Stop Spending By Freezing Your Credit Card In Ice

If you have trouble controlling the amount and frequency of your credit card purchases, try putting your credit card in a glass of water and putting it in the freezer. This makes it so every time you want to use your credit card, you’ll have to wait for the credit card to melt. By the time the ice has thawed, your desire to impulsively purchase may have evaporated as well. I read about this in Predictably Irrational; Dan Ariely called it, “The Ice Glass Method.” Apparently, it doesn’t ruin the credit card, although it will if you try to microwave-defrost it. This method is probably only good for people who do their shopping sprees in-person. Online shopaholics would just look through the ice.

Sometimes creating self-imposed barriers can be just what we need to curb bad habits. The same person inside us who has the willpower to put the credit card in the freezer is different from the person inside us who doesn’t have the willpower to resist picking up the plastic and hitting the shops.

(Photo: Getty)

Comments

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  1. PinkBox says:

    Hehe… doesn’t help if you have the cards saved to the sites you frequent most. (not that that is a smart move to begin with.)

    Or you can just… you know… look through the ice.

  2. Or better yet, don’t own a credit card. (If at all possible)

  3. @NameGoesHere:

    Freeze your computer, too.

  4. ilovemom says:

    @ConsequencesIX:
    Freeze your retinas and eardrums.

  5. This is a good suggestion, but a better one would be: “If you can’t control your spending, don’t have a credit card.”

  6. @NameGoesHere: delete your cookies and history for most sites and that financial info will be gone.

    I just choose the easy route no credit cards period. If I don’t have the cash for it then I can budget and save for it.

  7. homerjay says:

    Or if you’re like me and you KNOW your credit card number… and expiration date…..and CVV code….
    Thats not good, is it?

  8. ARP says:

    @silverundertone: That’s not a reality anymore where a valid credit (not debit) card is needed or you don’t want a big “hold” put on your money at the gas station, hotel, etc.

    Another option is to cut up your card. If/when you need it, you’ll have to reorder one. This is a good one-time option or a way to get you to really consider what you’re buying, but won’t work if you constantly have to reorder your card.

    Another option is to give it to a friend, partner, spouse, etc. (who you trust and has good judgement) and set up rules about whether they give it to you or not (e.g. don’t give it to you at all, at least question why you need it, or give it to you upon request, etc.)

    This tip is obviously for people who need help with spending, so the “just don’t use it,” “just control yourself,” etc. crowd hasn’t offered any real help.

  9. PinkBox says:

    @tawni: Yeah, I personally don’t let sites save my information.

    I do have credit cards though, since I want to build up my credit. I’m the type that CC companies hate, since I never carry a balance and pay in full. ;)

  10. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    Isn’t there a home ownership commercial that shows a woman desperately trying to free her credit card from a block of ice when she sees something on a home shopping channel?

    I couldn’t figure out why the hell her card was frozen in the first place.

  11. welsey says:

    I don’t own a credit card, I just budget things and only spend the money I have. I haven’t run into any issues where using my debit card isn’t an option, and I travel quite a bit including internationally. I really do believe it is an option not to have a credit card, although you do have to have some sort of plastic. I prefer my debit card over cash, because for some reason I spend cash like crazy. I can’t hold onto it.

    An option for those who are afraid they’d look through the ice would be to freeze the card with a piece of construction paper around it.

  12. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    @homerjay: I know all that for my debit card. It might be a very good thing that you know it if it ever gets lost/stolen.

  13. welsey says:

    Could I use “option” any more there? I need a thesaurus.

  14. Me - now with more humidity says:

    Don’t use a glass, use a plastic container or water in a Ziplock-style bag. Glass will shatter when the water expands as it freezes.

  15. induscreed says:

    what a waste, I thought this was going to be some good advice on credit line freeze.

  16. SuffolkHouse says:

    I did this when I was working on my PhD. All of my friends laughed at me because of it. 10 years later, they still bring it up.

    I walked out of college with little debt and am doing relatively well with few exceptions. My credit card debt has never been a problem for me.

  17. ARP says:

    @welsey: @

    href=”#c6214785″>Me

    : Unless the glass has a lid on it, it will simply expand upward and not break the glass, wouldn’t it?

  18. ThinkerTDM says:

    I like to tie my credit cards arount the neck of the pit bull next door. That way, when I want to buy something, I have to fight him for it.
    So I have to really need something before I go get it.
    As an added bonus, if I do get it back, my hand is so mangled, I have to go the ER. Talk about a cooling off period!

  19. bcsus83 says:

    I’ve actually done this. hahahaha! I wrapped mine in tin foil first, so there would be no peeking through the ice.

  20. humphrmi says:

    @ARP: Yes but the other problem is that glass freezes too (how many people knew that glass is an amorphous solid?)

    So yes the water will move upward (assuming the glass isn’t covered). The glass itself will also expand, slowly, and in most cases safely.

