The Credit Card Diet - MY One Year Challenge

It makes my palms sweat just typing this out... I am going to try to go an entire year without using a credit card. Any and all purchases must be made using our checking account (debit card/check/cash). Oh man. Not sure we can do this. We're already in the hole.

All right, people. Keep checking back weekly for the next 52 weeks to see if we survived. This may just be the hardest thing I have ever done.

I will provide updates on our status, the pros and cons, and an overall feeling on the whole thing. Cross your fingers. Follow us as we learn the good, the bad, and the ugly of living debt-free.

I decided that in order to make this work I really need to set out a list of goals, so to speak, that would allow me to better manage our budget. So, here are my thoughts thus far:

1. Everything must be paid for with cash, debit, or check. If we can't pay for it with the latter, then we simply can't afford it.

2. Re-purpose and Re-sell. As I clean out our home and get rid of what we no longer need, I will make it a point to have a garage sale or list the items with Craigslist. I will also try to find a new "life" for things that are still in usable.

3. Free activities or inexpensive outings for the kids and I. I need to find ways to entertain the family without breaking our bank.

4. Make extra income. I have tutored for a long time and love to bake. I am going to try my hand at cake making/decorating for celebrations in general.

5. Barter and trade. I want to see if I can exchange my capabilities for services. This will be tough for me to do without feeling somewhat embarrassed, but it might be a pleasant surprise to see how far it gets me.

6. Save up in advance for upcoming bills. I have opened several "sub" savings accounts that will allow me to save up for our bi-annual and annual bills instead of having to scramble last minute to pay for things.

7. Plant a garden. I don't know that I'll be able to do that since the season has already passed, but I will definitely start one next spring. Also, I plan on buying in-season fruits and freezing them for winter (or out-of-season) usage.

8. Keep the change. Since I will be using more cash, I will be keeping ALL of the change in a money jar. That money can then be used at the end of the year for a family celebration! We'll need it...

9. Coupon Clipping. As much as it annoys me to cut those little suckers out, it annoys me more to know that I could be saving that money. I am hoping to keep track of my savings for you all so you can see how much money really can be saved using coupons.

Any ideas welcome!


  1. Good Luck! You can do it. We live by most of those rules and it really makes since even if you are living on 2 incomes. We have 1 credit card, but we pay it off every month. Since I got the card when I was 18, I have never not paid it off every month. It feels great not to have any debt. You will love it.

  2. These are all great ideas! We also do most of these things (with the exception of the garden, which I would like to do--even if its small-- and the cake decorating). The coupons also annoy me, but some weeks I save around $15 or more. We get the Thursday/Sunday Indianapolis Star which pays for itself with the coupons most of the time. I don't buy anything just because I have a coupon for it. I just cut out the ones for the stuff that we buy anyway and go through them each week with the grocery list. If I make it all the way to the checkout with the coupons intact, I feel like I have accomplished something! We also have been following the Dave Ramsey plan for being debt free (thanks to my husband) and it really works!

  3. You go! We live by these rules (especially saving for everything before buying it, except for our house - darn mortgage!) but ironically use a credit card for *everything* so that we can track the spending (makes accounting easy for taxes) and earn cash back. This only works if you're crazy disciplined, though, which isn't always easy. It's really worth it to change to that mindset and readjust priorities, though, and being debt-free for a couple of years has given me a different outlook on household/personal purchases in general.

    A tool we've found to be really helpful, especially since becoming homeowners, is You set up a budget on it, it knows when all your bills are due and how much you spend (up to the minute, practically) and it sends you alerts - via email or iphone app - telling you you're risking going overbudget, or chaching! that you've got cash. It's great because it seems to do all the tracking work for you and will be in touch if you're veering from the plan.

    I have found one natural foods store that has their own coupon book that I find useful, for things like milk and cheese and yogurt. The coupons we get in the mail/paper never have much besides a lot of processed foods, or individual serving sizes that are more expensive than buying in bulk even without the coupon. Half-priced Pop Tarts are still way more expensive than none at all. There are exceptions, of course, but I've also found that making a list and sticking to it has curbed my grocery spending more than anything. I need to get better about meal and snack planning, however. This is my goal for the coming months, so I'm all ears if you're in the same boat and would like to share ideas!