Credit Card Debt - Just Say No

by : Erol Orderland

The children have been invited to a birthday party, and the budget does not include presents in the middle of summer; Easter is coming, and a new dress is customary for this particular Sunday; shopping for necessities at the local discount store, the cart soon has 10 items not included on the list; and a friend wants to go out for dinner.

To cover the unexpected expenses, the credit card is presented to the cashier, and the patron will worry about the bill tomorrow. Unfortunately, tomorrow will quickly grow into next month or next year, as the high interest rates, coupled with the minimum payments, keep the balance from decreasing. In fact, next month more unexpected expenses occur, digging a deeper financial hole. In order to avoid credit card debt, create a workable budget, learn to conserve, and just say "NO!"

For the average individual struggling with credit card debt, the problem begins simply because he/she has not created a realistic budget. First, sit down and make a list of the unavoidable expenses. For example: the rent, or house payment, utilities, and automobile insurance. Now, figure in the regular expenses over which an individual can adjust to fit the budget. For instance, groceries are a flexible expense. Then, and only then, add the expenses like eating out, recreation, going to the movies, etc. Now comes the hard part-comparing the expenses to the income.

To avoid the temptation to enter the world of credit card debt, an individual must look at the budget and make realistic changes to fit within the net income. (Only determine the budget based upon actual take home pay, and not the gross amount paid before deductions.) The order in calculating the budget is important, as is the order to making the necessary changes.

So, begin reducing expenses starting from the bottom of the list. For example, movies and recreation are great but not essential. If the budget is too tight, reduction or elimination of these expenses is entirely possible. The alternative will likely become depressing, frustrating, and risky credit card debt.

An individual has eliminated movies and other unnecessary expenses from the budget, but times are hard, and the list of expenses may still result in credit card debt. Now what? Conservation is the answer. One area to conserve is the gas bill. If long commutes are a necessity, and the gas bill is unavoidable, consider carpooling to share the expense. When running errands, determine ahead of time a route to avoid doubling back, going from one end of town to the other. Also, whenever possible, consider walking or riding a bike. Not only will the gas bill go down, a person will get some healthy exercise.

Another area to conserve, and avoid credit card debt is utilities. Today, energy conservation bulbs are available to reduce electricity. Also, turn the lights off when leaving a room. Another suggestion is turning down the hot water heater. Although a hot shower feels wonderful on a cold winter morning, turning the heater down a few degrees will not make that much difference, except in the budget.

Also, turn down the heat a few degrees. If the heating bills are causing financial stress, avoid the temptation to get into credit card debt by donning a sweater, using a lap blanket while watching television, or put a few extra blankets on the bed. In the summer, closely monitor the amount of time necessary to minimally water the lawn, and water when the sun is not likely to evaporate the water, and the dollars.

Finally, most people can conserve on the grocery bill. Although favorite foods and snacks may have to be sacrificed to avoid credit card debt, starvation is not the only option. For example, name brands are usually more expense than generic varieties. Many cereals come in generic brands, and often in larger bulk packaging.

The same can be said for much of the items purchased at the supermarket. In addition, meat is not the only source of good protein. While a good steak may be preferable, beans are a very healthy substitute. When buying meat, remember not to buy steaks on a hamburger budget. Wait for sales and avoid resorting to credit card debt to put groceries on the table. Look for cookbooks with menus on a budget.

Although an individual may have created a workable budget, and knows how to conserve, the biggest culprit of credit card debt is simply the inability to say "NO". For instance, a child will not suffer irreversible social damage if he/she cannot afford to go to every party, or the gift has to come from the dollar store.

When shopping with a list, do not deviate. Chances are, if the item is not listed, an individual can do without until a more affordable time. Finally, be honest with yourself and others. If dining out is not affordable, without going into credit card debt, suggest an alternative, like a picnic, or sharing a meal at home. Learn to stick to a budget and just say no. Do not go into credit card debt for wants, when saying no will provide financial peace.

In summary, the amount of people suffering from the financial woes of credit card debt is growing. Individuals need to learn how to stick to a budget, conserve on expenses, and most importantly, just say "No". Financial sacrifices now will result in the peace of knowing insurmountable credit card debt is not looming overhead.