Credit Cards & Condoms

Woohoo! Money & Sex!

Two things you think everyone else has more of than you and two things we rarely talk about as a culture.

ccs&c

My wife is a middle school science teacher so she gets to teach sex-ed to pregnant teenagers every year. I’m sure it’s slightly awkward to teach an abstinence based curriculum to a group of kids that have more hormones in them than a baseball player in the 90′s.

When it comes to sex-ed there’s really only 2 ways to teach it. Well, 3 if you count celibacy but you’re probably not the Pope. You can teach safe sex or you can teach abstinence. I won’t argue the point for which way is the right way. I’d probably do neither argument justice and 9 months from now hospitals around the world would be filled with babies.

But from a top level view I do see a huge up-hill battle with the abstinence argument. You see, we live in a fallen and sinful world. That world screams at us that sex is awesome and you can do it with whoever you want whenever you want. It’s a world that teaches you can’t have a relationship with someone of the opposite sex without “hooking up.” The only way abstinence makes sense is if you’re a person of faith and you recognize that sex is awesome, when you’re married. To anyone else staying abstinent and the idea of it really sucks.

For those people, we teach about safe sex.

Well, I often face a similar up-hill battle when it comes to credit cards. As much as Dave Ramsey and I teach that credit cards can destroy your financial life, we live in a world that screams they’re okay. In fact the world has convinced almost everyone that you can’t live without having a credit card in your wallet.

The mere suggestion of cutting up a card in order to improve you financial life almost makes people angry. They think we’re teaching it wrong. They think it’s impossible and some even say that to avoid credit cards is bad and dangerous financial advice.

Lets look at some of the facts:

  • 45% of Americans only make minimum payments on their credit cards.
  • 70% of credit card holders carry a balance for more than 30 days.
  • 88% of the reward and airline miles go unclaimed.
  • 65% of the bankruptcies filed last year said it was their credit card debt that sent them over the edge.

You may think you can use credit cards safely, but all the studies show that we don’t as a culture. In fact they show the exact opposite. The statistics tell us that we use credit cards very irresponsibly. They’re snakes and they bite.

But if you’re one of those people that just loves your credit card so much that you can’t bring yourself to cut it up… If you’re the person that thinks bad things can’t happen to you… At least use some protection.

How to Safely Use a Credit Card

  1. Complete a written budget every month.
  2. Be 100% debt free of everything except for your house. No car payments or student loans either.
  3. Have a 6 month emergency account in place (3 months isn’t enough).
  4. Review and track your spending habits at least once a month.
  5. Have a successful investment strategy in place for retirement and your kids college.
  6. Live in a house with a reasonable mortgage (at least 20% equity on a 10-15 year mortgage with a total payment that doesn’t exceed 25% of your monthly income.
  7. Pay your credit cards off in full every month.
  8. Never pay an annual membership fee for the use of your card.

This list may seem extreme, but even if you are doing all of the things listed above you are still at risk to the dangers of credit cards. Condoms are only 99% effective and if you use a credit card regularly you’re only 2 or 3 unfortunate events in a row from having high interest credit card debt.

Of course the safest way to use a credit card is to not use one at all. A debit card functions the exact same way without all the dangers of credit cards. But if you insist on playing with fire, use some protection.

What do you think? Can you use credit cards without risk? Tell me your thoughts in the comments.

Comments

  1. If you have all those things you don’t really need a credit card. We haven’t even felt the need to use our open accounts since getting on a budget, and we don’t even have a 6 month emergency fund in place. (We’re paying off debt, so we have our baby $1000 emergency fund)

    • Good point, although I think need and want are two different things. You might not need it, certainly; but some folks are convinced that the “points” are a good enough reason to play with fire. Or snakes, as Dave would say! :)

  2. Great post! With that kind of title I had to check it out – haha! I’m using a credit card safely. I agree that it is not for everyone. It takes diligence. I don’t have any debt and never carry a balance, but the only way to do that is to monitor and track every dollar I spend. Tracking where every dollar goes is the key to staying within budget and it also helps you quickly adjust the budget when something you rather use the money for or need to comes up.

  3. Amazing post! I’m right there with ya! Sometimes, for both issues, it’s so difficult to get people to understand. My husband and I have been living the Dave Ramsey way as best we can since we got married, but boy have we been criticized! Love the parallel, too! Seems like a good, smart compromise for people who just can’t handle taking the scissors to those cards!

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