Throughout my childhood and well into my adolescence, my parents struggled with debt of all kinds, especially credit card debt. Witnessing them go through such money travails, I told myself early on that I wouldn't make the same mistakes they did. Although I feel as though I would have been much better off had they not made these debt-inducing mistakes in the first place, I think, in the end, that had I not witnessed their mounting debt myself, I would not have realized what a danger credit card debt can be.
While most of my peers in college excitedly nabbed credit cards when the going got tough--as it inevitably does as a college student--I simply did without. Of course, this can be difficult when all your friends want nothing more than to go out to eat or drink constantly, but in the end, it paid off. Still, since credit cards are so tempting during those college years, when adolescents get their first taste of "freedom", I think it's absolutely critical that parents teach their children about responsible finances very early on. Here are a few tips.
Talk to your kids about credit cards before they go to college.
It's better to talk often and talk early about the pros and cons of credit cards. College students aren't a particularly responsible lot, or at least not yet, so suggest to them that it's better to wait until after college, when they have the resources and presence of mind to pay them off every month.
Don't send your college kids money if they run out.
It sounds cruel, but in the end, it will teach them how to budget. Determine before your kids head off to college how much money they may need for books and personal expenses. While it's okay to be a bit more flexible during your kid's first semester in college, when both of you are still trying to figure stuff out, put your foot down later. College is the time to learn the art of saving and resourcefulness, so that they'll be fully prepared once out in the real world.
Practice accounting of expenditures with your child.
This is one habit that I never learned early and I struggled with later on in life. Show your child how to keep a log of every purchase they make, so that they have an accurate, instant idea of how much they've got in the bank. Relying on online statements only sets you up for over-drafting, and this is something I certainly learned the hard way.
In the final analysis, getting out of debt is tough but doable. It's far easier to never accrue debt in the first place. Even if you already made those critical mistakes for which you are paying dearly now, help out the next generation. Don't let it happen to them.
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