By J’Net Adams
They are the apple of your eye. Their energy is contagious and makes you feel young again. They are the ones to whom you want to give the world. That is also why they can make your journey to being debt–free more difficult. I’m talking about your kids. When they are young it’s not that bad, but it changes when they begin hitting double digits.
When my husband and I started to pay off our $50,000 of debt, our first child was 1 years old. Only thing he cared about at the time was food and a dry diaper. He didn’t care about toys –he’d rather play with the box they came in. He didn’t care about the name brand on his clothes because he planned to spill food on them. He didn’t care what type of shoes he wore because he was going to scuff them up as soon as possible.
For the two years that we paid off the $$50,000, we didn’t buy gifts in our household, go on trips, or eat out. Our 1–year–old was the only one who got clothes, and that was only because he was growing, and many of those clothes came from consignment stores.
I had no issue living my life this way and I am sure I could have done the same with a 7–year–old or 9–year–old. I had lost my job and we were $50,000 in debt, so toys, brand name clothes and extracurricular activities were the last things on my mind.
Most parents don’t see themselves in the same desperation that I was in because they have a regular job that provides a consistent paycheck. You may have a paycheck, but if you are living paycheck to paycheck while at the same time in debt you are pretty much in the same place I was when I had no job.
Many parents ask me how to get their teenager or their three kids to buy into the plan of paying off debt. First I remind them they are the parent – the one who works to put clothes on their back, food on the table, and sheets on the bed. I tell them they must have the courage to say no because those times will come and they must be prepared. I’ve mentioned the “Dream Sheet” before and I tell them make sure the child lists a dream on the sheet. If they list a Disneyland visit in three to five years, remind them of their Disneyland dream when they clamor for a toy.
Next make sure to fill their weekends and maybe some days with free fun activities. You may have to take a break on that $100 a month piano lesson or soccer league in order to pay down debt. Replace these activities with ones that are free. You may be surprised how many organizations have free events with bounce houses during the warm months.
What if your child is older? It is easier for them to understand the situation, but you must sit them down and explain it in full. Where parents go wrong is when they try to keep the kids in the dark about the financial problems. Teenagers are old enough to understand and old enough to help. A 13–year–old can start a babysitting service or mow lawns. A 16–year–old can go and get a job. It really doesn’t matter the age of the child. If they are too young to help then that means they are too young to really voice their opposition. If they are old enough to complain about the sacrifices that need to be made then they are old enough to help the household pay off debt quickly.
The bottom line is that paying off debt is what’s best for the entire household. It means less stress and more freedom. Yes, you all have to say no for a short time but if you work together you will be saying YES for the rest of your life!