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Q&A | Credit cards vs. cash + teaching kids how to drive

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Do you use credit cards, pay them off each month and get the benefit of the % return? Or do you feel, as I suspect that it is better to use cash, keep track of what you spend and feel that is more cost effective because one is less likely to part with beautiful dollars than use plastic.


Actually, Mr. FG and I use a credit card for every purchase possible! We only ever use it to pay for things we can afford and we pay it off in its entirety every month.

Our current favorite is the Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card. (Compare this and other travel cards).

It does have an annual fee, but we earn so many miles, it’s worth it to us.  Plus, we get a bonus points award each year on our anniversary date of opening the card, so that helps too.

You can usually get a pretty great sign-up bonus by spending a certain amount within a few months, and sometimes the annual fee is waived for the first year.

You can check out the current offers here.

Please note: Credit cards are only worth it if you are able to control your spending and pay them off every month, so I don’t recommend them to everyone across the board.

How to ask for credit card fee refund

You have to take an honest look at yourself and your spending personality because credit card interest and credit card overspending will very quickly outweigh any potential benefit from credit card rewards.

So, if you try a rewards credit card but find yourself spending more than you would with cash/a debit card, then I recommend switching right back.

One other good cash back option is the Chase Sapphire Preferred card (compare this and other travel cards).

We’ve used this card before, and when you’re a new customer, you get a really excellent bonus point offer plus no annual fee for the first year.

The bonus points from this card covered almost all of our lodging plus our car rental when Mr. FG and I went to California last year!

I have read your blog for a few years now and I really respect and appreciate your “methods”. I have 3 teen boys and they are very scared to get behind the wheel. I think it’s because of the accidents they hear about on tv. I have tried to reassure them that they can do it but they don’t seem motivated to take on this responsibility and I am frustrated. They have never been in an accident and my husband and I are pretty good drivers, I think. We do not text or talk on the phone while driving so I am at a loss.


P.S. They have taken drivers training and passed and drove well with the instructors but they will not complete their required hours.

Joshua (18) was pretty motivated to get his license, and while he’s not a completely fearless driver, he’s never been particularly scared of driving.

So, it wasn’t a big problem for him to get his hours of practice in, and he got his license as soon as his learner’s license period was up.

Lisey (17) wasn’t quite as inspired about the whole driving thing, though she does have her license now and she’s loving the freedom.

For both kids, I started out by taking them to an empty church parking lot for really basic practice.

After a number of half hour sessions there, we started venturing out on quiet neighborhood roads.

The next step was to go out onto non-neighborhood back roads.

And then we moved on to highways with stoplights, and eventually to freeways with higher speeds.

Once they were able to drive on non-neighborhood roads, I had them take over the driving when they needed to go places. For instance, Lisey drove to college and to our Kung Fu classes.  This gave her parking practice too!

I’m not sure what all you’ve tried, but I’d suggest seeing if you can talk them into short sessions on totally not-scary roads.  For our dedicated driving sessions, I just set my phone timer to 30 minutes. That’s manageable for the learning driver and also for me. (!)

Also, are they motivated at all about the thought of independence?  Lisey didn’t relish the driving part of things, but she did definitely want the freedom to get together with friends, or to stay late at school and study.  So, reminding her of that helped freshen up her motivation.

One last thought: would it be possible for you to cut back on how much chauffeuring you do, in order to motivate them to get behind the wheel?  If you’re willing to cheerfully drive them everywhere, they might not be as motivated.

Or could you say yes to social plans, but only on the condition that they drive on the way there?

Good luck with motivating your reluctant drivers!

Readers, do you have advice for Wendy? And feel free to share your credit card thoughts as well.

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Tiara Joseph

Friday 27th of April 2018

Absolutely Kristen! Credit cards are for those who can handle their spending responsibly. I make sure that I pay off my credit card bill every month in full. Procrastinating credit card payments can cost big and can even lead to financial disaster. I have a Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards which helps us to earn free flights. I probably got 40,000 point bonus for opening an account and meeting the minimum spending requirement which is worth about $850 in airfare. Till now I am quite happy.

Danielle C

Sunday 22nd of April 2018

I just priced adding my almost 16 year old to our car insurance - our premiums will go up by $860 every six months!!!

Now I’m rethinking whether it is worthwile to encourage her to drive so young....


Sunday 22nd of April 2018

We're having our kids pay half of their car insurance, which helps make it more affordable, and also helps them value the privilege of driving.

It might be worth it to shop around for car insurance too...some companies are more affordable for young drivers than others!


Friday 20th of April 2018

I use card for as many things possible as I was dismal at keeping track of where my money was going using cash - especially for food, - all I would have is a whole lot of cash withdrawal amounts on an account statement. I have a budget for each spending category & stick to it. I have added up my entire budget, divided it by the number of paychecks I get in a year & every pay transfer that amount to a separate bills account & transfer the funds from that account to pay my cc off in full each pay. I keep a running total on a budget spreadsheet that I fill out after shopping/paying bills & at the end of every 3mths I write the -ve o +ve balance for each category & reassign funds as needed. For example, I have spent $30per wk less on groceries than I budgeted for but have needed to buy other things I was not expecting. I have reallocated entertainment funds to cover the extra bills & transferred the grocery savings to longterm savings. I find my bills account is growing all the time increasing my emergency fund which I am thankful for. To me a cc is just the method I use to spend my income


Friday 20th of April 2018

We use a credit card in our house, but mostly out of convenience and we pay it off in full every month.

I have a rewards card, but honestly it doesn't give back much. I'm tempted to just get rid of it, but it is convenient for online purchases.

Maybe time to do some read watch to find a better rewards card. Hmm...

As for driving, I would be completely happy to take public transportation if I could, but with living in a smaller city with three small kids, it's just not possible.

I never was too keen on the actual driving, but the independence thing was HUGE. Being able to be in charge of where I was going when and to be able to do that by myself was enough for me to learn how to drive and get my practice in.

Laurie Connell

Wednesday 25th of April 2018

If you have a bank card you can use it for online purchases just like a credit card. You can do that at any "store" and chose "credit" so you receive all the advantages and protections of a credit card.


Thursday 19th of April 2018

My 18 yr old does not drive. He has a learners permit, for the second time, but it expires soon. His not driving has been a bit of an issue between my husband and me. Husband cannot fathom him not feeling comfortable driving. Son has an eye issue that requires wearing a very specific kind of contact lens in order to see well and he has trouble with it. The eye issue really progressed right around the time he was getting his first learners permit and he just doesn't feel safe driving, though he can see well enough with the contact. In my opinion, I would rather not have a scared driver behind the wheel. I think he will change his mind in the next few years or he will need to eventually live in a city with public transportation, which interests him anyway I think. Either way, I just don't see it as a big deal.

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