A friend of mine posted a meme on her Facebook wall that said:
“Teach your teenagers how to handle money NOW or they’ll be living in your basement when they’re 30.”
Truer words were never spoken. I was lucky to have a mother who knew the importance of teaching such lessons. As a matter of fact, at the age of 10 she had me start a business, growing houseplants and selling them at the local flea market, and that taught me much.
But the best advice she ever gave me was when I was a freshman in college. She understood it was important for me to get a credit card so I could build up a credit history, but, she said, “Never carry a credit card balance. Ever.” And she meant never, ever, EVER. To get me into the habit of thinking that way, she had me put cash in an envelope whenever I charged something, so I’d be sure I’d have it to pay off the credit card bill COMPLETELY at the end of the month. I did that for years.
Eventually I was so used to thinking of a credit card as a pay-as-you-go proposition that I no longer had to put cash in the envelope. I just got into the habit of knowing that if I couldn’t afford to buy something outright in any given month, then I couldn’t afford to have it.
If I needed to make a major purchase, I’d save up the money beforehand, and only THEN charge it. Delayed gratification isn’t as bad as you’d think, when you realize you don’t have to cope with the stress of credit card debt.
So here I am at age 48, with the best credit score you can possibly have, and all because I have always paid my credit card bills off in full whenever they arrive, even if it hurts. I’m not going to lie; I’m struggling financially. Times are extremely hard. But I could have easily made it a lot worse on myself by having to pay massive amounts of interest. At least I can say that any financial woes I experience are not due to a lifetime of poor judgment.
If my mother were alive today she could rest assured that her basement would never have to be converted into an apartment for me, and I take great pride in that fact.
[image credit: abcnews.go.com]