Most of us are so used to flashing the plastic at the till and online that we rarely give it a second thought. Of course, credit cards are useful for household budgeting, helping you to spread the cost of big-ticket items, build your credit score and tap into rewards like cashback – but it’s also easy to lose track of your purchases and, worse still, spend money you don’t have.

Below are a few tips that always help us keep our credit card spending in check.

Splash the cash

No, we don’t mean go on a shopping spree! Instead, limit yourself to cash for essentials-only and, if you’re anything like us, you’ll soon hold back on those impulsive buys. Paying for another round of drinks in the pub, a dress you really don’t need or extra treats in the supermarket suddenly seem far less appealing when you’re handing over notes and coins.

When spending on card, we are reliant on ‘invisible money’ and over half of people believe they are less aware of how much money they’re spending on card than cash.

A word of warning though: never, ever take out cash on a credit card, as the fees are normally pretty hefty.

Budget wisely

To get the most out of a credit card, and avoid getting into debt, you need to monitor your outgoings carefully. After all, there’s no point choosing a reward card if you’re paying back more in fees and interest. Ensure you have enough in the bank to pay off at least the minimum balance each month and remember to factor in any unexpected expenses. You might be tempted to buy a holiday or new sofa on your card but what would happen if you unexpectedly lost your job or the boiler broke down?

There are plenty of free budgeting apps, like Mint and Wally, but a spreadsheet or notebook can be just as effective.

Pay down your debt

It’s important to start paying off existing credit card debt as quickly as possible. Transfer your balance to a zero-interest credit card and then stick to the monthly repayments – never be lured into spending more. If your debts are spiralling, and you’re struggling with other unsecured loans too, our expert advisers can help.

What else can I do?

Prepaid cards from Visa and Mastercard offer the benefits of going cashless, like being able to make online purchases, without the high debt risk. You could, for example, top up the card throughout the year so you’re ready for the Christmas splurge, or choose travel products like Revolut or the Post Office’s Travel Money Card to keep tabs on your holiday spending. However, it’s important to check the fees on all prepaid card, as they can be an expensive option.

When you do need to borrow, look for alternatives, like credit unions, instead of automatically reaching for your card. Also remember, you can reject increases in your credit limit if you think it’ll lead to increased spending.

Do you have any advice for avoiding credit card debt? Share your idea on our Facebook and Twitter pages.