. Get your piggy bonded. Every few months, check how much you’ve accrued in your piggy bank. Put the money to work by buying U.S. savings bonds.

Know Your Basics

Staying away from credit cards is only half the battle of financial freedom. When using checking accounts and debit cards, ensure that you don’t end up paying too much.

71. Avoid frills; pay less. It’s silly to pay an unnecessary monthly service charge, minimum balance and per-item service charges. Go for a no-frills, free checking account.

72. Bouncing is not fun. Before you use your check or debit card for a transaction, be sure that you have sufficient funds in your account. A bounced check will cost you dearly.

73. Know more about your bank’s check-processing order. Also, find out how long your bank holds deposits. This knowledge will help you avoid bouncing checks due to timing.

74. Direct deposit. Have your paychecks deposited directly into your account. This will give you faster access to your money.

75. Balancing act. Get into the habit of regularly balancing your checkbook. Keep a record of every check, deposit and electronic fund transfer. This will help you avoid paying insufficient fund and overdraft fees.

76. Keep up with the minimum. If your account requires a minimum average balance, ensure that you are in compliance. Otherwise, you’ll end up paying fees.

77. Keep your debit card handy at all times. While many merchants may not accept checks as payment, debit cards are more widely accepted.

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