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The risk of easy credit

Mar 4, 2014

Cutting up credit card“I’ve always been a saver and have hated debt with a passion. I applied for a store card to create a good credit rating. It soon became clear that I am not a disciplined spender so I paid off the card and closed the account.

This year I bought a car, and used my savings to pay the deposit. This left my money market piggy bank running on empty. As a safety net in emergencies, I increased my Discovery credit card limit which had previously been kept at R1 to retain the loyalty benefits without the temptation of debt. Desire overtook reason however, and I now have to pay off R8000 in credit-card debt.

I still save R200 every month to keep the savings habit going and pay every extra rand I get towards the card; but with car expenses nearing R4000 on a R7000 net salary it’s become a burden.

Do you have advice on how one can get rid of all this debt because my whole budget is tied up to life cover, cellphone contracts, family responsibility and the like,” writes Beth.

Maya replies: Your story is a great example about the risk of easy credit. If you are the type of person who is easily tempted to spend then it is best to avoid it all together. I always compare this to my biscuit weakness. I love biscuits and if I have a packet of them in the house I eat them all in one day! The only way to keep my waistline intact is not to have biscuits in the house. I keep my biscuit addiction as a special treat when I go out for a cup of coffee.

For many people easy access to credit is like my packet of biscuits – and just like putting on and then trying to lose weight, it takes a lot longer to pay off the debt than to accumulate it!

Now you are on the road to recovery, the first thing to do is get rid of the temptation and hand your card over to a trusted friend (but not the PIN!). Then sit down and work out a plan to pay off the card.

  • I like the fact that you are continuing to save R200 – even if you are paying off debt you need to build a safety net as well so that you do not have to use the card again for an emergency.
  • Work out how much you can reasonably pay into the card each month and work out how long before your card is paid off.  That will give you a tangible goal to keep you motivated. You may even want to keep track on a wall calendar and cross off each day you get closer to your goal.
  • Write down your monthly budget and see if there is anywhere you can cut back further. It may take some sacrifices but if you have a timeframe in place you know when the pain will be over.
  • See if you can cut back on fuel costs by finding a lift-share arrangement, and shop around for car insurance to see if there is a cheaper plan out there.
  • Once your card is paid off, start working on getting that car debt down.

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Maya Fisher-French author of Money Questions Answered

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