Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Money Does NOT Grow on Trees

I know that parents often tell their children that "money does not grow on trees." But, I fear that we often live in a way that belies this fact!

When Paul and I first got married, we made the same mistake that most folks in our generation do - we attempted to live to the same degree of "comfort" that we grew up to expect... only, we wanted it right then!

Enter credit card debt.

We spent all of our wedding money and maxed out my credit card to buy things to make our house "homey." In addition we ate out quite often, because we had both come from families who ate out often. And, well, I did not know how to cook. So, it was only natural to go out nearly every day.

First of all, if you ARE going to use a credit card, do NOT use it on something so consumable as a meal out!

In those first two years of marriage we acquired more credit cards. We wanted to be able to dress as well as we did while we were single. My parents dressed me very well, buying most of my clothes on clearance racks at upscale stores (Famous Barr end of the season sales - how I miss those!). In order for Paul and I to finance such a lifestyle we had to get credit cards.
We were very foolish.  
If anyone had told me that in two years of maxing out credit cards that I would completely ruin my chances of buying a house for another 10 years - I might have listened. But, you see, I thought money grew on trees. I just knew that somewhere down the line we would have all the money we wanted to pay back these items (and buy more!).

There were other immature decisions made, that would negatively effect our future, but I do not care to rehash that here. I just want to make this point-

Dear Christian parents, please impress this upon your children (and direct them to this blog post if you like):

The decisions you make about your spending early on will affect the rest of your life!

Paul and I joke now that every banking institution, auto plaza, and student financial aid office should be required by law to post a plaque that say this: 
The rich rules over the poor,
 and the borrower is the slave of the lender. 
(Prov 22:7 ESV - emphasis mine)
I have to point out that the verse immediately preceeding this is:
Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Prov. 22:6 ESV
Hmmm... do you think that wise old Solomon might have been trying to tell us something?

Paul and I are still young parents. And, admittedly, our children are very young. But, we are intent on teaching them early and often about the dangers of debt! We do not want to see them in a position where they cannot do as they want or go where they want, because of the debt they are in. We pray that we will be a good example to them that God can repair the ruins! BUT, we still hope and pray that they never find themselves in such a position. I do hope they choose for themselves humble homes and modest cars, but not out of necessity.

Back to my original sentence: What we, as parents do often belies what we say (about money not growing on trees.)
1 - Are you making every purchase with a credit card? Do your children see that? If so, do you tell them your plan for paying that credit card off?
2- Are you buying them all the clothes and toys they want, and never making them show a little patience (or gratitude) for such a gift?
3- Do you give your children money without any guidance how to spend it? And, do they get an "allowance" without having to earn it? Because, rarely does it work like that in the real world.
4 - Are you talking to your children about college expenses? Or, are they taking for granted that they can get a loan for that? Or, that you will pay for that? (For those of you who do pay for your children's college, I am not condemning you. I think it is great that your kids won't have to start out with thousands of dollars in debt. But, do they really know what it is costing you? Do they know all the cut backs you have had to make to pay for them? My parents paid for my first two years - books and all. I don't think that I even said thank you... because I thought money grew on trees.)

I know I have a lot to learn. And, I hope our readers know that I am speaking this from a heart of love and compassion. I am writing this out of my own experience! If you have specific ideas of training children in the way they should go in regards to finances, please feel free to leave a comment.


April said...

Bethany, my story is very similar to yours, only I was making poor decisions on my own, and brought a ton of debt (and a terrible credit score) into my marriage. Randy has been very forgiving and understanding, but it has definitely caused tension in our relationship at times! That's something I wish I had understood in my early twenties--that even though I was on my own at the time, my actions had the potential to negatively affect someone I love in the future.

I also think it's a good idea to teach kids about debit cards, or to use cash more often when someone is around their kids. Most children don't recognize the difference between a credit card and a debit card--to them, you swipe that piece of plastic, and you get a bunch of stuff. They have no concept that there's only so much money on that card.

Also wanted to add--while it's not necessarily ideal, the blessing in your situation is that your children have the ability to see firsthand both the consequences of poor decisions, and the positive consequences of subsequent wise decisions. It is also a wonderful way for them to see the grace and mercy of God, I think. That we can never pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, but He blesses us and works through our circumstances, even when we don't deserve it.

Thanks for being willing to be so vulnerable--it's always refreshing to see someone who is willing to talk about their faults, without being self-deprecating. I think you do such a great job of giving God the glory whenever there is blessing in your life. :)

Bethany W. in mid-MO said...

Thanks for your comment.

You are right about training children to know the difference between credit and debit cards.