Impulse Buys with Credit Cards

Using a credit card for impulse buys is a personal finance no-no, but what about those purchases that you want to buy – but don’t need – yet aren’t really impulses? What if you have been thinking about going and getting a chemical peel on your face for some time and decide to put the cost onto your credit card . . . does this qualify as an impulse buy? Or is it okay to charge it because you have thought long and hard about the purchase and decided that the procedure is just the thing to make you feel fabulous?

Stop. Put the credit card away.

Just because a purchase has been thought through does not mean that it is a justifiable expense. Credit cards are supposed to assist you when you need to buy something but don’t have the money available. “Need” is the operative word here. Do you need the chemical peel? Probably not. Do you want the chemical peel? Sure, but instead of putting yourself into debt for it you should sit down and analyze the cost involved with the procedure and then budget for it.

The same idea goes for whatever else it is you’ve been mulling over: a trip to the spa, a pair of shoes that would make Carrie Bradshaw weep with delight, a weekend getaway, whatever.

How do you budget for something like this? It’s simple. Figure out how much it is going to cost, and then figure out how much money you can put toward the expense every month. Set the money aside – in an interest-bearing savings account, of course – and then when you have enough money saved up to make your purchase you can march to the dermatologist’s office of shoe store or wherever you’re going and plunk down the cash for the purchase.

Voila! A debt-free transaction!

If you want to keep your personal finances in good shape then you need to lay off the instant gratification of buying things with a credit card. This doesn’t mean that you can’t be financially stable while still having some credit cards in your wallet. Plenty of people manage to use credit cards effectively without falling into huge debt. The trick is to have an appreciation for what happens when you use cash to pay for a purchase instead of a credit card. Sure, that chemical peel is going to hurt, but it would hurt a lot more if you were paying it off for a few years with interest . . .

If you want something, go get it. Just don’t use your credit cards as a fast fix to get something you really, really want but don’t necessarily need.