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While watching the season finale of The Walking Dead last week, it occurred to me that a zombie apocalypse is similar to using credit cards for financial survival.
And yes, I do know that I’m the only person in the entire freaking world that would make a connection between zombies and credit cards. If you have no idea what The Walking Dead is about (is that even possible?), here’s a quick synopsis.
The world as we know it is gone due to a virus that makes humans turn into zombies when they die. The zombies, called “walkers,” are perpetually hungry, especially for human survivors. Not surprisingly, the survivors are constantly afraid for their lives.
You don’t have to fear for your life like the survivors on The Walking Dead, but I know it’s stressful and depressing when you have to use credit cards to make ends meet. So here are some suggestions that I thought of while watching all those zombies for the past few months. Maybe some of these strategies will make life a little easier until you’re back on your feet safe and sound.
#1: Be sure you have enough provisions to survive
During a zombie apocalypse, it’s a good idea to carry some food in your pocket because you never know when you’re going to have to suddenly run from one that suddenly pops up from nowhere. It’s no wonder that some of the survivors on The Walking Dead are so thin. They’re constantly eating on the run.
Fortunately, you don’t have to literally eat on the run, but if you’re short on funds and need to use credit cards to pay for groceries, buy the minimum amount possible. In my youth, I once lived on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a year while straightening out my credit card debt. It’s painful, but it can be done.
If you have kids, another option to consider is a neighborhood dinner swap. Yeah, you still have to put the groceries on your credit card, but sharing the cost with a community often lowers your per person food expenses.
#2: Get creative when necessary
Notice how the survivors on The Walking Dead don’t panic when they’re about to be attacked. No, they figure out a way to get out of the jam.
I remember a few scenes where survivors covered themselves with the blood of dead (shot-through-the-head dead) zombies. They were able to walk right through a crowd of “live” zombies without being attacked. Now, that’s creativity at its finest.
When you’re trying to survive with credit cards, creativity is also your friend. Think about all the areas of your life that you’re putting on your credit card. If you put groceries on your credit card, then trying a neighborhood dinner swap (Strategy #1) is an option to try.
Are you paying for gas with a credit card? If so, is carpooling or mass transit a possibility? Ask your boss if you can work from home a few days a week. Target each expense that’s going on your card and brainstorm. Get your significant other or your best friend involved in this. If you’re in the midst of a cash flow crisis, it’s hard to think because you’re stressed out.
Strategy #3: Stay one step ahead of disaster
This is all about thinking ahead so you have options. Remember the scene where Rick, the survivors’ leader, Glen and Herschel are in town and they run into some suspicious characters in an abandoned bar? Rick ends up shooting them out of self defense, but before he takes off, he grabs the cigarette lighter off one of the dead men.
Remember the fire in the barn in the finale? In the finale, Rick used that lighter to start a zombie bonfire and it saved both his life and his son’s.
When you’re living on credit cards, sooner or later, you’re going to bump up against your credit limit. Keep tabs on it so you don’t get surprised. In fact, pay very close attention to the debt you’re accumulating. This will be painful to watch, but it’s necessary. It will inspire you to keep cutting corners until your situation improves. If you start to ignore the debt, you won’t think about every dollar you spend and the debt will build more quickly.
One way to slow down debt accumulation is to use a credit card with the lowest interest rate possible. Don’t use a rewards card if you’re carrying a balance because the interest rates on these cards are higher. If you’re credit is still in good shape, look into credit cards with zero percent introductory APRs. If your cash flow problem is temporary, this step can help you get through the rough times without paying interest on the debt.
If your credit is still in the “good” category (FICO score of 700-749), take a look at the the Citi Simplicity Card, which offers an 18-month zero percent intro APR on purchases and on balance transfers. Citi has been mailing offers for this card to those with credit scores in the low 700s.
Strategy #4: Take advantage of your strengths
Of the survivors, a character named Daryl is a renegade. He’s rough around the edges (this is an understatement), but he can track people when they get lost in the woods. For whatever reason, no one in this group of survivors can keep tabs on their kids. When someone goes missing, Daryl is called upon to use his skills.
If you tried Strategy #2, you’ve probably come up with some creative ways to cut corners. But now I want you to think about your strengths and your skills.
Here are just a few examples of skills you can use to your advantage:
- You’re skilled at negotiation. If you’re paying your bills on time, ask to have your APR reduced. This works best, of course, if you still have pretty good credit. Or ask to have your credit limit raised, which might have the affect of improving your credit score. Don’t give too much information about your financial problems. The bank doesn’t need to know that you can’t make ends meet.
- You’re energetic. Consider taking a part-time job to improve your cash flow temporarily. It doesn’t have to be a job that adds to your already high stress level. For example, offer to pet sit for friends.
- You can garden or sew. Grow your own veggies and herbs. I once made fun of this idea in an article. But now, I’m a believer and I grow my own herbs and tomatoes. If you don’t have a yard, you’d be amazed at how much food you can grow in containers. Likewise, if you can sew, you can update your wardrobe without spending big bucks at the mall.
Strategy #5: Don’t ever give in to despair
In the finale, the survivors lost the farm, which had given them refuge for most of the season. It would’ve been easy to give up and let the zombies win. But no, they just kept fighting the zombies and most of them made it off the farm alive.
If you’re getting deeper in debt every week, don’t despair. There’s always a way out. But you need to talk with a professional to know what your options are for your specific situation. Take steps to get help because you don’t have to do this alone.
Contact the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or CredAbility to find a counselor you can talk to. If you’re in serious debt, make the call today and find a safe harbor for yourself.
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Image: Michael R. Perry, via Flickr