Credit Cards in the Hands of Financially Immature Students

Our kids are fortunate to be growing up in the most progressive and exciting time in history. Sadly, the very culture that offers them the world is also perpetrating this lie:

You are entitled to have everything you want even if you don’t have the money to pay for it. It’s not a problem. You deserve it. Buy it now and you can pay for it later!


There’s a huge consumer-credit industry out there planning to give your kids their very own credit cards—personal passports into the abyss of consumer debt.  This is not going to require your permission or approval, something that one reader is experiencing first hand.

DEAR MARY: My daughter who is in college got a credit card and now she is in over her head, unable to pay what she owes.

She works part-time and makes a very small salary. With the high interest and late fees, the balance is now over $2,500. I will have to step in and handle the account.

How can I negotiate with the credit-card company to settle for less? I don’t know how she got this card on her salary but she kept quiet about not being able to make the payments until we started getting collection calls for her. I appreciate your thoughts and expertise. Millie

Ask Me Anything: Kitchen Appliances, Counters, Gunk Cleaners

Want to create enough confusion in your head to make it feel like it’s going to explode? Go shopping for kitchen appliances. Listen to all the sales pitches, let every friend and relative weigh in with their opinions and then set out to find all of it on sale. Yep, that will do it for sure.

To avoid that kind of near-explosive situation, you could do what today’s first reader did—ask me! It seems that I have a response (and opinion) for just about anything.

Dear Mary: We are remodeling our kitchen, which means new appliances. Do you have a suggestion for the brand we should consider and should we get them all to match or do more of a mix-and-match to get the best prices available? Also, which type of countertop do you feel is better? We have nine grandkids so we want everything to be very durable. Liz

How Easy It is to Become Blinded by Easy Credit

It makes me laugh now, but years ago when I watched a particular episode of the television show Little House on the Prairie, I was so judgmental.

Whaaaat?! Are you kidding me? Not Pa!

Seems the mercantile had some new fangled plan where the owner would trust Pa to buy stuff now, put it on his bill and he could pay for it later. There I was, horribly deep in debt myself, but aghast that kind of thing would be allowed back when life was so simple.

As convenient as credit can be, it can really mess up a person’s life. While I won’t get into that here   (you can read all about my journey, how I beat the debt monster and you can too, in my book Debt-Proof Living), a couple of letters in my inbox this week reminded me just how easy it is to become blinded by easy credit.

Dear Mary: Can you give us some tips on overcoming temptations and impulse buying?  I’m sure you printed a flow chart of sorts once before, to help people decide what they really need vs. impulsive spending. Thank you. Barbara

Dear Barbara: Here is a cleaned up version of the chart I scribbled out and attached to my checkbook cover many years ago. It was a kind of visual STOP sign I needed to make me think about what I was doing. Hope this helps!

Dear Mary: We are one month behind on our mortgage payments and plan to catch up this month. We have told our credit union we will pay half on the 1st and the second half on the 13th. This will bring us current. They call all day, every hour. When we answer they say they have to call us constantly until the amount due is paid. That is their policy. I say this can’t be true or allowed by law. It seems like harassment. Cindy, Maryland

Dear Cindy: I can certainly understand your frustration, but I can understand your lender’s policy as well. I know of no laws they are breaking by calling you at reasonable hours during the day. (You may be confusing this with laws that protect you when a debt is turned over to a  third-party collector.)

Look, when you signed the original loan document, you promised to make your payments on time, every month, in accordance with the agreement. You failed to do this. It’s not the end of the world, but you have to look at this from their standpoint.

If you broke your promise to make a payment on time, why should they believe that you will keep your promise to catch up on the 1st and 13th? If you didn’t have the money last month, what makes them confident you’ll have it this month in addition to your regularly scheduled payment?

Rather than feeling entitled to paying late on your terms, why not consider this through their eyes?

Untold thousands of people in this country have decided to walk away from their mortgages. But do they tell the lender this fact? No. They stop making their payments and then lie when the lender calls. They remain in the home until the lender can make it through the complicated and expensive maze called foreclosure. The statistics are staggering. Many people manage to eek out years of making no payments while remaining in the home.

You missed a payment and that’s a red flag for your lender. Frequent calls are keeping them at the forefront of your every thought, which you have to admit is pretty smart.

Here’s an idea: Tomorrow, call them before they can call you. Be kind and once again express your remorse for running late. Tell them exactly the day and time that you will be bringing them money, even if you’ve told them a dozen times. Then keep your promise. Show up in person. And be grateful for their long suffering.

Dear Mary: Several years ago, I began following your advice use cash, not credit or debit cards for day-to-day purchases. On paydays, I’d stop at the bank and withdraw enough money to last until the next payday. I then challenged myself to have some of that money leftover in my purse, which would then go into a piggy bank at home.

I just want to thank you because this has really worked well for me. I am way ahead of their game. I still don’t use debit cards for purchases―only cash. I feel like I have won and all from a lesson learned from you several years ago. Keep up the good work. We’re still listening! Carol

Dear Carol: Your letter just made my day. Thanks for writing.

