Home > Credit Cards > 5 Credit Card Survival Strategies I Learned From The Walking Dead

Comments 0 Comments

[Update: Some offers mentioned below have expired. You can view the current offers from our partners on our marketplace. Disclosure: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.] 

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.

At publishing time, the Citi Simplicity Card is offered on Credit.com product pages and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Image: Michael R. Perry, via Flickr

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team