Substituting credit for cash
The rationale: You're between paychecks -- or jobs -- and your cash flow is clogged. Or maybe you just prefer the convenience of whipping out the plastic.
The rebuttal: Form a habit of making everyday purchases like groceries, gasoline and restaurant meals on credit, and you could still be paying off those debts long after you've consumed the goods. It's one of the top credit card blunders on consumer credit counselor Lisa Ray's list. Ray, who is a financial education specialist for the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Atlanta, suggests using a debit card instead if convenience is your goal, but make sure you keep up with your spending.
"It doesn't help to use the debit card if you end up getting overage fees because you're not tracking your purchases," Ray says.
Caryn Bilotta, manager of education services at Advantage Credit Counseling Service in Pittsburgh, advises clients who constantly use credit cards because they're low on cash to make some lifestyle changes.
"They need to go into a crisis budgeting mode and cut out any unnecessary expenses that they have been using credit for," Bilotta says.