    But the problem comes when someone tries to defrost it. The first thing that most people will do is put the glass of ice under hot water. The glass will defrost as well as the ice inside it, but the glass itself will contract around the ice and might shatter, sometimes quite violently. I’ve seen it happen.

  21. battra92 says:

    If you can’t control your spending and you have to freeze your credit card in a block you really need to seek professional psychiatric help.

  22. battra92 says:

    @battra92: block of ice I meant.

    Need more caffeine today.

  23. smonkey says:

    We use to do this when we’d have a party. Everyone’s car key’s went into a bowl of water the bowl went into the freezer. It came out when I went to bed and by the next day people could leave. Not a fool proof method but it did stop me from having to and take keys away from someone who was too drunk to drive but sober enough to argue.

  24. Kajj says:

    @silverundertone: Well if you do that, you’d better hope nothing bad ever happens to you when you’re using your debit card, because Consumerist posters will rake you over the coals.

    @Me: @ARP: @humphrmi: I don’t think the article says to freeze the card in a glass. I think it’s “the ice glass method” like “in case of emergency, break glass” -like the ice makes a glass case, sort of.

  25. Sherryness says:

    I shop online so much that I know my credit card numbers by heart. :(

  26. crabbyman6 says:

    @humphrmi: I think the whole point is that you’re not supposed to try to defrost it, you’re just supposed to let it thaw naturally so it takes more time. Maybe the article should mention the virtues of pyrex in case of sudden thawing.

    I can’t believe I let myself comment on this story, so bored at work today.

  27. I’m not sure that idea would work for me. I look at my credit cards as quick access to my emergency funds, should something very serious happen. Thus, I carry a couple cards all the time. If something happens, I’d charge it, then use my actual emergency savings to pay the CC bill.

    Yes, I would.

  28. @homerjay: Yeah, ditto. There’s always a two-week period of dislocation when I get a new card when I have to go FIND it to order anything by phone or online, but thereafter I’m good!

    In my defense, I don’t think I have a CC problem; I think I’m good with long strings of random numbers. I still remember my best friend’s high school locker combo!

  29. WarOtter - I went to Japan and all I got was this tumor. says:

    Definitely doesn’t help online shopping if you have memorized your credit card numbers, including the security code for each.

  30. 67alecto says:

    After getting married and getting hit up with the “marriage” penalty on our taxes, I had debt from the wedding and writing a convenience check to pay my taxes.

    For what seemed like an insurmoutable $2000 credit debt, I took my credit card out of my wallet for a year and placed it inside a copy of the Myth of Sisyphus. I thought it was terribly clever, but hey, it worked.

  31. P_Smith says:

    Great idea! There are two added bonuses:

    1) Freezing the card might damage it, preventing you from using it.

    2) Impatience might get the best of you, and by trying to get it out quicker (hot water, breaking the ice), you might cause damage if the freezing didn’t already.

  32. jacobsm says:

    Thats a clever idea, but no plastic is even better.
    Blenders work too. As do many power tools and lawn mowers.

  33. Meggers says:

    I like the idea of freezing the card. I didn’t need to go that far but I did have to give my credit card to my husband for a year (he is not an impulse buyer). I now have my card back and I have paid off all of my debt.

    In fact, my credit score is now better than my husbands =)

  34. saffyre9 says:

    “Don’t have a credit card” is really impractical these days. How do you buy anything online without one? You can’t. And often, buying things online is the only option (eg. domains), or cheaper (eg. books). But, if you can’t control your spending outside of the times you need to shop online, then you need to come up with another strategy.

    I’ve actually done this before, and it worked for me (although I put my card in a ziploc bag before freezing it, so that the card never touched water). Really made me think about whether what I wanted to use the card for was worth waiting for the block of ice to melt. But, I don’t need to keep a credit card handy for emergencies – I have enough over-draft protection on my bank account to take care of that.

  35. @saffyre9: I don’t have a “credit card” — just a debit/visa card. Learned my lesson YEARS ago why just because you can, you shouldn’t.

    Yes, there are times where it stinks (ie they take the money right from it (which comes right out of your account) for rental cars, hotel rooms, ect.). But all and all, it works out in the end. :)

  36. mDuo13 says:

    @saffyre9: It’s not that impractical as long as you have a debit card. (As welsey points out.)

    The way I stop impulse spending is by setting aside “free” money in my checking account and always buying on debit. As long as my checking still has money, I let myself enjoy the impulse buying. It’s like having a really small credit limit, but without the interest.

  37. ageekymom says:

    My husband and I did this 20 years ago.. we didn’t use a glass though, we put the cards in a small zip-lock bag and then put the bag in a larger zip-lock, filled it with water and froze it. It definitely made you think about the upcoming purchase as you waited for it to thaw.
    Unfortunately, I’ve memorized my card numbers now (bad news when combined with online shopping sites!)

  38. Ms. Pants says:

    @ageekymom: I did the ziplock thing too. And then realised I could easily melt the block by running water over it.

