It makes me laugh now, but years ago, when I watched a particular episode of the television show "Little House on the Prairie," I was so judgmental. Whaaaat?! Are you kidding me? Pleeeeease, not Pa!

Seems the owners of Oleson's Mercantile had some newfangled system where they would trust Pa to take stuff without paying, put it on his bill and have him pay for it later. There I was, horribly deep in debt and aghast that that kind of thing would've been allowed back when life was so simple.

As convenient as credit can be, it can really mess up a person's life. While I won't get into that here (you can read all about my journey and how I beat the debt monster -- and how you can beat it, too -- in my book "Debt-Proof Living"), a couple of letters in my inbox this week reminded me just how easy it is to become blinded by credit.

Flow chart

Dear Mary: Can you give us some tips on overcoming temptations and impulse buys? I'm sure you printed a flow chart of sorts once before to help people decide what they really need versus impulsive spending. Thank you.

-- Barbara

Dear Barbara: Go to my website, where I have posted a cleaned up, handy version of the flow chart that I stuck to my checkbook cover many years ago. It was the visual stop sign I needed to make me think about what I was doing. Check it out. I hope it helps.

Cash only

Dear Mary: Several years ago, I began following your advice to use cash, not credit or debit cards, for day-to-day purchases. On paydays, I'd stop at the bank and withdraw enough money to last until the next payday. I then challenged myself to have some of that money left over in my purse, which would then go into a piggy bank at home.

I just want to thank you because this has really worked well for me. I am way ahead of the game. I still don't use debit cards for in-person purchases -- only cash. I feel like I have won, and it's all due to a lesson learned from you several years ago. Keep up the good work. We're still listening!

-- Carol

Dear Carol: Your letter just made my day. Thanks for writing.

mary@everydaycheapskate.com|Everyday Cheapskate, Box 2099 Cypress, CA 90630

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