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How We Use Credit Cards

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Jamie Mountford Article 4

When my husband and I were getting married 16 years ago, we really didn’t want to charge a ton of money on credit cards for an elaborate wedding. In fact, we didn’t want to spend a lot of money at all. 

I had lived independently from my parents all through college, working 50 hours a week to support myself. So I really didn’t think asking Mom and Dad for wedding money was very appropriate, even if they could spare it (which they couldn’t). 

Likewise, Dave had started his career and lived financially free from his parents. Now, maybe for some this seems like the time to run back to family with puppy-dog eyes, asking for some help to plan the fairy tale. Not us. We were way too practical and stubborn for that. 

So we went simple. 

We planned the ceremony on the lawn of my in-laws condo, with the reception in the clubhouse. Rental price: $25. 

I grew my own flowers for decor and had a friend make the bouquets with inexpensive garden varieties. Price: $300. 

We had Costco cheesecakes for our wedding cake. Price: $60. (All devoured by the way.)

You see the trend. We planned everything for less than $2000, a price we could easily afford out-of-pocket, without racking up a balance on a credit card. (Unlike the average wedding today that costs $28,000! But that’s a whole other topic.)

Until I decided we really should have a professional photographer. Wow, they are expensive! My choices were very limited as I had waited until the last minute, and in the end, our (okay) pictures of the wedding cost as much as the entire event. 

And  we were over our budget. We had to charge it … so we began our marriage with a credit card bill we couldn’t pay off immediately. 

The Method

Why does that matter? Don’t we live in a land of credit card debt? Yes, indeed we do. In fact, the average American household has $6591 in revolving credit card bills. This staggering amount is carried around like a mill-weight around the neck of everyone trying to stay afloat in their finances. And people are drowning. 

We did not want to join the rank of credit card casualties, so we made a quick and decisive effort to pay off the wedding debt. Within a couple months the balance was paid, with only a bit of interest payment to scar us. 

And since that time, we have stuck with some pretty tight credit card rules.

No more than 2 cards

Actually, we only had one for the longest time, but branched out recently for some variety in perks. We don’t need or want a high limit, so one is usually sufficient. 

Pay off the balance 

Every. Single. Month. How can we possibly do this? We treat them like debit cards. If we don’t have the money to cover the purchase in the budget, we don’t buy it.

Use the card for everything 

Now this seems contradictory, but really this is the best part. We take advantage of the credit card perks by using the cards for every purchase and monthly bill. But we never pay any interest to the credit card company. Suckas!

Our Perks

Currently we have two cards. One card gives us easy-to-redeem travel credits. This has become the silent vacation fund. For every purchase we make, we are racking up points to use for a hotel or airplane ticket, without spending a dime! It’s like free money for bucking the credit card system!

The new card we acquired gives cash back at the end of the year for Costco. We shop there for most of our groceries, so it makes sense to get some free food. 

When spending money, we decide which card to use based on the rewards for that purchase. Except for the annual fee, we never pay the credit card companies anything. And they pay us thousands of dollars for using them. It’s such a satisfying feeling. 

The Minority Mindset totally embraces this system of credit card usage. You see, we don’t have to live like cavemen. We don’t have to use cash for purchases or use debit cards with no rewards. But we do have to understand how to control our spending to match the budget and pay off the cards monthly.

An Exception

So my husband and I have been faithful, devoted users of our credit cards for 16 years. We have followed our own principles to live differently than the majority. We have never, ever steered off course and blown it. 

Yeah, right. 

We are human and we sometimes make mistakes, errr, I mean exceptions. I can recall one other time we have not paid the credit card balance immediately, but instead took 2 months. And I would do it again because it was worth every penny in interest we had to spend. 

We took a month long vacation to England. My husband’s father was British; we took the kids for a trip to visit family, see his homeland, and travel through all the historical sites we could possibly take in. It was magical. It was educational. It was pretty darn pricey. 

But looking back, we made memories we will hold forever, and even though we knew we were going to go over the amount we had saved up, budgeted, earned in travel credits, the whole bit, we knew the money was going towards something worth it. And it would only take one month to get back on track. 

Be Realistic But Make a Change

Credit cards are like a trap, ready to pull you into a never-ending debt cycle. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can make a change. 

  1. Don’t beat yourself up if you have big revolving balances already. Instead, work hard to get rid of them. Now. 
  2. Then, work on saving up your $2000 emergency fund and your 6 month savings fund so you never have to use credit cards for the unexpected.
  3. And if you, like us, occasionally veer off into paying interest on a credit card, make it a priority to pay it off as soon as possible. Those perks disappear and the purchase price increases when you pay interest for months on it. Don’t give the credit card companies the satisfaction. 

Instead, throw that weight off and live with the Minority Mindset.

Contributor’s opinions are their own. Always do your own due diligence before investing.

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