A note to parents and college students about spending (and what might help)

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Today I’m going to share, at the request of Visa Prepaid,  my experience at college freshman year- my experience about money and spending.  Or rather, overspending.  And just how quickly I was caught up in “free” credit cards and getting myself into debt. And no I’m not proud of it. But I’m real and I make mistakes and maybe  if I share my story someone else won’t.

I grew up in family that did not do “handouts.”  If we wanted something, we earned it or purchased it ourselves. The ultimate catch-22 I had growing up was wanting to drive a car- but in order to drive a car, I had to pay for insurance.  In order to pay for insurance, I had to get a job.  Living in a remote area of New Hampshire, this wasn’t really an easy thing to do without a car.  I may not have appreciated that my parents were so strict and set in their ways about money, but looking back now, 20 years later, I can tell you it was a wise move on their part, especially with “me” as a kid.  I was um…challenging.  Once in a while, you know, like in a blue moon?
cash

Anyway, when I went off to college, I had money in my “pocket” for the semester to buy books and anything else I might need.  Money that I earned working the entire summer for, saving away.  Of course, like many kids, I got to school and had FREEDOM and new friends and realized very quickly that I liked to party. A lot.  Sadly for my wallet, I did not like to party with the kegs of beer at frat parties, I liked girlie, fruity stuff.  Which costs more.  Within a month my money was gone, and I had books to show for it, but little else except the freshman 30 15.

I had supplies I needed to purchase for projects.  Plus, more parties….and then it was time to start Christmas shopping.  And it seemed like every time we turned around, there were young, hip looking 20-somethings with tables and displays offering FREE credit cards!  Plus, when you applied, you could have a FREE tshirt!  A frisbee!  A travel mug! And like many of my classmates, I applied for almost all of the cards.  Unfortunately for me, I was approved for all that I applied for.  Within a few months I had 11 credit cards.  ELEVEN.  It never occurred to me to stop and think about what was going on, what I was getting into, what lay ahead.  I just saw a way to finish paying for things I needed and “needed” without having to pay for all of it at once.

Would I do this all again? Absolutely not.  But I’m 20 years older than my 18 year old self and I know so much more about money and life and what actual needs are.  But parenting a kid like me, I think I’d probably take their summer savings and keep control of most of it here at home, depositing amounts on something like a Visa Prepaid Card so that yes, they could access their own money, but I could also help to keep them on track and to learn to be responsible for their money before it was too late.

My debt wasn’t frivilous for long.  Soon after graduating, even with a Bachelor’s Degree, I wasn’t making more than $7/hour and it wasn’t anywhere near enough to live on so I did odd jobs and babysat whenever possible.  I still didn’t make enough to cover expenses and was more often than not charging gas and groceries (and yes, cute new boots- I’m a slow learner I suppose). At the peak, I had over $25000 in credit card debt.  All by myself. Do you know what I have to show for it?  That stupid “Freshman 15″ which really was 30 and has gone away and come back repeatedly over the years.  No fun trips, nothing substantial.

As parents, we have to teach our children about finances.  Not just about what the money is, and that we have to earn it ourselves, but also how to manage it, and how to plan.  Today, we have 1 credit card that we use whenever possible, because the rewards for using it are great.  We have a

backup card, and 2 store cards.  That’s it.  I’ll never have more again.  Too dangerous.  Too risky.

I can tell you that when my kids are older and start being away from us for periods of time and travelling or going away to school, we’ll be seriously considering the options available like Visa PrePaid cards so that we can keep a bit of a tab on things and hopefully keep educating the kids so they learn before they get into a mess like I did.  I’d rather they get mad and yell and scream at me for “only” depositing a few hundred at a time into their prepaid account than have them end up like me.  It’s kind of like a best of both worlds option  in my mind- the kids can have use of their money but need to check in with parents before adding more money- so if they are spending like crazy, parents can know right away and try to help solve issues.

I am blogging on behalf of Visa Prepaid and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s. Discover more at http://www.VisaPrepaid.com or view more Visa Prepaid videos at http://www.youtube.com/visaprepaid.

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About the author: I’m a 30-something mom to three, brand ambassador. content creator, social media maven, blogger extraordinaire, earth lover, butcher, baker, candlestick maker (or something along those lines) – love word games, crafting, cake decorating or shooting pictures.

176 comments… add one

  • Thanks for sharing this experience. I hope to pass it on to my college aged kids. They need to learn so much about debt and spending.

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  • I learned the hard way too with a JCPenny card, Sears Card, and my first ever, credit cards. I couldn’t afford the payments when I wasn’t hardly working. Then when I did work, my money was being saved for my first wedding. My parents didn’t give us money either. We had to earn it. My sister worked and saved her own money for a car and insurance. Smart girl. I didn’t do that, I went a different route, and regretted it.

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  • I just want to say thanks for helping to raise awareness and to stop/prevent bullying!!!

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  • My son is in college now and is so suprised that credit card companies would give him a card because is only working a part time job. Thankfully he has not sighned up for any credit cards because as a math major he know the interest rate is high and it’s better to use cash.

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  • Teaching children about money is very important. I am thankful that I don’t have any debt. I only spend what I can afford on my credit card so that I can stay out of debt, and earn point or cash by using credit cards.

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  • Good information. When I was a Freshman in college we were required to take a “University 101″ class which covered a variety of topics including finances. I feel very fortune to have had this class because it helped me make good decisions regarding credit cards and banking.

