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I Didn’t Want to Spoil My Kids, So I Gave Them All Credit Cards

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I refused to raise spoiled, entitled kids.

So for their 15th birthdays, I gave each of them a credit card.

They got to charge their expenses, and I paid for it.

I am a careful shopper and look for quality at an off price. I was a Loehmann’s shopper, Filene’s shopper (may they rest in peace) and now I primarily shop in department stores or online when there are sales, clutching my additional discount coupons in my sweaty little hands.

I taught my kids what my mother had taught me: Look for a well-made garment with matching seams and patterns and good buttons. Comparison shop. Don’t shop labels. Anything very trendy has a short shelf life. Don’t be sucked into over-paying for, and then advertising, a “designer” brand by wearing things with identifiable logos. The company should pay you for being a human billboard.

My mother had great taste and dressed herself—and us kids—well. When I was 14, I was at that awkward stage, in between sizes, and could not find clothes. I still remember her taking me to Saks Fifth Avenue and buying me three outfits rather than the five I would have gotten somewhere else. My mother had credit cards for all the Fifth Avenue stores in New York but she rarely bought there, even though she certainly could have. She was careful with how she spent money, was not spoiled even though she grew up in a well-off home, and she wasn’t going to spoil me. So the math was simple. Three outfits at Saks’ prices equaled five outfits from an off- price store. The lesson was clear and the lesson was learned.

When my kids got their credit cards, they were expected to spend responsibly. Most importantly, they had to distinguish between what they needed and what they wanted. They had to evaluate price and quality. They had to show me what they bought and go over each receipt. The deal was that if I disapproved of a purchase, it went back to the store. There could be a negotiation but I was the final arbiter. My pay, my way.

I honestly don’t remember them returning anything. They don’t seem to remember that happening either. I think that giving them their own credit card showed that I trusted their judgment and they stepped up and vindicated that trust. (Matters of taste are a whole ‘nother thing. For a while we called my son the KMart kid for his devotion to cheap corduroy pants and flannel shirts. Oy.)

When my two oldest kids were in high school, they asked for phones in their individual rooms. (Remember land lines? The ones with curly wires?) Too spoiled, I said. But I did appreciate their need for privacy, which the phones in the kitchen and my bedroom could not provide. So I decided that I would put a phone on the wall between their rooms. I nixed call waiting (I am philosophically opposed to call waiting. It lets one person know that the other person is more important to talk to. It also ramps up the possibilities for fights over who should talk on the phone when a second call comes in.) I told them in no uncertain terms that the first time I heard of a fight over the phone, I’d rip it out of the wall.

They took me at my word. They should have. I was tough.

If anything other than complete peace reigned over the use of that phone, I never heard about it. Not even when the two younger sibs became full partners using that single extension. I trusted my kids to work things out among themselves and they did. Again, they vindicated my trust.

And today, with their own phones, savings and checking accounts, mortgages, car payments, tuition obligations, and charitable commitments, I am proud to say that all of my children are hard-working, fiscally responsible, unspoiled adults.

With their own credit cards.


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