I'm 28 years old, and I've never had a credit card. I didn't know this was weird until I started talking about it more and saw people's reactions.. Lots of confusion, that's for sure! Since then, I've discovered that I'm definitely in the small minority of people by not using credit cards.
There are two main reasons why I've never had a credit card that stem from my past: 1) my grandpa told me not to, and 2) I'm a spender and do not believe I would consistently pay off my credit card every month.
My Money Blueprint
When I was in my late teens, my grandpa said to me "using a credit card is like taking a mortgage out on your clothes." Apparently, I'm very impressionable because that's all it took. I never questioned it; never thought twice about it. My grandparents are extremely frugal and well-off (and good financial role models, so I thought and still think) they know what they're talking about when it comes to money.
The second reason I never got a credit card was because of my propensity to spend money. I naturally want things right now and usually spend based on how I'm feeling and justify it later. I like some of the finer things in life, and I think that it would be incredibly hard, if not impossible, for me to only use my credit card up to the amount I could pay off every month. So for me, I don't even want to have that temptation. I understand that everyone is not like me, so I don't think this is the way to go for everyone. But for those of you interested, here is how I operate without a credit card.
How I Operate Without A Credit Card
I have never thought of credit cards as an option. Not once. It didn't cross my mind as something that I should have while growing up, and that hasn't changed. During college, I saved money over the summers and used my savings for any extra spending money. Now, I operate the good old-fashioned way: cash only, baby. Actually, it's more like the "modern old-fashioned way": using my debit card as credit. By using my debit card, I can only spend what I have. I choose "credit" instead of "debit" when I use my debit card so that I'm afforded all of the protections that Visa offers in terms of fraud. By using cash and spending only what I have in the bank, I always have enough.
Unfortunately, no one brainwashed me about not getting student loans like my grandpa brainwashed me about not getting a credit card. So, I graduated law school with $206,000 in student loans! My student loan debt is now at $157,000. Student loans are reported to credit bureaus as installment loans (which is different than credit cards, which are reported as revolving credit), so this is how I build my credit: by paying off my student loan debt. Because I pay off my student loans consistently and have several student loans showing on my credit report, I am building a good credit history on my credit reports, and I have an excellent credit score.
I am in a unique situation where I have a lot of student loans being reported, which is why this works for me, and as a result I have great credit. I understand this is a completely different situation than someone without credit or student loans. In my case, I don't need credit cards to build credit; my student loans do that for me.
I will say that personally having a good credit score is important to me, but it ranks lower on my priority list than being out of debt and having a strong financial foundation. I don't know what I'll do once my loans are paid in full, but I'll worry about that when the time comes (I know it will not be getting a credit card though). For now, my student loans keep my credit in tip-top shape.
The Perks I'm Giving Up
I understand fully that I am passing up on miles and other credit card rewards that could "save me money". But I know myself. I know that a $400 flight isn't worth it because of my propensity to spend. I'd so much rather be in the habit of saving ahead of time and paying for things with cash than having my credit card as a backup plan. It's really just my mindset about consumer debt and credit cards: they're just not for me.
I heard Dave Ramsey say on one of his episodes that "if debt is an option, you'll always be in debt." I truly believe this. By not having a credit card, I don't even give myself the option of getting into consumer debt. And with $157,000 of student loan debt, I think that's enough debt for the rest of my life!
I have never considered credit cards as an option. I think this is a true testament to what is possible with a particular mindset. Only because of my commitment to avoiding credit cards have I managed to avoid consumer debt. It's also been a helpful way for me to get good at saying "no". I would say I'm a professional at saying "no" due to the amount of times I've declined cards at retail stores.
If you take nothing else away from this post, take away the idea that being committed to something and having the right mindset can change your entire life.
If a spender like me who loves clothes can go through life without a single credit card, then anything is possible.
P.S. For those of you with kids, I encourage you to brainwash your children. I was told from a young age that I would go to professional school after college (either medical school or law school), and I was also told not to use credit cards. I'm a lawyer, and I don't use credit cards. This didn't happen by accident.
This content originally appeared on here.