Chapter 8: It's Time To Take Charge Of The Charge Cards

Red, the straight-A student who loves history, would normally love to engage in a conversation about history. But in the midst of her crisis, preoccupied with trying to deal with her family's financial situation, she didn't have the desire nor see the point in getting a history lesson. And from her sister, no less, who hates history. But that should have been Red's first clue that it would be very pragmatic, highly relevant, and "instantly translatable" to her situation and daily life.

P.S. – Black's history lesson would change how Red looked at credit cards, not only then but to this day. And based on feedback from others (men and women of all ages, and even students), something as unexpected as understanding the original purpose of those little plastic cards (and now mobile wallets, although we both still do it the old-fashioned way) can dramatically change one's perspective on how to use them.



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Quick call. I think it be might be helpful for you to understand the history of credit cards.


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What ever happened to "Hello?" I'm trying to come to grips with our own personal credit card history, and even that's more than I want to know. I don't think knowing the history of credit cards is going to help me deal with our personal dilemma. I'm not sure anything will help.


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I know you feel overwhelmed, and I have no desire to continually look backwards, but sometimes understanding history helps you. It did when we looked at the history of your spending habits.


Red's Head Red assets.rebelmouse.io


It doesn't sound like you're going to drop this, so can you at least make it quick?


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First, there were gas charge cards, which eventually lead to general purpose charge cards, like American Express. Keep in mind these were charge cards, which meant they had to be paid in full every month. They were created as an alternative to having to go to a local Western Union office to wire for money, which is what people did instead of carrying large amounts of cash or trying to cash out-of-state checks. Then in the late 1950's Bank of America issued the first "credit" card – meaning they were extending credit to the cardholder – and initially promoted it to people traveling, in particular salesmen, who could not easily access their home banks.


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That makes sense. I remember Mommy telling me how when she and Daddy traveled out West in the 1950s for three months, they had to use Western Union to cable Grandma and Grandpa for money on a regular basis. Now this is all very interesting and will be useful if I find myself on a game show, but what, pray tell, does this history lesson have to do with my credit card debt?


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Patience, grasshopper! The point is credit cards were started as a business tool to save time and provide convenience. Credit cards were NOT initially designed as consumer debt or financial aid.


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That may not have been the initial plan, but times have changed. Nick and I, and our mountain of credit card debt, are proof of that!


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True. But if you returned to the original purpose of what credit cards were meant to be – a convenience so that you did not have to write lots of checks or have cash available all the time – you might find that you use your credit cards differently. Rather than looking at them as a line of credit or endless funds to buy things, you would start to view them as simply a convenience tool, nothing more.


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You mean actually pay off what you spend each month? All the time? Do people do that? It's an interesting concept, though perhaps not very realistic, and an entirely new way of looking at credit cards.


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Actually, it is a very old way. The original way. And, that is the point I am trying to make. Think about it. Mom and Daddy always paid their credit cards off every month, and even today, Mom only carries about four credit cards, if that many. I think it is important to remember the history – and true purpose – of credit cards.

It was extremely annoying when Black was always right. Especially when I thought I finally had the better of her, and then, she proved me wrong. Understanding that credit cards weren't originally intended to be used as long-term debt makes a huge difference.

Chapter 9: I’m Too Busy To Make A List Of All The Things On My “To Do” List

Red has always had a tendency (Black would say it’s her default setting) of becoming overwhelmed quickly, especially when presented with a project that she isn’t able to do in “one sitting”. And this was even before her crisis, when she had more time. Before she had to juggle being a mom to two young girls along with handling many new responsibilities, when something as simple as scrapbooking became a major task. And although scrapbooking’s as “warm and fuzzy” as it gets, Black gave her some pragmatic advice that not only calmed her down by making the project manageable, but included the girls.

P.S. – Red knows scrapbooking’s never done, but now, years later, the boxes of “new” items to be included are in the attic, and she’s not sure if working on them will give her a feeling of accomplishment or be bittersweet as her “little girls” have now grown into young women. Regardless, Red decided that when she has some pockets of time (whether over holidays or weekends or maybe whenever she needs a “break”), she’ll continue to eat that elephant that Black had given her the “recipe” to many years prior.



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OK. One of the things that has been on my list forever is working on the girls’ scrapbooks.


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Scrapbooking? It is a big business and nothing to laugh at. But since I am not a scrapbooker (not sure that is even a real word), could you give me a little more detail?
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Chapter 12: Desserts Spelled Backwards Is Stressed. And Vice Versa.

Red, a stay-at-home mom with two young daughters at the time, was always busy and focused on her girls and family life. Of course, life always has stressful events, and she was looking forward to the small "fun" one of getting a puppy. But she wasn't prepared for two "big" life events at the same time – her husband got fired and they'd have to move. And if that wasn't enough, she found herself taking on financial responsibilities, including learning about personal finances. So, to say she felt overwhelmed would be an understatement. And to say she was looking for sympathy from Black would be reasonable. But to say that she was unique because she was "stressed out" would be inaccurate. At some point, we all feel like we're dealing with a seemingly endless list of tasks and not enough hours to do everything, not to mention not having the energy or stamina. The reality is stress affects everyone, although it affects everyone differently.

P.S. – Years later, although Red knows that there are plenty of causes of stress (not to mention, what COVID-19 has done to everyone's stress level), she sometimes has a habit of thinking that her stress is "special". Yes, there might be some specific things that are "unique" to her (and Black would argue complicated by the fact she's warm-and-fuzzy), but as a single mom and the daughter of an elderly parent, there are issues many of us have to manage. Just like how many of us are feeling the joy – but also the stress – of the holidays. Of course, Black has helped her realize the value of finding "alone" time and exercising (although sometimes it requires taking an extra-long walk or a bike ride). But often, it's enough for Red to know that she's not alone in these feelings and remember that a busy life will be stressful at times, so finding balance is key.



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You OK?


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Yes. Why?
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Chapter 16: I Have Three Children If You Count My Husband

Even before Red's life was turned upside down, she wanted to be the best mom possible, so often wondered and worried about the best way to raise her girls. And when she was in the midst of her "crisis" (her word, not Black's), her daughters were very young – Sawyer was 1-1/2 years old and Natasha just under 5, although she'd proclaim, "I'm almost 5." (It's funny how "young" is subjective, as at the time Red considered them young but now "very young".) But as Red turned to Black for "answers" to everything, Black understood one of Red's top priorities was making sure that the girls weren't getting short-changed. Given Black doesn't have any children, Red was amazed to receive what she's referred to as "Some of the best parental advice. Ever." (Black just rolls her eyes.)

P.S. – Looking back, Red claims that Black's advice not only made all the difference at the time but over the years. Somehow, the simple concept of treating kids as "little people" (Black calls them "munchkins"), so with respect and honesty, trusting them with responsibility and giving them credit for understanding and doing the right thing, was the closest thing to a "magical approach" for Red (yes, growing up, she and the girls watched a lot of Disney) that she's ever found. And, surprisingly enough, has even helped her with managing "big people."


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Patience, grasshopper. You also have to remember that when I first started dating Larry, his girls were 7 and 9, so I skipped over the phase you are in. I had dated men with children, but none as young as Larry's, so I was not quite sure how to deal with them. So, I decided to treat them like little people. In fact, that is why I started calling them the "Munchkins," like the little people from The Wizard of Oz.


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I always wondered about that. Were you the good witch or the bad witch?


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Neither. I was probably more like the Mayor of Munchkin City. Since I was used to working in a corporate environment, I applied the same people skills.


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You're kidding, right?
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