Ever since I listened to the audio-book version of Robert Kyosaki’s (sp) “Rich Dad, Poor Dad,” it completely changed my outlook on my personal finances (and life, for that matter). I highly recommend you check it out.
Anyways, I used to be very much an impulse-buyer… someone who rationalized spending beyond my limits, convincing myself that I could afford my astronomical debt load (playing the “payments” game and measuring my take-home pay against my balance due).
But his book changed my spending habits. Remember the end of the first matrix movie, when Neo finally sees rather than images, a series of green 0’s and 1’s? I learned to change my perspective on things, and I am in a much better spot now.
One tip – get a Barclaycard credit card if you can (CUT IT UP after you receive it!). I suggest this because they offer you free monthly FICO score updates from Transunion (via their secure account access website). No catch, just log in as you would any other online banking. By observing my FICO on a monthly basis, I’ve seen it jump from 629 to 656. Not great, but I can see how managing my money better can have real results.
I still am living paycheck-to-paycheck, spending money at times I shouldn’t, but I feel I’m under much more control now. All my credit cards are cut up now and it was painful for the first 4-6 weeks without them, but it’s such a release now, to finally see those balances go down.
One other tip – when paying your CC bills, ALWAYS pay over the minimum. I know this is probably a dead horse, but even if you adopt a strategy of paying the min. on all but one (i.e. “monster” payments), just pay the others $1 over the minimum. Credit card companies track this – each month you fall into 1 of 3 categories: 1) no payment due, 2) paid minimum, 3) paid over minimum (if you get a Barclaycard card you’ll see what I mean). I’ve tested it and even $1 over registers you in the better category.