When money’s tight, those plastic cards in your wallet sure seem tempting. But charging a little here and there can lead to big trouble if credit isn’t managed wisely.
Keeping Credit in Check
The best—and potentially worst—thing about credit cards is their convenience. It’s just so easy to swipe, insert or scan when you won’t feel the hit until the next billing cycle. But too much debt is tough on your monthly budget. It could also damage your credit score, making it harder or more expensive to borrow money for a home or new car.
Here are eight tips for controlling credit card spending:
- Create a credit card budget. When you work on your monthly budget, include a line for paying credit card debt. Decide how much you can charge each month and stay within the limit. Remember to include any automatic payments you may have set up on the card.
- Keep track. Consider using a spreadsheet, mobile app, online tool or just a piece of paper to track your credit card spending each day. Keep a running total for the billing cycle.
- Review your statement each month. It’s crucial to verify your credit card statement is accurate so you can report any fraudulent charges quickly. (Navy Federal Credit Union has a Zero Liability policy for unauthorized transactions.)
- Maximize monthly payments. In an ideal world, you’d pay off your credit card balance each month. If that’s unrealistic, pay as much as you can. Set a goal—say, paying double the minimum or an amount you can afford that’s higher than the minimum—to keep interest costs down. And, if you set it up to pay automatically, you’ll never have to worry about missing a payment.
- Rethink your purchases. If you’re tempted by that great purse or the latest electronic gadget, give yourself a few days to cool off. You may find that your eagerness to buy whatever it is has faded. Consider your subscription costs as well for streaming services or apps.
- Have two cards. Divide your spending between two different cards—one for small, everyday purchases and one for larger purchases. Make sure you pay off your “small purchases” card in full every month. Or, similarly, designate one card for your regular bills (think cell phone, gym membership and/or streaming services) that don’t change, and auto-pay it in full each month, while using another card for variable bills like groceries and dining out. This will help you budget by creating “buckets” for your different expenses.
- Go card shopping. If you’re using high-interest-rate credit cards, consider transferring balances to a lower-rate card. Navy Federal Credit Union offers a range of credit cards to suit your needs, whether you’re looking for a lower rate, no annual fee or earning rewards.
- Consider using cash. Think about giving yourself a weekly allowance in cash for small purchases, like coffee or gum. Studies have shown that people spend up to twice as much on a purchase when using a credit card instead of cash.1
Get Help If You Need It
Keeping on top of credit card debt is one of the best ways to remain financially fit. If you do find yourself overwhelmed with debt, Navy Federal offers free financial counseling.