DEAR HARRIETTE: When my daughter moved away for college, I told her that she was responsible for paying for any personal wants she may have. The whole time she was away, she never called me asking for money or for me to mail her anything. I’ve asked if she got a job, and she said no, but she makes money here and there doing different things. I can't imagine what kind of hustle she started.
When she came home for Thanksgiving, I noticed the number of new items she had. I snooped in her wallet and found three credit cards. She obviously doesn’t understand how to use a credit card because she is maxing them out and has no job to pay the bills. If she’s developing a bad spending habit now, it will only get worse. How can I talk to her about this without letting her know I went into her wallet? -- Big Spender
DEAR BIG SPENDER: You don’t need evidence of the credit cards to talk to her about her habits. If she has lots of new items, it is clear that she has been spending money or someone is giving her things. Ask her if she is budgeting for her life and how she can afford so many things. Be kind when you talk to her, not judgmental.
You can also admit that you gave her a responsibility to pay for herself when she left home without preparing her for how to do that. She is figuring it out. It is not too late for you to help her. Ask her if she has credit cards and if she knows how to use them. Tell her about the importance of establishing good credit and the discipline required to do that. You have a chance to begin a conversation with her that can support her developing fiscal responsibility.