Sometimes it is possible and even necessary for people to live without credit cards, instead paying cash or using debit for all their purchases. The decision to avoid credit cards is not one to take lightly. Some people have a bad history of credit card debt or bankruptcy. Others may have other reasons for not wanting to use credit cards. There are of course pros and cons for living without credit cards. The decision to give up spending with credit cards should certainly be an individual choice based on a person’s current financial situation.
“Living without credit is like giving up alcohol for Lent, when you can do it again, you don’t want to!” says Fernando Pages Ruiz, who recently gave up using credit cards. “After losing my homebuilding business, I lost all credit, and went from someone able to borrow any amount I needed, to having trouble establishing a checking account. In time, I did, and I learned with great difficulty how to live in cash and only cash. It made me keenly attune to coordinating expenses with income, and eventually, this became habitual and no longer a problem.”
After three years passed, Ruiz now has the means to obtain credit, but still has yet to do so.
“My life has become simple enough, and my income and expenses balanced to the point that I have yet to need a credit card,” he says. “Of course, it’s easier to rent a car with a credit card, but otherwise the debit works fine for purchasing airline tickets, or buying dinner. The thing is, you cannot do either until there’s money in the bank. So I forgo the super-cheap airfare that I could have bought, if I had credit, for maybe a more expensive fare when I have the money. It would seem like a lost opportunity, but in reality, you can go broke on sale (with great deals as they come), and never go broke even paying full retail when you only buy what you can afford and can pay for at the moment of purchase.”
Ruiz says he went from $500 dinners on American Express to $35 per plate to $10 per plate happy hour deals, and finally realized he was spending too much and strapped for cash by month’s end.
“Then I discovered how people like me do it, there’s Subway’s 12-inch, $5.00 sandwich split in two – a $2.50 per person date,” he says. “With someone that really loves you, and I am fortunate to have someone that loves me, even the embarrassment of such an outing has the fun and adventure of 20-year-olds (I’m 55) getting started – in my case, restarted. The kind of change in life that turns ‘Âanother day’ into something very special, the sweet and surprisingly fulfilling appreciation of what I have, vs. what I want. A lesson I hope never to forget as my fortunes improve.”
Fernando Pages Ruiz adds, “Life on credit is the life of getting what you want now, something that never brings satisfaction, because it is based on what you don’t have -Â like a mirage, satisfaction is always one purchase away. Living in cash is the opposite. It teaches you to enjoy what you have, because, well, that’s all there is. And it’s generally more than enough.”
About the Expert:
Fernando Pages Ruiz is a former home builder and author of two books on affordable home building and renovating, “Building an Affordable House” (The Taunton Press 2005) and “Affordable Remodeling” (The Taunton Press 2007). He is still in the final efforts of selling what he had built in 2008, for the sake of the bank. He is now a fulltime grant writer and consultant for developers still in business building low income and moderate income housing. For more information, please see www.buildingaffordable.com.