my son wants a blue sky amex

March 31st, 2008

My Son Wants a Blue Sky AmEx

I was recycling and shredding the junk mail a few days ago, and my three year old son was sitting with me while I sorted it. I had him open the envelopes for me and then I would sort the things inside into “shred” (things with our name on them) and “recycle” piles. Among the junk mail was a credit card offer from American Express for a card called Blue Sky, and when my son opened that, he got very excited, for there was a fake plastic credit card inside. He was thrilled with the “card” and he showed me excitedly that he had a card and he wanted to keep it.

I thought back to my own childhood, and how I used to create my own checks with scrap pieces of paper, and then tell my mom I was going to pay for things with them. Times haven’t changed all that much, after all. Now instead of checks, I use a debit card, and my son sees me pay for things that way. Obviously, a credit card and a debit card are two different things, but my three year old doesn’t know the difference, and I wouldn’t expect him to. To him, a “card” is what mommy and daddy use, and it makes him feel like a little grown-up to imitate us, as it did for me when I imitated my parents and created my own checks.

Cash itself is just a symbol too, after all. Those green pieces of paper and metal coins are symbols and placeholders for things we have and things we can get. Back a long time ago, if you wanted a cow you’d figure out what you had you could trade for it. If you did work for others you’d be paid with what they had that you needed. Now we just use currency as the go-between.

I explained to my son that when mommy and daddy used their cards to pay for things, they have to have money in the bank to pay for it, money that they get from working. He understands working, in part, he’s seen where my spouse works and he sees me work at the computer in our office. I don’t expect him to understand everything today, or even a whole lot, but he did ask me to give him a bank for his money. Heh. And the financial education of my preschooler continues.

When you were a child, did you make your own money? If you have kids, have they made their own money in some form or rescued fake credit cards from junk mail?

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19 Responses to “My Son Wants a Blue Sky AmEx”

  1. My little sister used to love all those fake plastic credit cards. Whenever I would get them, I would mail them for her.

  2. Yes, I loved to create my own cash! I wondered why didn’t adults didn’t do it. :P

  3. My childhood world was eons ago, but my friends and I ran a neighborhood newspaper every summer, soliciting news, then typing it up on yes, a manual typewriter, and copying it, using an archaic method of smelly ditto ink. We donated all the proceeds each summer to our local hospital. As I recall, we even had a fair during the summer too to earn extra money where we had games, baked goods, and crafts for sale.

    My siblings and I were always given an allowance. I clearly remember the quarter that my parents handed me every Saturday! When I got into my teens, I babysat and eventually, worked at oceanside resorts in the summers as a waitress.

  4. I used to play with Monopoly money and also used my mom’s old checks that she couldn’t use anymore. Credit cards weren’t as desirable to me (1980s) and I thought checks were the coolest.

  5. I used to make my own company stationary and pretend I owned my own company… dreams are a good thing, just don’t let them be tied to credit cards! :)

  6. Ooops…I read your question incorrectly. I was thinking of the other meaning of making your own money.

    For your version, my 4 siblings and I always played store and made our own paper money. We had a toy cash register…the old fashioned kind! and we also loved those little receipt books with carbon paper. I doubt they even make them anymore.

  7. I show my kids (4 and 5) the fake credit cards, and they say “Credit cards reek!” or “Cheetah!!!!” and then they want to shred them.


    I guess we are way too whacked out on this Dave Ramsey thing :)

  8. My wife and I purposely pay cash for things in front of our kid.

    Man – Dave took out the “Credit Cards Reek” kid from the FPU video’s he updated…. That is such a classic.

    That was so much fun. Now the videos end with a clip of some type. Dave walks of the stage and eveybody makes a b-line for the bath room…. but wait … there’s more…

  9. I have a 3 year old as well, I try to be mindful about using cash when I have him with me. I usually pay cash and even let him hand the money and get the change (which he gets to put in his bank). I can’t figure out what he understands at this point. But when he got chocolate coins for Easter he wanted to put them all in his bank.

  10. My younger sister had an old wallet of my mother’s, and used to fill it with fake cards. She’s in high school now, and saves 90% of her money, so I guess it didn’t hurt her.

    I can actually see this being an effective (if somewhat cruel) allowance alternative. Once your kids are old enough, (8-13?)give them a fake card. Keep an excel sheet with their allowance. When they want something, they can give you the card, and you’ll take out your real card and pay for it. If they go over their allowance balance, make them do chores for a set rate an hour until they’ve paid it back. (Cue evil laughter.)

    Then, once they’re teenagers/responsible enough, give them their own credit/debit card, one of the student ones with the set limits. That way, they’d learn how to handle money the way most of us use it, instead of just learning how to handle cash.

  11. My little sister and I used to LOVE to play with my mom’s old checks. And address labels. And work stationary. And business cards. My parents even bought us a “business set” one summer (we didn’t do daycare after we were about 6 or so, because my older sister was 7 years older- built in babysitter! Those summers were the best!) But anyway, this business set had a little inbox and outbox, a bunch of pretend invoices and a “cash box”. We played business all summer, and even set up an office in our living room and took turns being president or secretary.
    I shudder to think now about the checks we played with and all the info that was on them (SSN, DL #, etc) and those all went in the trash. We didnt know about shredding then. But it was still a lot of fun!

  12. I used to get the fake cards that come in new wallets to play with, I don’t think it had any effect on my spending habits at all. One thing I do remember was my mum lifting me up to the atm to push the buttons to get the cash out (probably a bit odd that I knew her pin) we would discuss how much we were getting out, what that would pay for, how she had it (1 night shift etc).

  13. My husband STILL collects those fake credit cards…it’s kinda scary! He has a stack of them set aside, and he won’t let me throw them away. I think it’s absurd, but he loves them. Ave Maria. Little boys never grow up!! =)

  14. I loved playing with the deposit slips at the bank when I went with my mom. I’d even take a handful home with me to make fake transactions at home. I have a 9 month old now so it will be interesting to watch her observe our habits with money and what she will take away.

  15. I used to play with them, but I never got a card. On the other hand, my parents did a really good job of explaining to me that credit card debt is bad, how credit cards work, and how ATM/debit cards work. I was the kind of kid who enjoyed knowing this…though I think I was a wee bit older than him when educated.

  16. My 5 yo has one or 2 of the fake cards, plus an empty Toys R Us card and an empty Starbucks card (2 of her favorite places in the world). The Toys R Us one was given to us when she was born as a baby gift.

    She also has almost as much ID as I do. Birth certificate, Social Insurance Number, photo ID from our community center, and the card they gave us at the hospital when she went to Emergency (she & I both had pneumonia when she was a year old).

  17. Credit and debit cards are a reality. They are the currency of the day. My wife and I purposely use the plastic for all of our transactions, whether our children are with us or not (we have a 2 year old and a 6 month old).

    The 2 year old is old enough to “get” that we’re using a piece of plastic in a machine. Not sure he “gets” that we’re paying for something with it (and creating a debt) and we need money to pay off the debt.

    But I’m not sure that is bad. Kids are smart and if you’re honest with them and explain to them what is going on (over and over and over again, sometimes), they’ll eventually get it.

    Just teach them the virtues and vices and they’ll come out alright in terms of money management.


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