I applied for and received my first credit card in 1994. I was 22 and a Junior in college. I was given a $400 credit limit to shop to my heart’s content at Victoria’s Secret [insert eye roll here] and I thought I was hot shit!

I didn’t know a thing about credit.

All I knew was I loved the idea of buying now and somehow paying later. I had a part-time job at Pier One Imports. I figured I would figure it out.

Of course, one credit card led to another and then another…

Once you were “in” with the Express/Limited family, all sorts of retailers welcomed you with credit lines. Department store credit cards soon followed and at one point, I had them all; Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom’s, Neiman Marcus, etc. Many stores I didn’t even shop at.

Soon I had a wallet full of shiny plastic cards.

I am ashamed to admit that after opening one of the statements (also known as a BILL, I came to find out), my curious father paid off my plastic addiction. Well, first he had a fit and screamed and yelled and then he paid my off all of credit cards.

All the cards were promptly cut up in a ceremony sitting around our kitchen table. There was more yelling, many tears and relief.

None of the balances ever amounted to much, $80 here, $115 there, but my little part-time job wasn’t cutting it and it was time for me to face reality. In total, my parents paid off almost $1500. I was ashamed and vowed I would never let that happen again.

After that, I got smart (or so I thought) and used only one very special Visa card, which I proceeded to rack up a balance WAY more than $1500. I was not going to let my parents bail me out this time.

Although, they did but I don’t think they ever knew it.

When I graduated from college, my parents gave me enough money to live on for one year as a graduation gift. This included rent, utilities and car maintenance (gas and insurance). The check was written to me and I promptly turned around and paid Visa off in full! I was out of debt and also jobless.

Needless to say, I took the first $23,000/year position offered to me and never looked back.

I’ve always struggled with credit cards but I’ve never let myself get into debt again like those early years. I worked hard to stick to a budget and live with in my means but that always meant paycheck to paycheck for me.

Long story short, I’ve never been good with money, I suck at math and while I’m not a big shopper, I’m also not a big saver.

My husband and I sit down several times a year and review our spending, where we’re at financially and what our goals are. I am BEYOND grateful, completely relieved and much happier that he handles all of the bills and budget and anything and everything else pertaining to money in our home.

It’s just better this way.

This post was written for Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop, Prompt 2.) One good reason why you are not in charge of your family’s finances.

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  1. says

    OMG I was totally the same way with credit cards when I first started working. My dad bailed me out of one debt too, and thereafter, never again. I managed to pay him back in full over time, and since then, I’ve been super careful with my plastic!

  2. says

    I did that too, actually I married someone who did it for me, and then left me responsible for $25k in debt which I never did pay off! Now? I have one teeney tiny credit card that I pay off immediately when I spend on it, just to keep my “credit active”!

    Those shiney cards are soooo tempting as a college student huh?

    • Tonya says

      It should be a crime to give credit cards to anyone under 25!!

      Sorry about your mess. My ex husband did that too to the tune of almost 50K, but he took that with him.

  3. says

    I, too, got sucked in to the shiny plastic business in college. Oh what a mess!! I’m happy to have that in my past. Unfortunately, my husband is not any better than me with the bills, so I handle it all. :)

    Stopping by from Mama Kat’s.

  4. says

    Plastic is evil, specially for young ladies. I only had one card, but I still managed to mock it up a bit. But you know, husband and I are ‘spend within your means’ kind of people and our credit score is not as great as one might think. Simply because we don’t have much debt…

  5. says

    I may be one of the few who managed to destroy their credit without a single piece of plastic! I knew they were evil, but didn’t realize that other things are just as evil, if not worse!

  6. says

    At least you learned from your mistakes and made a wise decision to pay off your credit card using the gift money from your parents. Some people never learn. We pay off ours in full each month and view it as a convenience, but not a money source.

    Stopping by from writers workshop.

  7. says

    I’m proud of you for learning as soon as you do. There are lots of people who make these mistakes repeatedly (it took me a few times, admittedly). Now I have no credit cards (which is often harder than having them) and am determined to teach my girls about handling credit appropriately. Ah, the shininess of that first card. The ability to walk out of the store with whatever you want and only a swipe. It’s so tempting, especially to a 20-something newly on her own.

  8. says

    I guess I should be thankful for having a first hand view of misuse of credit cards courtesy of my parents. I learned from their mistakes.
    I agree though, better to the share the responsibilty, or pass it off to the hubby!

