How 'bout putting the credit card in the freezer?

Question: I know you get questions like this a lot, but this is a little different. I want to cancel all of my credit cards. I find myself paying 1500-2000 dollars every month to my credit cards. I don't carry a balance from month to month usually. I just know that I spend more money on my wants when I use my credit cards. It is preventing me from saving more. My wife is much better, and we would keep her cards for emergences. We own a house, and don't plan on moving anytime soon. I have a credit score in the mid 700's. Will it hurt my score to have no credit cards under my name? Todd, Wheat Ridge, CO

Answer: Your credit score could take a temporary dip when you cancel the cards. Longer-term, I imagine you have a mortgage on your home and continuing to meet that bill on time will help maintain your credit score. Anyway, it's more important for you to gain control over your spending and to become more comfortable with your finances. I wouldn't worry about your credit score. (It wouldn't be hard for someone with your credit history to rebuild it, either, if necessary.)

However, I do have an alternative suggestion: Cancel all but one of your credit cards and put the remaining card in the freezer.

That's right, place the credit card in a container of water and stick it in the freezer. You'll have to wait for it to thaw before you can use it again. It's a simple way to avoid using the credit card but keeping the option of pulling it out when it's a sensible move, say, on vacation. Yes, the card will work once it's thawed.

Then you join the cash economy. The credit card is in the freezer. The check book stays at home. For everything else, cash is king. You use cash--actual dollar bills--at work and on the weekends running errands. Try experimenting with paying yourself the same cash "salary" every week and keep your spending for the week to that sum.

For whatever reason, maybe because you'll feel the bills leave your hand, it's harder to spend cash than it is to write a check or use a credit card. You'll be very aware of what you are spending your money on, and how much you're spending. It's a simple way of gaining control over where your money is going.

About the author

Chris Farrell is the economics editor of Marketplace Money.

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