Ottawa·Q&A

Life without a credit card: 2 weeks down, 2 to go

We check in with three people who took up our challenge to live without credit cards for the month of October.

CBC Ottawa challenged you to make it through October without pulling out the plastic. How are you doing?

Erma Caissie Richard, Riyadh Nazerally and Shelina Merani are three Ottawans who have agreed to go without a credit card for one month (Giacomo Panico/Ashley Burke/CBC Ottawa)

As part of our ongoing series on debt, CBC Ottawa challenged you to stash your plastic for the month of October. 

As we pass the halfway point, Ottawa Morning checked back in with three participants: stand-up comic Shelina Merani, public servant Riyadh Nazerally and Erma Caissie Richard, who is retired.

Here's how they've been learning to live without their credit cards. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)

Where is your credit card?

Shelina: By the chicken wings in my freezer, safely frozen.

Erma: Ours is in the safety deposit box at the bank.

Riyadh: Buried deep within junk at my house.

Has there been any moment when you thought, this is really tough?

Riyadh: I was at the grocery store last week and I got [the cashier] to check my points. I was 100 points away from saving $40 and had I been using my credit card I would have saved $40 on my groceries. That was kind of painful.

Shelina: I was trying to book a flight to New York City for a performance and they only take credit. I had to do it by the end of the day, was trying to figure out what to do and I was able to speak to some great people on our CBC Facebook page who gave me some really great ideas.

One was, you can use a debit card that works as a Visa card online ... I was able to use that. It forced me to think of alternative ways.

Erma: Last week we had our furnace serviced and I forgot to remind my husband. I was on the road and had our only chequebook with me. I called [my husband] and said the guy from the furnace company is coming in 15 minutes, do you have enough cash to pay him?

Normally we'd pay with our credit card. He said no, so I said, 'You have to rush to the bank, get the cash then come home.' It's been an inconvenience.

Have you noticed a shift in your spending?

Riyadh: Not really. I hate to say it. I thought it would be a dramatic change. I think now I realize how frivolous I am. It hasn't slowed me down yet but I'm more aware.

It's instantaneous, you feel it right away, it's not like credit where you put the card away and you check it whenever you need to check it. I can kind of see that sushi I shouldnt have bought yesterday, right away.

Shelina: This has been an interesting challenge because it's a lot less convenient. You have to figure out alternatives ... when you push yourself a little bit you can find alternative means to do these things.

You have to work a little bit harder but it is possible.

Do you think this is going to change how you live?

Riyadh: I don't think it will necessarily change in a huge, impactful way, but I think I'll be more self aware.

when I'm saving for things like vacations or making a big purchase, it might come to mind that I should put away the credit card for some time.... From the day to day, I can't see myself using [my credit card] as much as I was.