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8 Tips on Avoiding Debt

Thursday, 24 Jan 2008 | 8:06 PM ET
John Ulzheimer
John Ulzheimer

By John Ulzheimer

1. Don't apply for credit unless you need it. And make sure you have a conservative definition of the word “need.”

2. Use credit cards as a 30-day, no interest loan that must be paid in full by the due date.

3. Don't apply for a loan without understanding all of the terms of the deal including interest rate, introductory periods, grace periods, universal default policies, credit score requirements, primary credit bureau used, and credit bureau reporting policy.

4. Don't ever apply for credit in exchange for a discount on your purchases or a free coffee mug or T-shirt. Your credit report is a not a “10% off” coupon.

5. Be careful when taking advantage of in-store financing offers. “No payment for 24 months” isn't a good idea.

6. Pay off your credit card balances in full each month, no excuses. If you can find the money for cable, cell phones, beer, football tickets and cigarettes then you can find the money to pay off your credit cards.

7. Use debit cards instead of credit cards, you'll spend much less.

8. If you can't write a check for it, you probably shouldn't buy it.