What happens when you give a poor kid a credit card?

I was 18 years old when I got my first credit card. A company set up tables on our college campus and gave away free t-shirts to anyone who applied for a card. I’ve always loved a free…well, anything…so of course I applied. Within a week, a shiny new card arrived in my mailbox with a $500 limit. 

Of course, I didn’t register a “limit”…all I saw was FREE MONEY.

I was a poor kid from middle of nowhere Alabama, and at that point in my life $500 might as well have been $100,000. 

It was a fluke that I even ended up going to college–no one in my family did. I can’t remember what I thought I would do after graduating high school (maybe continue waitressing at JR’s Wings and Things?), but what I CAN tell you is that I went into utter shock when I got a letter in the mail offering me a full scholarship to my university.

My test scores apparently put me in a range where some schools were offering me money to come there before I even applied. Which was a good thing–because I didn’t know the first thing about applying to college!

And this, my friends, is how I accidentally ended up going to college AND how I ended up in major credit card debt before I hit the age of 21.

No one in my family talked about money, unless it was about not having any. My brother and I used to joke that our family motto is “Expect the worst, and don’t you dare hope for the best.”

The first part of my childhood was spent in a single wide trailer, then later in a small home on a piece of my grandparent’s land. We struggled, to say the least. 

I had no clue–ZERO idea–how to handle money, and this landed me in a world of trouble several times before I finally taught myself to manage money in responsible ways.

I not only completed that four-year degree, I went on to receive a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology. Once I moved away from Alabama and began working in the professional world, I dug myself out of the hole I was in through sheer will and a determination to learn as much as I possibly could about debt, savings and investing. I read every personal finance book I could get my hands on. 

And still, STILL, I made major mistakes. I was in a cycle of accruing debt, paying it off, and doing it all over again.

I could have read every personal finance book in the world, but until I dealt with my emotional spending, the psychology of money and the beliefs that were handed down to me from my own family of origin–I was doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m PASSIONATE about money, for one reason and one reason only–MONEY BUYS FREEDOM.

Money is just a tool–and like any tool, it can be used to build something sturdy and secure, or it can be used to destroy.

Having money–for me–isn’t about accumulating stuff, or taking big fancy trips. It’s about the freedom of CHOICE, the ability to make the most important decisions in my life based on my own best interests rather than fear and scarcity. And it’s about having the ability to be generous with others, taking care of my community. 

I’ve spent much of my adult life yo-yoing between extreme deprivation and reckless spending. I am so incredibly thankful that I did the work I did to find more balance in my financial life, to make money a useful tool that works FOR me and not AGAINST me.

If I can support you in creating a healthier relationship with money, it’s my favorite thing to so…so please reach out!