How credit cards are like alcohol

 

Alcohol is dangerous; would anyone disagree? For me, while it’s something I’ve used from time to time, it’s never been something that I’ve felt like I had a problem with. I don’t have to keep going when I start. I can have one drink and call it good. And in situations where other people are drinking, I am just as fine not drinking. It takes a little more effort, but if your peers are supportive, they’ll understand.

I consider myself very fortunate to be in this position. And while I am vigilant of the role that alcohol plays in my life (and others, too). I feel like I’ve dodged a pretty serious bullet. I’ve had friends who are alcoholics, and it’s not been pretty for them. They truly can’t handle just one drink. They need to remove it entirely from their life or else they spiral out of control. It’s actually kind of scary, and I think that perhaps the more we saw the negative effects of alcoholism, the less we’d integrate it into so many of our life’s situations.

Let’s try that again

Interestingly, and without too much trouble, you can take the above two paragraphs and substitute “credit card” for “alcohol”. Let’s try it:

Credit cards are dangerous; would anyone disagree? For me, while it’s something I’ve used from time to time, it’s never been something that I’ve felt like I had a problem with. I don’t have to keep going when I start. I can use it once and pay it off quickly and call it good. And in situations where other people are using credit cards, I am just as fine paying with cash. It takes a little more effort, but if your peers are supportive, they’ll understand.

I consider myself very fortunate to be in this position. And while I am vigilant of the role that credit cards have played in my life (and others, too). I feel like I’ve dodged a pretty serious bullet. I’ve had friends who are up to their eyeballs in debt, and it’s not been pretty for them. They truly can’t handle having credit cards. They need to remove them entirely from their life or else they spiral out of control. It’s actually kind of scary, and I think that perhaps the more we saw the negative effects of credit cards, the less we’d integrate it into so many of our life’s situations.

See what I mean? It fits.

READ MORE:  Emergencies are the worst time for using debt

Okay, that was sneaky

Credit cards are, you may be surprised to hear, one place where I currently struggle in how I feel. I want to say that “they are evil, never use them”. And for the most part, I think that’s true. But there are two small reasons why I can’t in all honesty go all the way:

  • There are some that really do offer you financial benefits (especially as far as travel is concerned, which as you know is a hobby of mine), and in certain cases you don’t even need to use them to get the perks.
  • As much as I really think that people shouldn’t worry too much about their credit score, the ubiquity of that number when used for things that have nothing to do with debt (such as renting an apartment) means that I don’t think it should be disregarded entirely.

How can I say this when part of my job is to get people to pay off their debts?

Easy. Think of credit cards like alcohol. If you find yourself paying finance charges or fees, then you can’t handle a credit card. If you have debt, if you use your credit card such that you keep a revolving balance, then you can’t handle a credit card. You need to learn this, the easy way or the hard way; it’s up to you.

People I know have learned this the hard way: they have multiple credit cards that have balances on them, and they are getting finance charged to death. They have shown that they can’t handle a credit card. And that’s okay; just like how some people can’t handle alcohol, some people can’t handle credit cards. It’s not a character flaw. The benefits don’t outweigh the risks in these cases.

I have no balance on any credit card. The vast majority of the time, they live in a drawer. That’s the equivalent of having a bottle of wine in your cabinet. Can you handle that? Or if it’s around, will you feel the need to open it up and drink the entire thing? If that’s you, then don’t have a bottle of wine in your cabinet.

Against dogma, no exceptions

So, as you can see, this topic of credit cards is still something I’m still struggling with. I know that it would be much simpler to speak in terms of black and white, but I confess that I can rarely come down on the side of dogma. Dogma is nice and simple and tidy, but life is not like that. I think it’s important to move beyond the Saturday morning cartoon concept of good vs. evil. It’s more difficult, I know, but ultimately a better way to respond to your surroundings. It will keep your eyes open.

READ MORE:  My take on Dave Ramsey's 7 Baby Steps (Part 2, Baby Steps 4-7)

So if you can handle one drink, then you I think it’s fine to keep drinking. But if you can’t—and many people can’t—then don’t do it. Ever. It’s not worth the risk.

And so too with credit cards. If you can have them and don’t use them, or use them and pay them off and never hold a balance and never pay a finance charge, then I think it’s fine to have one or two. But if you can’t—and many people can’t—then don’t do it. Ever. It’s not worth the risk.

But enough about me. Do you see the credit card / alcohol similarity?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>