During the weeks of Lent, the Green Cheapskate will be sharing his suggestions for little daily sacrifices that can save you money and help Mother Earth breathe a little easier.
Much is written these days about the carbon footprint created by our actions and the things we own and consume here on Earth. There are terrific, simple-to-use calculators all over the internet that allow you to figure out how much CO2 will be generated by just about everything you do or anything you buy.
For example, the flight I'm taking this week from Washington, D.C. to New York City will generate about .13 tons of CO2, and somewhat more if I consume a can of Coke on the flight. I could cut that down significantly (to only .04 tons) if I took the train instead, but unfortunately I just don't have the time. I feel guilty about that, so I'll definitely skip the can of Coke.
I'm not a scientist, but it seems to me that the flimsy little credit card most of us carry in our wallets is perhaps ultimately responsible for generating a larger carbon footprint than any other single object we own or action we take. Of course, I'm not talking about the CO2 generated by the manufacturing and distribution of credits cards. I'm talking about what we do with those credits, the behavior they enable, the spending and consumption they inspire.
Studies have shown that we are, on average, two to three times more likely to purchase an item when we're using a credit card rather than paying with cash. We're also willing to pay, on average, thirty percent more for the same item when paying by credit card. That's how much the credit card skews our critical judgment when we go shopping.
The consequences of buying something on credit, of going in debt, seem remote, almost like we're spending Monopoly money. It causes us to buy things we can't afford and often don't even want. Credit cards trigger what I call "Debtor's Dementia," a delusional state in which debt begins to seem natural, and where a few thousand dollars in credit card debt starts to make things like taking out a second mortgage on your house or borrowing money to buy a new car you can't afford seem like reasonable things to do.
BTW, you can tell if you have a problem with credit card abuse -- and early onset Debtor's Dementia -- if you ever have your cards stolen and notice when you receive your next monthly bill that the thief spent considerably less than you do during a normal month. ;-)
But seriously, Americans owe nearly $700 billion on their credit cards at the present time, or about $8,000 per household. The premium priced interest we're paying on that debt is crippling our household budgets, and the level of uber consumption our credit cards enable is giving Mother Earth a major panic attack.
That's why I hope you'll join me in giving up use of your credit cards -- and paying with cash instead -- for at least one week during Lent. Who knows, it might change your life, and maybe you'll give up your cards for good.
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