This is step 6 in our 7-part Bipolar Finance series.
In step 5 of this Bipolar Finance series, we discussed about going cash only. Once you do go cash based, you might experience one of two things – that you either no longer use your credit & debit cards or, the opposite, you start using your cards when you run out of cash.
If you find yourself in the former situation, this step will be relatively easy for you. If you are in the latter – such as myself – then this step will be a really effective step in controlling your overspending.
This step is all about keeping cards out of your wallet and hiding them away.
Out of the wallet
Credit and debit cards make it too easy to overspend. It’s too easy to just whip out the old card when you’re short on cash and spend more than you should. So the best way to deal with this to not carry your cards in your wallet. Leave your cards safely at home unless you have a predetermined need to take it with you.
By predetermined need, I mean things like needing to take cash out for the month on your cash-only system, or making a reasonable purchase that you have thought long and hard about and have the money to pay for it. It does not include going on a ‘planned’ shopping spree!
Serve your cards their eviction notice out of your wallet. Make it the norm that your cards are not in your wallet. Make it a rare occasion when you do have a card in your wallet. If the cards are not there to jump in every time the cash runs out, you simply won’t be able to overspend. You won’t be able to make impulse purchases you later regret (who has ever not regretted making an impulse purchase?)
It is pretty scary to go out of the house with no cards to act as a back up. For this, try keeping an emergency bank note (say £20 note) tucked deeply away in your wallet in case of emergencies. £20 ($30) should be enough to get you home within your own city, and pay for anything that you may need in an emergency (such as food and drink). At first, you will run in to situations where you find yourself short on cash for non-essential items, but you will quickly learn to plan ahead and think whether you will be needing the cards or not before you leave your house.
Into a hidy hole
That’s not all. I’m going to challenge you further by asking you to hide the cards away from yourself. Find somewhere in your house, away from where you normally pull out your cards to make online purchases. The aim of this step is to require you to make some effort in fetching the card.
If you have to go through some extra effort to get to your card, it will provide you with some extra time to think about your purchase. It’ll give you a moment to ask yourself important questions such as whether it is really reasonable to be buying £200 worth of clothes? Should you be buying £300 worth of yarn (been there, done it)? Should you really be purchasing 5 new computer games?
There are two ways of putting away your cards. You should try both (if appropriate) to see which one suits you best.
Hide it yourself – you decide where to hide the cards yourself. Figure out somewhere you will have to go and fetch the cards. Perhaps in a box in your bedroom, under the bed. Perhaps in the kitchen cabinet on the top shelf right at the back behind all the jars. Make sure the hiding place is as far away away from where you usually do your online shopping as possible. Make the hiding place a little bit of a hassle to get to. The more hassle it is to get to the card, the more likely that this will put you off making an impulse purchase.
Get someone else to hide it – if you have a partner that you can really trust to be adult about this, then you could ask them to hide it for you so you won’t know where it is. Then, when you need it, you need to ask for your card, stating what you are going to use it for. Believe me, having to tell someone you’re about to spend silly money you don’t have is a great prevention on overspending!
A very important thing here is to make it clear that YOU still hold the responsibility in deciding whether to use your card or not. The other person’s responsibility is to give you the card upon request, not to judge you or your spending. In return, you should never put the blame of your overspending on your partner for giving you the card. If you and your partner are not at the stage where you can do this, I highly recommend you do not try this method. You will end up hurting each other, which is not the purpose of the Bipolar Finance series. It’s best to stick to hiding the cards yourself.
Which ever method you chose, there is one important thing to remember – you must return the card to its hiding place as soon as you have used it. Do not keep it in your wallet just because you’ll need it tomorrow. That way lies a very slippery slope of the cards starting to squat in your wallet. Sooner or later, they will try to claim squatter’s rights and you will have to go through the painful process of giving them eviction notices all over again.
Pull your cards out of your wallet and hide them somewhere in your house. It’ll be scary to go outside without your cards for the first few times, but I promise it’ll get easier very quickly. This step is the one single step that has really helped me stop buying junk on impulse. I hope it helps you in the same way.
Bipolar Finance series:
Intro: Introducing the Bipolar Finance series
Step 1: Get motivated!
Step 2: Know your spending pattern
Extra: How to draw your mood history chart
Step 3: Become a squirrel
Step 4: Lock away your savings
Step 5: Go cash only
Step 6: Serve eviction notice on your cards
Step 7: Spending the Bipolar savings without guit
I am not a financial advisor nor a medical doctor (as I always say, I’m a doctor of computers). The steps in this series are things that have personally worked for me. What I would really like for you to do is read about each step, and see if they may help you in controlling your spending. However, if you don’t think it’ll help you, please do not carry the steps out.