Kick the plastic habit

Whether you’ve already quit, or you’re simply considering it, nixing credit cards can be a difficult process.

Perhaps you’ve developed a strong dependence on credit and feel as though you need it to survive, or maybe you simply feel as though your credit card is a safety net and it will be there to catch you when you fall. Regardless of your level of dependence, getting hooked on credit can be a dangerous habit that’s hard to break when it hasn’t been used responsibly.

The following are a few tips to help you kick the plastic habit:

  • Shelve your credit cards. If you still have open credit card accounts, consider carrying cash or your debit card for daily use instead. Leave credit cards at home and only carry one when you plan to use it for a larger purcha
    se or something that you have already reserved for your credit card.
  • Tighten your budget. Create a real budget and include even the smallest expenses. Maybe filling up at the station or picking up a few things at the grocery store were once expenses that would previously go unnoticed, but with today's high gas and food prices, even smaller-ticket items add up.
  • Cut back on non-essentials. The easiest way to free up extra cash is to know the difference between needs and wants, and make a conscious effort to do without those things that you don’t need such as eating out, vacationing, and shopping for discretionary items such as furniture and electronics. You may even consider getting rid of cable. With programs such as Hulu and Netflix, it's much easier to cut the cables and maintain access to your favorite shows — and you'll save a nice chunk of change!
  • Create a plan to pay down debt. Sometimes it’s easier to break a habit when you have a goal you are trying to accomplish. Make a commitment to pay down a portion of your debt within a certain timeframe, and make sure to get your family involved in working towards a shared goal — you can help keep each other accountable.
  • Build an emergency fund. One of the biggest credit temptations will come in a time of crisis. This is why it's imperative that you have emergency savings on hand. Many consumers lack an emergency savings fund because they've been focused on putting extra funds toward debt. While this is not a bad thing, remember that feeding your own piggy bank will help you rely less on credit when a financial disaster does strike. If you aren't prepared, you could end up back in the same place you started.

Finally, if your financial obligations become overwhelming, don't be afraid to seek help! MMI has counselors available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help assess your situation and offer the best options for needs.

Jessica Horton is a former copywriter and community manager at MMI.