We’re midway through the month, which means it’s time to check in on our progress for the no credit card challenge.
When I first announced this challenge, a lot of you responded with cries along the lines of “Why would I pass up the points?”
And I didn’t really care about that. Go get your points if you want them. I had no qualms about giving up my rewards for a month.
But I also heard you saying, “But credit cards offer so many more protections than debit cards! This isn’t safe!” It’s true: if you’re a victim of fraud of theft, it’s easier to recoup credit card loses than debit funds.
If you have an aversion to debt and vehicles for accruing it (ahem…me), then not charging purchases for a month sounds like a great idea! But with those noted credit protections in mind, I’ve found that my no-credit experiment has really been an exercise in using more cash.
Let’s look at the details of my experiment at the halfway point:
On the first day, I failed. I didn’t take my usual credit card out of my wallet, and mindlessly handed it over to pay for doughnuts in the morning and a bar tab at night. What a Saturday! I realized my mistake immediately after making each purchase, and promised to do better.
A few days later, I charged a plane ticket. No guilt there.
I decided to pay for a bigger online purchase with PayPal instead of resorting to my credit card, since the retailer offered the option.
One last moment that stuck with me: I decided to pull into a gas station to fill up, and gazing upon the payment pad at the pump made me second-guess my choice. Instead of swiping a card of any kind, I went inside and handed the cashier $10 to top off a few gallons. I’ll take all my personal data elsewhere, thank you.
Otherwise, the impact of the challenge is primarily internal. As the balance in my checking account goes down, I get nervous, regardless of my balances elsewhere. This, I’m now confident, has driven much of my behavior of defaulting to credit for just about everything.
Right now, I’m at Silver Status, which is where I’m hoping to stay for the rest of the month:
Here’s Lifehacker Managing Editor Virginia K. Smith with an update on her no credit challenge:
I was doing so well for the first week and a half of this challenge, and feeling VERY smug about it. Though I also am getting a reality check about my food budget. I don’t tend to go out for a lot of expensive meals, and my grocery budget is pretty reasonable, but the smaller on-the-go meals and impulse buys ($7 here, $12 there) add up really quickly.
Last weekend, I went off the rails a bit and used my credit card a bunch of times. To be transparent, it was the anniversary of a close friend’s death, and people were getting together for drinks and things like that. It really did not feel like the time to be aggressively penny pinching with myself, and I feel 100% comfortable with that decision. Still, I spent more than I actually had on hand, and also found myself still using my card for other things (random trips to the deli, etc.) later.
I’ve reeled it back, but I also have to say, I find myself really uncomfortable throwing down my debit card so often! It feels a lot less secure, which it is. Case in point: I put my card down for a tab this weekend, and only on Monday realized that I’d been given back a Chase Sapphire Reserve belonging to a CHRISTINE Smith! I tried to track her down, but Smiths are impossible to find (this is why I use the middle initial!), so I had to call Chase, and they canceled *both* of our cards and are sending me a new one. Karmic retribution for using my credit card during the “no credit card challenge!” But also, the whole situation would be a lot worse if it had involved my debit card rather than credit!
We’ll see how the rest of the month goes, but I think the big takeaway for me will likely be that I need to have a set number that I know I can’t go past on my credit card balance every month, and stick to that.
If you’re taking the challenge with us, spill it in the comments: How’s it going for you?