How to Avoid Credit Card Dependence

As the cost of living rises and the economy continues to weaken, many find themselves hard-pressed to make ends meet each month.

In some dire cases, financially burdened consumers are relying on credit cards to purchase necessities such as food and gas, driving up card balances and compounding the issue of higher food and energy prices – with interest.

Whether you’re using credit for splurges, or for necessities, it can be an expensive habit. Consider the following tips to help wean you from dependence on credit cards:

  • Shelve your credit cards. Consider carrying cash or your debit card for daily use. Leave credit cards at home and only carry one when you plan to use it for a larger purchase or something that you have already reserved for your credit card.
  • Tighten up 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 in your checkbook. However, with much higher prices in gas and food today, 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.
  • 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 get your family involved in working towards a shared goal.

Finally, if your financial obligations become overwhelming and you find yourself losing control, seek help. Your human resource or employee services department may have options available. Community service and counseling agencies are also available and can offer a number of services to assist you with gaining control over your finances.

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.
  • The National Council of Higher Education Resources (NCHER) is the nation’s oldest and largest higher education finance trade association. NCHER’s membership includes state, nonprofit, and for-profit higher education service organizations, including lenders, servicers, guaranty agencies, collection agencies, financial literacy providers, and schools, interested and involved in increasing college access and success. It assists its members in shaping policies governing federal and private student loan and state grant programs on behalf of students, parents, borrowers, and families.

  • Since 2007, the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF) has served as a trusted, neutral source of information for more than eight million homeowners. They are partnered with, and endorsed by, numerous major government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of the Treasury.

  • The mission of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD works to strengthen the housing market in order to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; and build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.

  • The Council on Accreditation (COA) is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. Their mission is to partner with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards.

  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.