Ask Me Anything: Fruit Flies, Rusty Garden Tools, Eufy HomeVac HEPA Filters

Here at Everyday Cheapskate Central our hearts continue to be heavy for the good people of South Texas as they begin to deal with the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey—and the flood waters are still rising in many areas. Know that our thoughts and prayers are for your strength and safety as you endure this catastrophe.

Regardless what the calendar reads, I know without a doubt that where I live in Northern Colorado, fall has arrived. It’s not evident necessarily by a change of temperature or even trees beginning to turn color because both are still very summer like.

Around here it’s tiny, annoying, persistent fruit flies that signal that autumn cannot be far away. Apparently, I am not the only one noticing this.

Dear Mary: I have been having a real problem with fruit flies. I’ve tried numerous remedies and I get a few, but they’re still everywhere! I don’t have any fruit out. No open bottles of booze. I just can’t seem to get rid of them. PLEASE HELP!!! J.W.

Dear J.W: Fruit flies can be a problem year round, but are especially common during late summer/fall because they are attracted to ripened or fermenting fruits and vegetables. They may not be in your house, but your neighborhood and community is likely enjoying a harvest of tomatoes, melons, squash, grapes and other perishable items, which are breeding grounds for these tiny critters.

Fruit flies are also attracted to rotting bananas, potatoes, onions and other unrefrigerated produce purchased at the grocery store.

All it takes is one pregnant fruit fly to get in and before you know it, you’re dealing with a full-fledged fruit fly infestation. I know. I’ve been battling this problem, too! See that photo above? That’s a picture of one of my fly traps, so I know this works. To make your own fruit fly trap, assemble these supplies: a small glass bowl, plastic wrap, apple cider vinegar (no other types of vinegar or juice) and blue Dawn.

Saving by Choice, Not by Chance

A reader question I answered some time ago brought a small avalanche of mail, mostly from readers who were aghast that I would suggest they save such a significant portion of their paychecks for retirement. It was money they just didn’t think they could afford to save.

I can only imagine that for a person who saves nothing, suggesting they should be saving thousands every year is shocking. Or more like impossible! Here’s just one of those messages:

Put Denture Tablets to Work Around the House

I have a long list of reader questions that I’d intended to answer today. But I got so taken away with Sandy’s question, I used up all the space! I promise to get to the rest of the list real soon.

Can I use my Polident Denture Cleanser to soak/clean my mouthguard for several days in a row, or is it really necessary to start with a new tablet each morning? Sandy

You can, but I wouldn’t. Here’s the reason. Once that denture tablet hits the water it becomes activated to both clean and sanitize. It will fizz and bubble for a while as it cleans. But it loses steam slowly so that 24 hours later it won’t be sufficient to give that mouthguard another go round of cleaning and disinfecting. That may or may not concern you, but it would concern me. So my answer is no to your question of re-use. By I have some things you can do with that solution while it still has a bit of useful time remaining. Denture tablets are great little workhorses for all kinds of jobs around the house.

Letters to the Editor—Everything From Pedialyte to Bed Sheets, Vacuums and More

I have to admit that my readers’ comments—the good, the grateful; the bad, ugly, glowing, hilarious and even puzzling from time to time—are some of the best entertainment I get every day. Mostly you make me smile and that’s why I love to hear from you.

While I am unable to personally acknowledge every message, I read and appreciate your letters, messages, notes, and comments. Even the occasional angry ones.

Comments on making your own Pedialyte

Just want you to know that the recipe Tom offered is the one the World Health Organization has been giving around the world for decades (minus the Kool-Aid, added for flavor). Pedialyte is an expensive western substitute for “first-worlders” who are too busy to mix it up themselves or who are used to buying everything they need over the counter. If people, where I live in West Africa, had to buy Pedialyte, there would be a lot more dead babies here. Keep up the good work! Jennifer

Comments on Stop Whining!

This ought to go in every newspaper worldwide along with every school curriculum at every level. Thank you for the reminder. I detest when I am a whiner and have even more impatience with others, regrettably. Blessings to you, Patricia

Ask Me Anything: Vacuum Cleaner and Home Chef Packaging Material

In elementary school I was one of those kids who would get so excited raising my hand and jumping up and down when the teacher asked a question I knew the answer. Me, me, me! Pick me!!

That may or may not have been what I did when both of today’s questions landed in my inbox on the same day one right after the other.

Your Best Inexpensive recommendations are awesome! Love my Eufy robot and Rowenta steam iron. Both items are practically life-changing. I also adored Home Chef but the accumulation of ice packs and insulation pads overwhelmed me. The company could not provide answers as to what to do with this stuff. The ice pack gel cannot go down my drains because of our septic system. This was the recommendation of the ice pack manufacturer. My freezer can’t hold anymore packs. I’ve listed both the ice packs and insulation padding on free cycle and Craigslist numerous times with no results. Any ideas?  I miss my Home Chef. Ellen

Dear Ellen: I contacted Creative Packaging, the company that manufactures the PacTemp Creative Ice Gel Packs as well as our friends at Home Chef to make sure I’m giving you the most accurate answers to your questions.