This Summer I’m Telling My Kids to Charge It!

The following post is by MPFJ staff writer Travis.  Travis is a customer blogger for Care One Debt Relief Services, and also appears weekly at Enemy of Debt.  Travis candidly shares his personal journey to pay off $109,000 of credit card debt and the tips he’s learned along the way. As a father and husband he provides a unique perspective on balancing debt, finances, and family.

Charge it

My wife and I racked up $109K of credit card debt by misusing credit cards.  I don’t want my fourteen year old son and eleven year old daughter to follow in our footsteps, so this summer I’m going to do something a little unconventional.

I’m going to let them use credit.

I’m not suggesting I let them become credit card swiping junkies by going on a summer shopping spree. Please, allow me to explain.

For the second summer in a row, we purchased a summer membership at a full service gym. It has a ton of activities including an outdoor pool and a huge indoor play area called The Neighborhood where kids of all ages have access to basketball courts, mini-golf, batting cages and much more.  Kids my son’s age can roam the club freely and use it as a social gathering place being dropped off by their parents and picked up after an afternoon of hanging out with their friends.

While at the club, the kids commonly ask to get something to eat or drink at one of the club’s snack shops.  Customers can pay with cash, or they can choose to charge the bill to their account and have the purchase included in their next monthly bill.

We told the kids that we will purchase two things for them each week, but anything additional that they charge will come out of their own pocket.  I’m not going to force them to charge their items, however.  If they would rather bring their own cash along to the club, or just simply not exceed the two items per week maximum, more power to them.   Otherwise, when the monthly statement arrives in the mail, we’ll go through it as a family adding up the purchases from their unique membership number that exceeds the limit.

The amount owed must be paid by the due date on the bill.

I’m using our summer membership at this gym as a financial teaching opportunity for the kids.  This gives them a relatively safe environment to see how credit is used in daily life, as well as allowing them to get a taste for the temptation of charging and not having to pay anything right away.  They can also feel the consequences of giving into that temptation.

Such as realizing buying nachos every afternoon at the pool sucked away most of their allowance for the month.

Our kids are generally aware of our situation.  They don’t know the exact numbers, but they do know that we have credit card debt, and that we are digging our way out with the help of a debt management program.  They understand we got into this situation by spending too much through abusing credit cards.  But, I do not believe they have a full appreciation as to how credit cards work, or how easy it is to misuse them.

I hope that through this exercise they will gain that appreciation, and together with the experience of what our family has gone through to dig out of debt be more fully educated to prevent them from repeating our mistakes.

How about you all?  Would you let your kids charge things on credit?  Do you think it will better prepare them for handling their finances as an adult?

Share your experiences by commenting below!

***Photo courtesy of hin255 /


  1. That is a great idea. For some people there is a real rush from being able to swipe plastic and not pay anything. This should impress upon them that plastic or not, you are still paying for what you buy.
    Michael @ The Student Loan Sherpa recently posted…Student Loan Legislation Plans: Part IIMy Profile

    • Thanks, Michael – the one thing that I really worry about is how I’m going to handle them making mistakes. I don’t worry much about my son, as I think he’ll be able to easily correlate buying lots of things at the gym, and the impact it will have on his available funds later. My daughter on the other hand…..I could totally see her deciding to buy treats for all her friends just because that’s the kind of person she is – without realizing she just blew a large percentage of her allowance income.
      Travis @debtchronicles recently posted…How Fragile Are Your Finances?My Profile

  2. Travis, I think this is a great idea too. We inadvertently taught our oldest this lesson a couple of years ago when she wanted her own bow for archery lessons. She used birthday money to pay for most of it, and we allowed her to borrow the remaining $100 for the bow purchase. Her allowance was $5 a week at the time, and we told her she had to give us at least half of it toward payment of the bow. It took her about six months to pay us in full, and by the time she finished she was so six and tired of having that debt hanging over her head that she vowed at age 11 that she was never ever going into debt again. We accomplished a mission for her that we wouldn’t even dream of setting until 2 years later. 🙂
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted…Rosemary Thyme Lemon ChickenMy Profile

  3. Sounds like a good lesson for your kids to have! It seems like financial literacy is a problem because its not taught to kids. Thus…the overcharging and debt we have these days. Better to have them learn now and slowly, before they go off to college and pick up their first credit card for a free t-shirt!
    Christine @ ThePursuitofGreen recently posted…We Canceled our Cable!My Profile

    • Exactly, Christine! The goal of our education system is to prepare our children for being a self-sufficient, productive member of society. How can we possibly expect them to be properly prepared for this without teaching them financial literacy? I really want to prepare our kids correctly so they do not follow in their parents footsteps and make the same colossal mistakes. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!
      Travis @Debtchronicles recently posted…How Fragile Are Your Finances?My Profile

  4. It’s good, yet it is potentially bad. I like to use cash only, because i can hold a dollar, and i don’t like letting those go. I tend to spend alot more when i’m using a card, because I cant actually see the decline of cash in my pocket. I wouldn’t want my kids getting in the habit of buying everything with plastic, but I do realize the importance of knowing how to use a credit card.
    Rob @FinancialSprout recently posted…Save Money Cooling Your House This SummerMy Profile

Speak Your Mind


CommentLuv badge