Like father, like son

When Kids Pick Up Their Parents' Bad Money Habits

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Like Father, Like Sons

I am at my wit's end. We've been married 28 years, and we're still financially in distress because of school loans, IRS issues, and my spouse's erratic work history. What am I supposed to do? I can see our young adult boys who are 24 and 26 having the same money problems. Any ideas?

You Need to Make Peace with Your Finances

I'm attending Financial Peace University (FPU) through my church and am finding it to be an awesome experience. Dave Ramsey makes finances so easy to understand.
Cyndi in Rapid City, SD

Are you one of the many people heading for debt trouble without knowing it? This simple checklist can help you find out and tell you how to avoid it.

It's Time to Change Your Life

These are big issues, but start small. Make a promise to yourself to pay yourself first. Even if it is spare change, a dollar, or $5 a week, teach yourself to save something and don't spend it. Hide it if you must. If it's out of sight, it's out of mind. Second, stop buying things. For one month, try to buy only what you absolutely need. Make coffee at home or even give it up, cancel cable, use the library, and walk to work. You are not sacrificing. Instead, you are making the decision to change your life!

Don't Be a Statistic

Since my husband and I divorced, I've seen a lot of good information on the Internet about the biggest problem in a family that is causing more divorces than anything else, namely money.

Read all you can about how to get out of debt. Follow the formulas of the experts. This information is on the Internet free for the taking. You do need to talk to your husband about the money issues, set a budget and stick to it.

Your 22- and 24-year-old sons are old enough to pay back their own "school loans." Get them into the conversations with your husband on finances and let them know they are not getting a "free ride" anymore. Tell them that you have too many debts to pay theirs too. My daughter and I were single mothers. I was widowed and she was not married. I never paid a penny of her college expenses! I did help with childcare, but she took out student loans and grants. She finished law school and now is an attorney, heading her own firm. I asked her what her law school loan balance was. She said, "I paid it as I went along." She'd been a paralegal before entering law school, and the firm for whom she worked wanted her to continue working part-time for them. She did "contract work" for them while in law school. She even taught an attorney how to do a specialized type of law while she was still in law school. I'm sure she is the exception in that she didn't expect me to pay her college loans, but your sons can work and make money to eliminate those debts.

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My husband and I had periods of unemployment, but I had to live on what I made. He died and I was single many years before remarrying. I had no idea my new husband, who I later realized was Manic Depressive, would spend more than he made. When we divorced, he had run up his credit cards to $36,000 and I was not paying them off. He finally accepted responsibility for that and I believe he just never paid the credit cards as I got calls for a long time about his debt. I made it plain that it was not my responsibility, and if they called again, I would sue. The calls stopped. But, you can take action now so that you don't get into the situation my husband created for our marriage.

The first thing I should have done was cut up all the credit cards, which I've seen as a suggestion for families with money problems.

In the past year, I've learned to use coupons to my advantage. I shop the sales, and use a store that doubles every coupon up to 60 cents every day. As a senior, I do most of my grocery shopping on Wednesday when I get another 5% discount. The 5% food tax has been taken off food in SC (we paid it for many years), so that saves me more money. My goal is to have a coupon for everything I put in my shopping cart.

Related: Getting a Reluctant Spouse to Consider Credit Counseling

I'm on a coupon train where I send out an envelope of coupons every week, and get one in return. I take what I can use out of the envelope and replace them with more coupons, sending them on to the next person on the list. Every Sunday, I cut out all the coupons in the Sunday paper. I keep what I can use, and I the ones that I can't use I either give to friends or send to the military bases overseas where they can use them. Some of my friends are great-grandmothers bringing up small babies. They get the diaper and baby related coupons. Nothing goes to waste. If your husband is not working, he could do the grocery shopping and learn to use coupons.

Some organizations help you with food and other expenses during periods of unemployment. Check out your local United Way to help you find those organizations. At some, you can volunteer a few hours a week to get free food, and at others, the food is free if you fall below a certain income.

Your husband could go back to school to get training in another area to help him find a good job. Some states give free training to the unemployed.

Reviewed December 2017

Take the Next Step

  • Find out: Could you be causing your spouse to overspend?
  • Don't allow debt to prevent you from providing for your family the way you would like. Start taking the steps to get out of debt today so you can give your family a better tomorrow.
  • Funding an emergency fund now can help prevent debt problems and even bankruptcy later. Start saving today with these 11 easy ways to find $1000 for an emergency fund.
  • Stop struggling to get ahead financially. Subscribe to our free weekly Surviving Tough Times newsletter aimed at helping you 'live better...for less'. Each issue features great ways to help you stretch your dollars and make the most of your resources. Subscribers get a copy of Are You Heading for Debt Trouble? A Simple Checklist And What You Can Do About It for FREE!

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