Pay a Friend to Stop You From Spending? It May Work

This time of year it can be especially tough to avoid using a credit card to buy gifts, travel or prepare for the holidays. You want to commit to not using them, but you may not be sure you have the willpower to keep that commitment. Rushing out and closing all accounts might seem like the only way, but that can have some negative effects on your credit. So here are a few methods, call some of them “tricks” if you like, that will help you reduce the temptation to use your card and get through the holiday season.

  1. Take them out of your wallet. You’d be surprised how many people hesitate to take this first step. But this is an important one. If you have your cards handy all the time you will be tempted to buy lunch, tickets to an event, clothing or books with it on an impulse buy. You want to plan your spending. Buying things on the spur of the moment using credit sabotages those plans.
  2. Put them somewhere hard to get. Don’t forget where they are, but store your cards somewhere it will take effort to get to them. That will give you enough time to have to think about using them, which might be all the time you need to shed whatever impulse you were feeling. You might even hand them over to a friend.
  3. Ice them. No joke. People have done this so much it sounds cliché, but for many people it works. Take your credit cards and put them in a container of water, then freeze the water. Should you decide to use the card you will have to literally break the ice to get to it. Again, this might give you time to overcome whatever impulse had you buying something.

Here’s another option that might be difficult to pull off, especially since you might not have a lot of disposable income available. But you can probably find another way to follow the same model.

Tim Harford, author of The Logic of Life, once employed a friend to help him keep his goals about physical exercise. He sent the friend $1,000 and told him to deposit it. He committed to an exercise regimen and told his friend that if he kept his commitment to the letter the friend was to return the money. If not, the friend was to give it away. He said it motivated him to keep his goals and that that same model motivates most people.

You might not have $1,000 to lose (or save today), but you probably have something you value that you are willing to give up, but would rather not. Maybe it’s a collection of compact discs, an appliance or a motorcycle. Find a friend with room in the garage or somewhere in the house and ask that the friend hang onto the item for six months. Commit to not use credit cards for six months. If you need to, you can carve out some exceptions. Make sure what you give to your friend to hold is something you would hate to lose, but could live without. Maybe you would have regrets, but that’s the point.

There is no end to the ways you can be creative in motivating yourself to live without plastic.