I’m Proud That I Don’t Have A Credit Card.

IMG_7793I’m proud that I don’t have a credit card. There, I said it. I’ve never been in debt. I’ve paid for everything I’ve ever owned with cash. I’m proud that I’ve been in control. I’m proud that I have to save and wait and work a little harder for the things I have in life.
I am not saying this to put down anyone that does have a credit card or debt. I am saying this as a middle finger to the government. To the credit unions. To the banks. To anyone who thinks credit cards are the only way to pay for anything. I’ve made the choice not to have them and have no regrets.

Now, some of you may roll your eyes at me and think my parents paid for everything. Yes, they did — until college. Aside from assisting me with college room & tuition (after my scholarships) and most of our wedding, they don’t pay for anything. I am incredibly grateful for the values that my parents have instilled in me from an early age regarding finances. They worked their butts off and saved. I worked and I saved. I am working and saving.

When I turned eighteen, I received junk mail offers to apply for student credit cards. I pleaded with my parents to let me apply and they consistently told me, “No.” A few years went by and then the economy suffered. Around this time, I was searching for an apartment. I was unaware that having a good credit score was necessary for an apartment, and kept getting declined because I had no score. Due to the poor economy, having no score was just as bad, or even worse, than having a bad credit score. I thought I was screwed. But I managed to find an apartment (the company was very lenient). My next two apartments were through the company that my other half worked for and we didn’t have a hard time securing a place. Perfect! I still had no credit score, though, and started applying for cards because I thought that was what I had to do. Fortunately for me, credit card companies were declining me. Another year or so went by and I realized, I don’t want a credit card. I’m doing just fine without one – why get one? The only thing a credit card would do is rack up my debt.

So what’s the one secret to getting by without a credit card?

Don’t spend more than you earn.

If you can’t afford it, don’t get it. It’s as simple as that.

I don’t have a fancy new laptop. I don’t have a new car with payments (I paid cash several years ago for a very nice used car). I don’t go on vacation (we did go to Cancun last year with my husband’s tax return – but I didn’t want to use it that way). I haven’t bought a new camera in years. (I am sorely in need of a new lens — anyone?) I’ve snatched up things at thrift stores. I used my grandmother’s dishes and furniture as long as I could until I was able to acquire a few newer things. I stopped buying DVDs when I discovered that the library was a wonderful resource of media along with its books. I probably won’t buy a book, DVD, or CD again.

Not having a credit cards forces my husband and I to be wiser about our financial choices. Instead of wondering whether or not we’ll be able to pay something off, we ask ourselves, “Do we have enough money for this right now?” If we don’t, then we don’t get it. We somehow always have enough to pay for extra expenses that come up because we thought ahead and saved, rather than depended on a credit card. When people tell me I need to get a credit card, build up my credit, and/or anything along those lines, I feel like I have to defend myself. We plan. We reuse. We are frugal and thrifty. And we are fine.

I feel like I have way more than I need. My life is full of luxury. If you stepped into my apartment and looked around, you wouldn’t think so: cheap IKEA furniture, few possessions, only one cabinet filled with food. Yet, compared to 99% of the world’s population, I am rich.

You are too.

That’s the thing that blows my mind about all of this.

Most of us are blessed with so much. Most of us do have enough money. We just don’t realize it. We squander our money and time on temporary pleasures. We fail to realize what we have, we don’t put things into perspective, and we kind of forget about the future. We are impatient. We want more. And this is what has fueled our credit-card driven debt-loaded society.

As for a home? That’s our next obstacle. We may not be able to go about it the traditional way, but we will work a little bit harder. It’s funny how people who have worked for years with no debt are denied certain items because they don’t have a silly credit trail while others with debt are allowed to get cards that rack up more debt. What kind of system is this? I admit, it does make me angry. It frustrates me. But it also pushes me to work even harder. To cherish what I already have. To focus on what really matters for me. That is why I’m proud that I don’t have a credit card.

Bah Hum Bug.

Don’t get me wrong – I love Christmas. I love Christmas. I enjoy the trees, the twinkling lights, the decorations, the softly fallen snow, delicious smells, pumpkin pies, the family get-togethers, the general good cheer in the air, Christmas carols,  and yes, even the festivities at shopping centers (when I’m not cranky because of the crowds).

