Here are the rules to help keep you from becoming a credit card victim. Credit cards should be a convenience for payment, not a source of credit. This requires that the entire balance due on the card be paid each month. If the entire balance is not paid on any month, the card should not be used again until the balance is zero. The only exception would be an “essential” purchase such as for gas to go to and from work.

The six credit card rules:

1.  Pay the entire balance due each month.

2.  If a balance remains unpaid at month’s end, do not use the card again.

3.  Do not use more than one credit card.

4.  Do not accept credit cards from specific retail stores.

5.  Do not pay off one credit card with another.

6.  Do not purchase gifts for people with your credit card. Give them a nice card or letter instead. It is too easy to let your generosity exceed your ability to pay.

To monitor and review your spending habits, try this exercise. Take your credit card charges and your cancelled checks for the past year and do the following: Sort each charge or cancelled check into two piles. One pile is for the “must” payments such as utilities, taxes, medication, rent, mortgage payment, etc. The other pile is for the optional spending, such as meals at restaurants, gifts for people, recreational events or equipment, etc.

This review of how you spend your money may give you some guidance on how to spend more wisely and it may even help you create a surplus of cash for a savings and investment program.