  9. says

    Oh, I was a credit card mess in college!

    I like to avoid money issues (except spending it). I was an English major who hated math. My hubby is a contract negotiator who lives and argues numbers all day. I happily abdicate that responsibility :-)

  10. says

    I remeber the excitement of that first credit card! I just felt so grown up, like I’d arrived.

    And yes, I did rack up some debt at first, little things here and there.

    I am a major budgeter now, not a big shopper, and it’s hard for me to spend money on myself. But at least we aren’t in debt!

    • Tonya says

      Yeah… arrived. Whatever that means. I got such a rush out of saying, “I’ll just put it on my credit card”. I was so stupid! Happy to let Todd handle our finances now.

  11. says

    Those first credit card lessons are hard ones to learn… but it’s good to get them out of the way and actually learn from them instead of making the same mistakes over and over. I had a friend who got into major credit card debt and I was able to learn from HER mistake instead of making my own! Credit cards still scare me!

  12. says

    I’m like you – not a big shopper but not a big saver. If I have extra money, there is always something that I can spend it on. It may not be something totally crazy… most of the time, it’s towels or sheets or something stupid like that.
    My husband is in charge of the money!

    • Tonya says

      Numbers and budgets boggle my mind. It’s a fact that I’m actually rather embarrassed by. I just like having a set amount in hand and spending that. I need limitations or I can get out of control. Thank goodness for our husbands.

  13. says

    I remember the first credit card I got when I was around 18. My first charge on it was for the dentist to get my wisdom teeth removed. That really sucked.

    I handle all of our money but at times I wonder why since I love to shop. Maybe that’s the reason why…so my husband never knows how much I spend.

    • Tonya says

      Oh boy! Poor you. And here I was buying $200 worth of underwear and a big cozy bathrobe (navy with white polka dots) with my first credit card.

      My husband certainly doesn’t watch my spending but he knows exactly what I spend. I prefer it this way.

  14. says

    I too had to learn the lesson the hard way…more than once. Unfortunately our current debt is the result of 3 layoffs between us in the last 3 years. At times credit cards were what kept food on the table and gas in the car. Slowly working on getting out of this mess. I have since taken over the finances and I don’t really mind.

  15. says

    I’m not a big spender, but not a big saver either. If there’s extra, I can always find something little to use it on.

    I handle all of our money too, though I don’t really know why. Maybe so I can hide certain purchases from him? 😉

  16. says

    WOW!!! I thought I had it rough with my one little Visa bill!!! My Mom didn’t know how bad it was till she realized I was getting collections notices instead of “statements.” I had decided to give Visa the finger. I too, was TOTALLY unaware of what credit was really about. I’m glad now that you’re comfortable and have someone who “gets math” in your life to take care of it for you. Imagine if you were married to someone twice as bad as you when it came to finances? That’s what I’M Married to! Great response to the blog prompt, see you again next week!!!

  17. says

    Wow, what an awesome graduation gift!

    I only charged what I could pay off on my credit cards until all my stuff was destroyed in a hurricane. Thankfully, my place was fully furnished by my landlords, so I wasn’t replacing that sort of thing, but I had to replace all my clothes and personal items. And I was only making like 22,000 as a teacher, so that was the beginning of my debt!

  18. Leah says

    Because of hearing about your credit card experience when I was younger they really frighten me and currently, I do not even have one. I know that I probably should get one day to build up credit but for now, I’m ok with not having one. Seriously, where did we both get our bad genes from? Mom and Dad were both pretty good with numbers… Strange…

  19. says

    This is kinda funny, you know, looking back at it. Back it then though, it probably really sucked for you that your parents had to pay your debt off. You’re so lucky though! I had to wait ’til I got married, and my husband and I used part of our “wedding money gifts” to pay off credit cards. The bad part was that HE didn’t have any credit cards. It was all mine!

  20. says

    My parents had to bail me out once, too :( It has made me much, much more careful. And my husband being in charge of the money helps a ton, too. He is great with numbers, and I am not.

  21. says

    Another thing that is similar about us..I’m almost ashamed to say it but when people ask what I make I always look at John and say “he knows!” I am terrible with money..TERRIBLE and god bless John he married me with all my debt and hinky saving practices. I felt like I was reading my own story here today. Thanks for helping me feel less alone. Xo

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