I strongly dislike the purchases of mass-produced products for end-of-the-year holidays, especially on a ridiculous day such as today (Black Friday), that are wrapped up with fancy paper that ends up in the trash while the ‘gift’ often ends up in the back of the closet, donated, unused, what-have-you. There are so many things wrong with today.

1) Store hours of operations. Millions of stores all over the country open earlier and earlier every year (some stay open overnight). The main thing that really bothers me about these hours are the employees who are forced to leave their Thanksgiving festivities early so they can go home and rest in order to get up at 1:30am to go to work in a retail store. Some of these employees don’t even rest at all! Barely awake, these employees have to deal with greedy customers all day instead of getting the rest they need. The same goes for the shoppers – they rush from their Thanksgiving dinners so they can stand in line in the cold in the middle of the night.

2) Tons of debt. Millions of shoppers rack up their credit card bills with purchases from this time of year that leaves them broke in January with a resolution to save more money. Note the irony.

3) You don’t need that $299 flat screen television. You have a television. Your friends and family have televisions. They all work fine. You don’t need that ‘cheap’ television in the store that goes to the first ten buyers. If Black Friday didn’t exist, you wouldn’t get the television and you’d be just fine without it. Don’t pay attention to advertisements. They’re just trying to trick you into thinking you need something ‘bigger and better’ to ‘keep up’ with ‘everyone else.’

4) If you really need that item, I bet you can a get better deal somewhere else. If you have convinced yourself that you really need that item you have your heart set on (even though I would convince you otherwise), chances are that you can find it for a really good deal elsewhere on another day when people aren’t shopping that much (especially online). Don’t grab up the first thing you see. Shop around casually. Wait a few days and ask yourself if you still want/need that item. Go for high quality items. That brings me to…

5) They’re cheap because they’re cheap. That electronic you want today and saw a great advertisement for in the paper? It’s cheap because it’s cheap quality and probably the most basic model of whatever it is. It won’t last and will end up costing you more than you want after you pay off your credit card and pay for replacements. Is that what you want?

6) It will end up thrown away and/or unforgotten. Years from now, even months from now, people won’t remember what you bought them. Can you remember everything people purchased for you in the past ten years? Nope. Did you value these purchases? Probably not. What you remember the most as time goes by is not the items you have accumulated over the years, but the experiences and feelings you had when spending time with loved ones, doing a fun activity, and creating traditions. Jumping in the snow and baking cookies will give you more smiles and fuzzy feelings than opening tons of gifts and figuring out what to do with them!

7) Stress. Have you ever noticed lately that during the holiday seasons you are forced to participate in Secret Santa traditions, rushing about to find the perfect gifts, pressured to create a beautiful home, attending dinners here and there, receiving so many things you don’t need, overbooked, and ultimately, stressed, broke, and not that happy? Yeah. Time to change that.

Think about what someone might really want. Be creative.

This isn’t to say never buy anything again. Just think before you buy.

Support local business, go for handmade, don’t buy ‘MADE IN CHINA.”

If all else fails and you really need to buy something, get a bottle of wine.

I feel so relieved for opting out of purchases gifts this season (and I hope, for the rest of the holiday seasons in my life). Aside from what I just wrote, I also I stumbled upon quite a few blog posts over the past couple weeks that really elaborate on exactly how I feel about this holiday season in regards to gifts, consumerism, making the decision not to buy gifts, and dealing with others who disagree with that decision. Instead of regurgitating what others have written, I leave you with some links.

Looking for ways to save money but still have a memorable Christmas? Take a look at Everett Bogue’s post on 1 Simple Strategy to Save $2,000 this Holiday and make Everyone Love You Forever and Courtney Carver’s No Credit Cards – No Matter What. Do you have children and don’t want to take away the ‘magic of Christmas’? Read Minimalism With Kids: Christmas Edition by Dusti Arab, a minimalist and inspiring young mother. Have concerns about donations and monetary requirements over the holidays? Maybe Your Top Holiday Money Questions Answered by Melissa Gorzlanczyk will give you some ideas on how to opt out or reduce spending. Want more? She also has a guest post on Be More With Less with 5 Ways to Have a Rich Christmas Without Spending More. Finally, check out The Anti-Minimalist Day by David Damron.

[Edit: Read The Case Against Buying Christmas Presents over at Zen Habits. The post was written a few days after I wrote this, and expands much more on the same aspects of anti-buying-gifts that I covered, plus more.]