Think a family with kids can't get out of debt? Think again!

How a Family with Children Is Getting Out of Debt

by Jamie Jeffers


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How often have you seen a sensational headline that says something like, "This Couple Paid Off $36,000 in Debt in Just 6 Months"? It sounds great! However, when you click over, you learn that it's a couple with no kids.

Yes, they had to work hard to pay off that debt, but getting a second job when you don't have kids to care for is a much simpler task. Those of us with a family have to get a bit more creative.

Still, I can admit those headlines kind of make a person feel like it can be done, too. In fact, my husband and I were inspired to set a stretch goal to pay off $10,150 in credit card debt this year. That's probably not the kind of headline that's going to make anyone drool, but it's a big enough goal for us.

How to Get the Kids on Board

One of the main ways we've taken control of our debt is by limiting our spending. Stops for fast food? Over. Buying fun new toys to keep cool in the summer? Not anymore.

Several people have asked how we got the kids on board. I'll be honest that this question kind of baffles me. The kids don't pay the bills. It's easy to get them on board. I just don't pull out my wallet when they ask for something.

I think the real trick is getting the kids to refrain from complaining about not getting what they want. Well, there's still complaining from our kids, but we keep it down with these ideas.

Related: Affordable Teen Activities for a Family on a Tight Budget

1. Motto

Our family has used a motto to keep us on track while paying off debt. We call it "#Yearofno." Yes, literally it's hashtag year of no.) When the kids ask for a happy meal, we say, "Sorry. #Yearofno." When they want to go to laser tag on a random rainy day, it's still "#Yearofno."

We had to remind them a lot in January, but they've slowly begun to remind themselves. They still aren't happy about it, but at least, they can joke about it now.

They also know that if they really want something, they can come up with the money for it themselves. Sometimes the kids do small chores for family members and get paid. They'll use that money towards a new gadget or to blow at the concession stand during ball games.

2. It's ok to say no

It's so important to teach kids how to deal with the word "no" while they are small. They will survive hearing that word, even if they could win an Oscar for best dramatic response.

Remember that this is the same kid who sobbed for an hour because they got the blue cup instead of the red one. They don't really understand important versus not important yet. It's your job to teach them.

Related: 8 Habits That Plug Parental Spending Leaks

3. Deciding what matters and what doesn't

Choosing wants versus needs is fairly easy when you're an adult. Basic food, shelter, clothing, and transportation will just about do it.

It gets tricky when the kids are involved. It's so much easier to justify a purchase for a kid. Take books, for example. I always assumed that when a kid brings home a book order or a flyer for the book fair, I need to buy a book. It's educational after all. Their brains will fall out if they don't have fresh reading material!

Truthfully, I can't walk across the room without stepping on a book, and half the time, it's a library book I've tripped on. Another book just isn't necessary.

In another case, our 10-year-old son had an opportunity to go on a special field trip just for 5th graders. It cost $60. I could chaperone the trip, but that would be an extra $60.

Related: Teaching Small Children about Wants and Needs

I compromised on this one. He needed to go since it was a great experience that he wouldn't have later when we were out of debt, but I chose not to go along. We'll find a cheaper way to spend quality time together.

If circumstances have put your family in debt, start taking the steps to financial freedom today!

Write Your Own Headline

Don't let the kids be your excuse for staying in debt. Yes, it's going to be a slow and steady jog to the finish line. But, you'll get there, even if it takes more time.

Besides, what do you want your headline to look like? Would you be happy with "Couple Stays in Debt Forever, Because They Have Kids" as your headline? No way! Try "Mom and Dad Demolish Debt: Kids Learn Big Lessons" instead.

Reviewed July 2017


Jamie Jeffers writes about the creative ways her family is saving money and paying off debt in their #yearofno. Read more about it at Medium Sized Family. Or follow her on Facebook.

Take the Next Step:

  • What do you want your headline to be? Sit down and discuss it with your family today.
  • Is your family heading for debt trouble? This simple checklist can help you determine just that and point you in a better financial direction.
  • Discover more smart debt payoff strategies and tips by visiting the Dollar Stretcher Library.
  • 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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