How do you feel about using layaway programs?
I'm not a huge fan of layaway plans, because they're not really the solution to a problem. What's wrong with just saving up and buying stuff when you have the cash? I mean, Christmas comes at the same time every year, you know? It's not like it snuck up on you.
I know there are rare instances when particular items are on sale, and you can take advantage of it through layaway if you don't have the cash at the moment. I don't really have a problem with that kind of thing in rare instances. But I would not, under any circumstances, use a layaway plan that has fees attached. You might as well borrow the money if you're going that route.
Here's a good rule of thumb: If you don't have the money, you can't afford it. And make sure you don't get into the habit of lusting after things you don't own, because that lack of contentment is always tied to people being broke. Just don't make plans like this a way of life, Jay. If you do, you're liable to stay chained to layaway programs just like you'd be chained to debt.
Credit cards are not an emergency fund
My husband and I are trying to follow your plan. We've paid off all of our credit cards, but he still doesn't want to close the accounts and cut up the cards. Instead, he wants to keep them in a drawer and use them as an emergency fund. He grew up really poor, and I think he's afraid of being poor again. We both know that's not what you recommend, so what can I do to convince him to follow your advice?
I think rather than trying to convince him, it might be a better idea to gently ask questions and talk things through. You said he grew up in poverty. What I'm hearing is that the cards represent a kind of security blanket for him. I can understand that. But if you had $10,000 set aside for emergencies, you'd have the security of knowing that a transmission repair on the car or a new water heater for the house would only be a minor inconvenience -- and you wouldn't have to go back into debt to make things right again.
Explain to him that what you'd like to do is replace the credit cards with your own money. You'd also be replacing what they do with a debit card. Ask him if there's a reasonable amount you two could have in the bank that would take away his worry and stress. Talk it out, agree on the amount, and then agree that when you've saved up and hit that number, the cards get cut up and the accounts are closed.
Just be patient and understanding. Above all, make sure you work together. If he's recognized the wisdom of getting out of debt and taking control of your finances, he's moving in the right direction.
-- Dave Ramsey is CEO of Ramsey Solutions. He has authored seven best-selling books, including The Total Money Makeover. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 12 million listeners each week on 575 radio stations and multiple digital platforms. Follow Dave on the web at daveramsey.com and on Twitter at @DaveRamsey.