Living with credit, Protecting yourself, Shopping

To curb spending, I’m making it harder to use my credit cards

Kelly Dilworth

I’ve had a tough time reining in my spending lately, so to curb my tendency to overcharge, I’m making it harder for me to use my credit cards.

Several studies have found that credit card payments tend to encourage people to spend more – in part because paying with a card is so fast and easy that people can dip or swipe their cards without giving much thought to how much they’re spending.

Online shopping is even more dangerous for people like me who are prone to impulsive spending. Cardholders can save their card details with their favorite stores and purchase a product in seconds.

I’ve become so addicted to the instant satisfaction that comes from making a one-click Amazon Kindle purchase, for example, that I’ll sometimes take a five-minute break from a tough piece of writing or a tedious administrative chore by rapid-fire purchasing a handful of $1.99 books on Kindle Daily Deals.

To dissuade myself from spending, though, I’ve decided to crack down on impromptu purchases and deliberately make spending money a chore. Here are six small steps I’ve taken lately to make splurging more difficult.

1. Pulling the plug on easy online purchases.
I deactivated one-click ordering on Amazon and deleted my card information from my two other retail vices, Sephora and Modcloth. I also unlinked my credit card from my PayPal account so that I couldn’t fall back on an easy PayPal payment in a moment of weakness.

2. Banishing my purse to the coat closet.
I hate getting up to go grab my wallet when I want to buy something online, so I’ve deliberately started hanging my purse in an inconvenient spot in my coat closet. To get to my purse now, I have to walk to the front door and get past a baby gate, which takes just enough time to make me think twice about my purchases.

3. Starting a spending diary.
Similar to a food diary, a spending diary has helped me become more mindful of purchases by forcing me to stop and think about what I’m buying. It also has helped because it’s a pain to root around for my journal and make a note of the purchase.

4. Taping goal reminders to my credit cards.
This tip to set goal reminders comes from Michigan psychologist Sally Palaian. I taped one-word notes to the front of my credit cards to remind me what I’m saving for and help blunt the urge to buy. For example, on one card, I taped the word “home” to the front of the card as a reminder that I’m saving up for more trips back to Texas. On another card, I taped the word “security.”

5. Carrying more cash.
A number of studies have found parting with cash is more psychologically painful than using credit cards, so you’re less likely to overspend when paying with cash. To help curb my small-dollar spending habit, I’ve decided to only use cash for purchases under $10.

6. Establishing a shopping curfew.
One of the great things about working from home and setting my own schedule is that I can run errands during my slow periods. The problem, though, is that this gives me way more unstructured time to shop if I don’t have an immediate work deadline. To keep me from spending too much time away from my desk and near a cash register, I’ve started limiting myself to finishing errands by 10 a.m. I also limit any shopping I do on the weekends (which, luckily, is rare) by making sure my son and I are at home in time for his snack or afternoon nap.

I just recently started these new habits, so it’s too soon to tell whether I’ll be able to stick with them. But already they’ve helped avert a number of impulsive purchases. Hopefully, over time, these changes will help me to become more mindful of my spending and to whittle down my card balances once and for all.

See related: My rewards are costing me, so I’m giving them away, One-click shopping lures sleepy mom into overspending online, Online shopping busts budgets and waistlines

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