A Personal Credit History

Can you look back at your life and remember when  you were first introduced to Credit?  Credit – as in you got something and didn’t pay for it until later.  However much or small it was, can you remember?

I can remember my first introduction to the convenience and ease of credit.  I was about eight years old.

We lived in a small, close nit neighborhood in Southeast Portland Oregon.  Everyone knew everyone and every neighborhood had a corner market.  The kind of market that carried four loaves of bread for a buck, penny candy and jugs of thick, creamy milk.  Ice-cream in a box and detectives magazines as well and cigarettes and Annie Green Springs for dirt cheap.  (The ciggs & booze weren’t purchased by us, my mom is a teetotaler.  But when I got in my late teens, our “crew” would hang out and have some unsuspecting buyer (idiot) purchase for us!)


I remember so clearly my mom as a  working single raising 9 kids ALONE.  She would  get to the end of her cash and send one of us to the market with a note.  It went something like this:

“Please allow Debtgirl to pick up 4 loaves of bread
and a half gallon of Neapolitan to be put on my tab. 

Thank you,
Mrs.Debtgirl’s Mother.”

And so it started.  There were other times as well.  We would run out of heat. We had a big’ol oil furnace and when that dang thing ran out, that 100 year old drafty Portland home got really cold.  We would all gather around the electric oven in the mornings to heat up.  So again, my mom got a deal with the oil company to come and put just so much in to get us by and then she paid in full when she could and got the whole thing filled up.

We borrowed sugar, eggs and milk from a lady who was a friend of mom’s who lived across the street.


As you can see we borrowed a lot, we got things on credit, a lot.  I learned how to do it at a young age, a lot.

Let me be clear, mom always paid back and in full.  To be truthful, I don’t know how she did it because even with 9 kids and being single with no help from the ol’man, she was able to retire and travel at the early age of 62.  She didn’t travel in a bubble, she hit up hostels and group tours, and she has been all over the world.  To this day, she doesn’t owe one red cent.

So while my mother tought us by example how to borrow, for some reason, she didn’t set the example how to save or not over extent and pay interest or deal with bills and handle cash.  I think it came to her naturally from the way she was raised, but she didn’t make a point to teach us those most important life lessons.  Maybe she took it for granted that it is inherent.

After I got my first job, mom took me to the credit union and co-signed for a car loan for me.  Something I will not do for my kid.  Nope!  I won’t be able to with the credit I have anyway! I was the most responsible kid and paid it off as scheduled.  I was off to a good start, but things have changed decades later.  The world has changed.  I have changed.

Therein lies the difference between me and mom.  I have (had) loads of debt. However, I don’t borrow from anyone on a personal level, not even a cup of sugar and now I don’t use credit cards at all.  I use debit and cash.  My daughter knows that if we don’t have cash, we don’t buy it!  I am trying to teach my kid as I go.  I don’t take it for granted that she just knows, I know she doesn’t.  I also know that our kids are bombarded WAY MORE thru marketing than we were and we have to be even more diligent to ensure they learn the basics of finance.

I am making a point to teach her about credit, interest paid and interest earned and debt.  I am also teaching her about saving and planning.  I try to comment when I see ads on TV, or shows where they are so rich that it is unreality TV!  It’s difficult!  It sure ain’t easy!  She has a savings account and I show her the  interest she earns, I make her take 20 percent of whatever she earns and save it.  There is so much more I need to do.  It’s not easy to teach her when I am still learning myself.


When did you first encounter credit, do you remember?


2 thoughts on “A Personal Credit History

  1. Got my first credit card the summer after I graduated from high school. Boy was that a mistake! It’s too easy to rack up debt without even realizing it. My family’s in the process of trying to get our credit cards paid down/off, and while it’s slow-going, we’re doing what we can & NOT adding to the debt-load.

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