There once was a little apple who didn’t fall far from the apple tree. This little apple, though not really realizing it at the time, intuitively picked up on many good spending and saving habits her parents had exhibited over the years.
Then, one day, on Little Miss Apple’s 16th birthday her parents handed her the keys to her very own car and a credit card.
Wait…THAT doesn’t sound prudent or frugal or wise on the parents’ part at all. Let’s dig a little deeper here (plus I’ll return to writing in first person).
As I was saying — on my 16th birthday — I got a car, a red 1979 Ford LTD. It was a BOAT — for lack of a better metaphor, and before I owned it, it was my great-grandfather’s car. Dad had a knack for buying used, well cared for cars from family members over the years. This was no exception. Along with the car, my parents handed me my first credit card complete with my very own name on it. I still remember the feeling of exhilaration I felt holding that shiny silver card and lightly tracing over the letters of my name with my fingers. What a thrill.
I was told the “rules of card usage” once. Only Once. And from that day on, I’ve been using credit cards appropriately.
Rule #1: the purpose of this credit card is for emergencies only – such as gas or a tow truck
Rule #2: you’re responsible for paying the bill – in full – every month
Rule #3: if you break rule #1 or rule #2 you lose the credit card
That’s it. Those were the rules and I followed them. I got a job and earned my own money and paid my bills. As a matter of fact I had the job before the car and credit card. I suppose that was my way of showing my creditworthiness – as banks refer to it – or by definition the ability to pay back what you borrow. Dad bought me the car and mom got me the credit card, but I paid for the gas and half the insurance payment (as long as I stayed on the honor roll, Dad paid the other half). If Dad would have told me I was responsible for the full annual insurance premium, I would have paid that too, and he knew it. I guess that’s what mattered more than the actual cost.
The teenage driving years were good. I had a car and a job and cash for gas and clothes and social fun with my friends. I stopped asking my parents for money, though by now my mom had her accounting degree and was working for a firm full-time so their income had increased significantly. This bump in income gave my parents a nice cushion, but it didn’t mean their spending increased. It meant their savings increased (I could add a few exceptions to that statement here like my spoiled little sisters and brother – but I’ll save that for another day:) I noticed once my mom had a good paying job, retirement savings increased and they began investing more regularly in the stock market and rental properties. Most importantly, they continued to live in their paid off little home with four of their kids.
I worked as many hours as the theme park allowed. I opened a savings account and started accruing money. Little bits at at time. I met my husband at my summer job when I was 17. He didn’t become my boyfriend though until I turned 19. And then we broke up and finished our college degrees at universities five hours apart from each other. And then we made up. And then we got married. And here’s where I became Mrs. Money Apple and the story gets interesting…