    And now, I have my number memorized. Bad bad bad….

  39. RulesLawyer says:

    I tried this once, but the first time I kinda needed the card, a hammer and some hot water got the card out in less than 5 minutes. Not much of an obstacle.

  40. Silversmok3 says:

    As another commenter put it,credit cards are like alcohol:Some have no issues,while others abuse is certain.Regrettably I am in the last category with CC’s.

  41. The Reviewer says:

    I did this when I started saving, I now no longer need to do it. But it was helpful at first. I used a bowl instead of a glass, but same idea.

  42. theRIAA says:

    why???

    you should use a credit card for everything, build your credit and get rewards. if you aren’t responsible enough to pay it off, then don’t get one… ever. Get a loan if you need money.

  43. ninjaviking says:

    I’d be surprised if anyone EVER tried this…

  44. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @ninjaviking: Surprise! One of my college roommates did this. Her best friend, my other college roommate, was a spendaholic Daddy’s girl from Iran who blew out her cards on Bill Blass sheets, perfume, and jewelry, and then cried because she didn’t have the money to pay her tuition. The first roommate opened the second roommate’s closet and found about fifty percent of the swag stuffed behind the shoes, still in the store bags and quite unopened, then marched the miscreant back down to the mall to have a return party. (Direct quote from the spendthrift: “I’ve never returned anything. I don’t know how.“)

    Then when they got back, the cards went into the freezer in the bottom of a glass baking dish.

  45. SinisterMatt says:

    @saffyre9:

    Actually, you can. Just run a debit card as credit, as others have said. I do this all the time and it works just the same, with no issues.

    Cheers!

  46. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @67alecto: Excellent :)

  47. kellzzz says:

    I did this 20+ years ago, when I was young, irresponsible, and broke, but I used a coffee can (no breakage, and not see-through). It worked really well for several months–until I moved and it thawed out in transit. Somehow it never made it into the new freezer, so evidently I didn’t learn anything. It did hold my debt down while it lasted, though.

  48. bdragonmsl says:

    I like this idea very much, but one question. Wouldn’t the freezing and un-freezing of the card cause some damage to the magnetic strip?

  49. ciaright says:

    This seems like a good idea, except it wouldn’t work for me. I have my credit card numbers, expiration dates, and verification codes memorized…too much online shopping! Oh well.

  50. ninjaviking says:

    @speedwell: OK, but that was a prank! It doesn’t really count! Still, I consider myself surprised! :)

  51. jamus says:

    One of my roommates in college finally broke down and did this after he ran up a big bill. He had the little tyvek sleeve that the card came in and then popped it in a cheapo tupperware container, filled with water and kept it in the fridge. Really freaked some girls out when they would find it. I think they would have reacted better if it was a human head, but the idea of a credit frozen up in a block of ice just freaked them out.

  52. NiGHTSSTUDiO says:

    @homerjay:

    Freeze yourself!

  53. dobbybabee says:

    So, sex addicts should freeze their genitals?

  54. OnlineITPro says:

    Wow, this could actually come in handy. This kind of forces you to think about spending before you actually do it.

  55. Bob1967 - 999,999th visitor to this site. says:

    Woooo woooo wooooo, my comment of Jan 17th

    “Put your Credit Card in a bowl of water, put the bowl of water in the freezer, by the time the ice has melted and you can get to your credit card the impulse has gone and you realise you didn’t really need or want it anyway.”

    Get you own top tips that one was mine mine mine!!!

  56. paqman says:

    Ok fine, I’ll do it.

    This gives new meaning to the term, “frozen assets.”

    But seriously, why is it so hard for people to NOT spend money they DON’T have? I own one credit card for emergency only. The other credit card, I use just like a debit card, or a checking account. I keep a register, and only spend the money if there is money in my account. Then at the end of the month, I don’t have to worry if there’s enough money to pay it off. I just pay the whole damn thing off EVERY MONTH. What is so freaking hard about that. I hear stories of idiots in tens of thousands of dollars in debt, and I just don’t get it. I mean, I understand the temptation of wanting something now. I guess I just have more patience than some people. I treat my bank account like a credit line. But no interest! If I want something, I start a “sub-account” in my budget, and start putting aside a certain amount each month for that item. In a little while, I have the money to purchase the item in cash. And there is no interest. And sometimes, because I’ve waited, the item has gone on sale, saving me more money! Or I found a better cheaper alternative. Just make a conscious decision to only spend what you have. It’s that simple.

  57. SixFifty says:

    One thing to worry about with this. In the UK we need to use the chip in our card to purchase in shops. This could potentially damage the chip.

    Just a concern.

  58. St.Jimmy says:

    @humphrmi: Actually, glass is a superfluid, basically an extremely thick liquid. But you are right, if you rapidly heat it after freezing it, it will burst. Same in reverse too.

  59. tex1ntux says:

    This doesn’t work for me.

    I buy most things online, and I know all of my card numbers by heart.