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  • A prepaid card certainly is a great way of limiting debt and overspending. The biggest advantage is when it is being used. you are actually spending money that you already have so you are in control and can’t get into debt.

    Great post, BTW!

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  • The credit card is a double edge sword, you must use it wisely. It’s best if you use the prepaid / debit card for shopping, so it can prevent you to go overboard.

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  • i am a college student, it is really hard to balance finances. i mainly don’t spend much and i dont get the luxury of going places very often. i do spend money on partying when i have it but its worth it! i wouldnt trade it for anything. its part of the experience. however i don’t have any debt. i won’t have to take out any loans for school and when i graduate thank god nurses make good bucks where i live.

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  • i never had a credit card until recently. i was trying to buy a house,but had no credit score .so now i have my first and pay off balance every month. i have a good credit score now. sometimes you have to have a credit card ,but just make sure to not go overboard on your spending.

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  • Thank you! This is good to know since I have one in college and one graduating high school in June!

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  • Stop Bullying Now!

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  • Yes thats a great way to go so then you know when you are ‘really’ out of money!!!!!!!

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  • IIt’s so true! Especially with college fees, adding credit debt on top of that is a horrible way to start your new life! I want my kids to be responsible savers from a young age so they’ll learn that!

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  • I think pre-paid is truly the better way to go. It’s much easier to watch what and how you’re spending!

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  • Luckily when I went away to college there were no credit card companies giving out cards to college students. I had a scholarship and some money from my folks, but I had to work to get any extra money. Now, at age 65, I’m glad I have no debts and a paid off mortgage.

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  • Hubby and I relate so well. We got married young and had lots of “needs” now with two kids and average jobs we are slowly having to dig our way through the mountain of debt we’ve created!! And we’re kicking ourselves each month when all the bills are due. In the end we’ve learnt lessons we’re sure to teach our children!

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  • I cut up all my regular credit cards and only use pre-paid cards now.

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  • It seems you need credit to get credit. That is why I support pre-paid credit cards.

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  • Yes, thank you for sharing! Information everyone should know!

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  • Pre-paid credit cards are the way to go. No big interest charges or other fees. When the money is gone…you then have to wait til you can afford to reload it…helps keep your spending in check.

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  • it is so important. i was similar to you, my parents didn’t help with anything so i had to learn how to handle my money at a very young age.

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  • Thank you for sharing this information. It is a lesson that needs to be learn.

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  • i wish i learned about credit when i was younger would be better off now

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  • Thank you for sharing this, i think this visa prepaid is the way to go if we want to go for vacation too

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  • Thank you for the important information!!

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  • Prepaid cards are definitely the way to go!

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  • i am a new parent and thank you for sharing your experience. this brings awareness and i hope i could teach my child properly about handling money responsibly.

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  • Thank you for sharing this and bringing awareness. Your experience teaches something.

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  • Those student loans are killer. Stay away if you can.

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  • I thank my parents everyday for educating me on credit cards. I’m one of the few debt free among my friends.

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  • Thank you for this chance

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  • These important lessons are missed by so many. Glad you are sharing your story to bring greater awareness–thanks for sharing! I think not only college kids can benefit, but those in HS as well–since they will soon be there

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  • Oh my, I remember the free t-shirts for credit cards. When we went on spring break the beach was littered with credit card company tents offering t-shirts when you sign up. They just made it too easy and I heard many people that had stories like yours where they had far too many credit cards especially at such a young age.

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  • I had to pay my own way from a very young age, but nobody taught me about credit cards or loans. It was too easy to get that loan to buy what I wanted, or that charge card so I could buy better things and pay for it slowly. I ended up filing bankruptcy at 24yr.old.

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  • Good to know, I have quite a few years before my daughter goes to college, but this will be helpful.

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  • I made such a mess of my credit in college, so glad I pulled myself out of that. I think parents should really have a good talk with their pre-college kids about the stuff! Thanks for getting this out there so that others don’t have to go through the same mess that I did!

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  • I have very low debt and I tell my much younger sisters they need to do the same thing. It’s bad enough it took me almost 16 yrs to pay of my student loans!!

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  • I hate credit cars and will never have another.

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  • Thank goodness we were able to pay off our credit card debt of $22,000 and pay only by cash for our purchases now.

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  • Yes wish I knew about this back then!

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  • I wish I’d never gotten the credit card that I did. When my kids do go to college, it will be PREPAID.. not the bank saying “here’s this manage it” and then BOOM credits messed up!

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  • Very helpful, esp. since I’m in college!

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  • I am forever trying to teach my children the value of money

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  • I was bullied in Jr high I am now in my 40′s and still remember how that felt its awful!

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  • This is why my husband and I use a debit card, lol. We only spend what we actually have, and we make sure we have enough in our account to cover bills before we buy anything we don’t really need.

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  • I wish I have been taught how to handle credit cards, I guess Prepaid cards are the way to go

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  • Ah! I’m glad we didn’t have tables like that at my school. I’ve never been tempted to get a credit card at all. If I can’t pay for it in cash hypothetically, I know I can’t afford it.

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  • Ever since I was 14, I have been working in order to pay for things that I wanted. However, I wish my parents would’ve educated me on how to build credit properly. My mom has always been so against credit cards so I never got one. At 25, I have school debt and I tried getting a credit card and was denied. :(

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  • So imprtant to know, and I wish I knew this as a college student!

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