UNITED STATES—I know I’m not the only one who has their mailbox or that little drawer in the house or table that is overcome with mail, more specifically junk mail. We all get junk mail on a daily basis, a lot of the time it is a the direct result of creditors sending your information to other agencies where you receive at least 10 or more letters in the mail noting you are pre-qualified for a credit card. I have 3 major credit cards, and 2 department store cards.

I was just out purchasing some electronics the other week and the retailer asked me if I wanted sign up for their card. I easily declined. Here is the thing about credit: it can be a good thing and it can be a bad thing people. My credit was established in college. Don’t even ask me how I got my first credit card, I really can’t remember. I just recall signing up for something and I had my first piece of plastic as I call it. The difference between me and most of my college pals, I actually had a job and I worked. Mommy and daddy were not paying my bills. So I had an edge in the responsibility department. My credit continued to grow over the years, and I had a firm rule: my credit card was for ME, not for others!

You might say why is that important? Trust me it is very important because if you start using your credit card for others you will find yourself getting into debt a lot faster than you expected and then it becomes very hard to get out of that debt at the same time America. That happened to me and I had to learn the hard way. You agree to make a purchase for someone who happens to be a blood relative who agrees to pay you back, but it ends up taking them over a year to pay you back. By that time the purchase you made has accumulated a ton of interest and you are stuck paying it off.

I say it time and time again, a credit card is money you DO NOT HAVE! It is money that is being loaned to you. You have to pay that money back America, even if you don’t want to. You can file bankruptcy, but that will hurt your credit score and credit report over a period of time, rather you believe it or not, it actually does. With that said, you have to think of your credit card as a bargaining chip.

If you’re in a tight bunch, it allows you a few ways out. At the same time, you have to be cognizant of what you can afford to pay each month and what you WANT to pay each month. The balance is one thing, the interest is another. The interest on some credit cards can be so high no matter what you do, it feels like you can never and I mean never get ahead. Now who in the world wants to struggle with that mayhem?

I have come to realize that cash is best. Yes, you heard me CASH, not debit. The problem with debit is it’s just like credit; the only difference is the money comes immediately out of your checking account and for most people they don’t keep track of their debit purchases. That can be dangerous because you’ll spend, spend, spend, and before you know it, all your money is gone and you have no idea where it went. I would argue 2-3 credit cards is sufficient. You have your one card that is for absolute emergencies, where you are in a major pinch and you need assistance, that other card can be used for daily or weekly transactions, but remember, don’t overdo it.

So many people forget those small purchases add up over a period of time. So if you can use cash instead of plastic than do so. If you think having 10-15 cards, if not more (yes, I’ve seen it), think again. That means you have 10 or more credit card payments you have to issue EACH MONTH from your income that does not factor in your rent/mortgage, car note, insurance, electricity, gas, water, internet, phone and other bills which might be necessities for you.

That money you’re paying on credit card bills could be going to your monthly expenses or towards your savings for retirement. At the end of the day, just because someone is offering you a credit card doesn’t mean you have to have it, especially retailers. Why do you ask? If you have a major credit card, it is likely accepted at most establishments, so what is the reasoning for that department store card? Oh, you can have 30 percent on your purchase today. Sounds promising, but that is a one and done thing people, most companies are not GIVING that you to on a consistent basis, and not to mention the interest rate on those cards are so high it is not even funny people, not in the least.