Gather around folks, I want to share a story with you. This is the tale of my number one, secret special trick to saving money and how it came to me.
It all began years ago when I was a university student, struggling to survive on my meagre Austudy payments and casual waitressing wages. I managed to live frugally most of the time but sadly, not even the strongest will can resist certain expenses and I found myself amassing something of a credit card debt when I suddenly needed textbooks, emergency dental care and an iPod (and yes, I did need that iPod or I was seriously going to hurt someone on the bus.) The point of the story is, I became accustomed to using the card and once the debt started racking up, I thought, “what difference will another $50 make?” The next thing I knew, I had over $5,000 in credit card debt.
Obviously the first step to getting out of any kind of debt is to budget. But it was about more than that; I needed to stop using the darned card! The temptation was so strong and with my uni’s campus right next to the mall, I was under constant attack from the barrage of alluring window displays. I needed a system that would stop me using my card.
I tried simply budgeting and aiming for the “fuzzy feeling” of not spending, only to fail miserably. You see, I would often wander into a store only to buy something I picked up on total impulse simply because the shame of saying “oh, I can’t afford it” and putting it back, was too great. I loved playing the role of the rich girl, with money to burn. The response I received from the sales assistants was always so positive and I got a little high from the interlude, leaving the store with a spring in my step… until I got home of course, and reality set in.
So how to overcome the embarrassment of not buying things? Well, I could always have avoided the mall, but I knew that was never going to happen.. I needed something that would stop my buying n matter where I went. Then the solution to my frugal-shame struck me; more shame! I needed to make it more embarrassing to buy the item than not to. And so I came up with a cunning plan…
Taking my two credit cards out of my wallet (yes, as a student on minimum wage, I had somehow managed to acquire two credit cards) and I set about sticky-taping them together with lashings of tape, making it impossible to utilise without a pair of scissors. To further humiliate myself, I wrote on a post-it note, in bold red letters, “out of debt or big regret” and then taped this to the credit card bundle. Brilliant, if I do say so myself.
The result? No longer could I nonchalantly whip out my card and buy an item, with the air of a limitless bank balance. Instead, the thought of pulling out my card, was enough to make me very rapidly put the item back on the rack, make some excuse and quickly slip out of the store.
With a gradual savings plan I managed to pay off the card. I still use this method today to remind myself that a credit card is not a license to spend and should only be used in cases of emergency when the need outweighs the embarrassment. And really, isn’t that what a credit card is supposed to be for?