Do you remember Veruca Salt, the spoiled rich girl from the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? You know, the girl who yells at her father, “I want it now!” And her clueless, abiding father would get her whatever she wanted, which consequently did more harm than good.
Well, we all have one of those fathers. Not the one that we buy a Father’s Day card for every year, but one that we carry in our wallet. One that typically says yes to whatever we want to buy, regardless of how that may spoil our budget, or worse, our credit score. It’s called a credit card.
Please understand, I am not calling you spoiled or demanding. However, in this instantaneous age, it’s very easy to spend impulsively or unconsciously. How many of us have gone to Target to purchase one or two items and ended up walking out with a full cart? How many of us have passed some idle time perusing one of our favorite online vendors, one who may even have our credit card information stored in their system? We may have had no intention to buy when we got on the site, but when we spot a good “deal,” it only takes a few quick clicks to make it ours.
You see, it happens a lot more often than you think. Study after study has shown that people will spend more money when they use credit cards than when they use cash, sometimes as much as twice the average cost for the same item1. Not only does the method of payment affect the quantity, it can also affect quality, with consumers willing to purchase unhealthy or unnecessary items when paying with a credit card as opposed to cash2.
The convenience of clicking or swiping to purchase, rather than handing over tangible cash, has spurred on overspending and racked up national credit card debt to $905 billion3. The truth of the matter is that we have lost sight of the fact that credit cards are essentially a thirty-day loan, which is becoming more and more apparent with the younger generations. Based on Experian’s Millennial Credit and Finance Survey Report Part II, 58 percent of millennial credit card holders polled in 2015 had maxed out a credit card, been charged a late fee, had an increase in the interest rate on a credit card, had a credit card declined or had defaulted on a credit card payment4. Financial behaviors like these can wreak a lot of havoc on a young person’s credit score and financial future. Such a small, seemingly innocent looking piece of plastic can do a lot of damage.
Now I am in no way advocating a credit-free lifestyle. Not only are credit cards a convenient way to build up your credit score, but many cards offer rewards programs where users can earn discounts, airline mileage and cash back. Most importantly, though, there are an increasing amount of vendors that no longer accept cash. This is not simply limited to online purchases. Have you ever tried leaving an airport parking lot or paying to access a toll road with cash? In most places, it is nearly impossible.
What I am saying is we need to start being a bit more mindful with our money, a bit more critical of how we spend. I mentioned the perks of credit cards rewards programs earlier. How many of us, though, have actually stopped to determine how much those perks really cost once you start adding up interest and impulse purchases? If switching over to cash purchases helps us become a bit more mindful with our money, then so be it.
Before you end up with a pile of debt and regret.