When you use credit cards to buy things you can’t afford you are borrowing from your future to pay for your now. If you cannot pay off credit cards monthly, by definition you are living beyond your means. For example, paying interest of $700 - $1,000/year on a credit card balance of $6,000 equals to spending x% of your income. As the goods or services you purchased with the credit card decline in value, the purchase price increases because of the interest. After 5 years at 15% you paid twice the original sticker price. Borrowing from your future to pay for your now is devastating to financial independence and peace of mind.
There’s an old saying that you can’t manage what you don’t measure. The first step to controlling spending is to count it. There’s an amazing benefit. Forcing yourself to record every expenditure will automatically reduce your spending. Use the Spending Plan / Cash Flow tool on our website to develop a budget for the next 6-months.
There is growing evidence that the primitive part of our brain called the amygdala triggers the impulse to consume now. The urge to consume as much as possible probably helped us survive in a prehistoric world of scarcity. But in modern times that survival mechanism may be just as harmful as the related mechanism that stores fat. Today the urge to consume as much as possible harms financial, as well as physical health.
To override the urges of our primitive brain we must use our frontal cortex which gives us the unique ability to plan. We can set ourselves up so that we become automatic savers instead of automatic spenders. Many middle income millionaires achieved the status automatically. Here’s how they did it:
a) Set up automatic savings by having 10% (or more) of your paycheck automatically deposited into your 401(k) or IRA.
b) Set up automatic bill paying from one checking account or credit card.
c) Set up automatic tracking or accounting. The monthly statement from the single account becomes your record of expenses. To get a bigger and more detailed picture of your finances sign up for one of the FREE online automatic accounting services. The most comprehensive is Yodlee MoneyCenter at www.yodlee.com. The most user firendly and fastest growing is Mint at www.mint.com. A relatively new service is Quizzle at www.quizzle.com.
d) Finally, stop impulsive spending by cutting up all the credit cards except one.
You can also use financial planning software such as Quicken or Microsoft Money.