They are the apple of our eye. Their energy is contagious and makes us feel young again. They are the ones that we want to give the world to and that is where they or in other words "kids" can make your journey to being debt free more difficult. When children are small maybe in the range of seven and under it is not that bad, but when it gets to ten and up it can get tricky.
When we started to pay off the $50,000 of debt our first child was one at the time. Only thing he cared about at the time was food and a dry diaper. He didn't care about toys, he 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 they were put on.
For the two years that we paid off the $50K we didn't buy gifts in our household, go on trips, or eat out. Our one year old was the only one who got clothes because he was growing and many of those clothes and shoes came from consignment stores. I had no issue living my life this way and I am sure I could have did the same with a seven year old, maybe even a nine 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.
For most parents they don't see themselves in the same desperation that I was in because they have a 9-5 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. You as well as the children have to make some tough decisions and that is where parents get stuck.
Many parents ask me how am I going to get my twelve year old on board. How am I going to get my three kids to go along with the plan of paying off debt. Before I go into how to make it work and how to get them on board you must first realize that you are the parent. You are the one who works to put clothes on their back, food on the table, and sheets on the bed that sits on the floor in the climate controlled home they live in. You have to have the courage to say no during this process because those times will come and you must be prepared.
Now that's out the way here is how you get children on board. First give them something to look forward to. You have heard me talk about the "Dream Sheet" before and when you go to fill it out make sure the child even if they are four years old gets a dream on the sheet. If a child puts down the dream of a Disney Land visit in 3-5 years (Intermediate), you better believe that they won't ask for a toy the next time you are at the store. If they do ask, just remind them of that dream and they will want Disney more.
Next make sure to fill their weekends and maybe some days with fun free 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. Look in the local free magazines for free activities going on around where you live. You would be surprised how many organizations have free events with bounce houses during the warm months. Any kid 10 and under can spend hours in a bounce house. Some adults can spend hours in a bounce house!
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 thirteen year old can start a babysitting service or mow lawns. A sixteen year old can go and get a job.
It really doesn't matter the age of the child. If they are to young to help then that means they are to young to really voice their opposition. If they are old enough to complain about the sacrifices that need to be made then that means 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!
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