Becoming debt free is a fairly new concept to me. Being raised in a working class family with a single mom, we just always thought that debt was a way of life.
Now that I have a family of my own, I have discovered that debt is not the only way, and we are currently in the midst of the battle to beat it.
Too bad it took me 37 years to figure that out.
So, let’s go back a few years to the start of our journey to debt-freedom.
We were married in 2009. As a wedding gift, our pastor and his wife gave us Financial Peace University.
Their only stipulation for this gift was that we would complete the course and become debt free.
We had never heard of Dave Ramsey, but we were about to get to know him really well.
We went through the course, but we flunked miserably.
I mean, we were young adults living our lives, buying new cars and doing things that we thought young married people were suppose to be doing.
Fast forward 10 years….
We are now paying for all the financial mistakes that we made back when we thought we knew it all.
And we have 4 kids depending on us to get it right this time.
The journey to debt freedom is exciting. To think about the future without the burden of payments brings me great joy and peace.
But what about the present? What about today?
How do we get through the day-to-day with 4 kids without spending money?
How do you get out of debt without feeling like a complete loser of a parent in THIS moment?
Although this journey to debt freedom is going to vary so much between families, I’m going to share a few things that I have learned so far.
Have an Honest Conversation with your Kids
They are so much smarter than we give them credit for, aren’t they?
These little ones of mine, their minds are constantly churning, looking for ideas and new ways of doing things.
They are also very understanding, and completely trust us as their parents to make the right decisions.
My children are currently 2, 7, 8, and 13, so the level of understanding is all over the place, but they all grasp the concept of what we are trying to do. Well, except for the baby who couldn’t care less.
We just sat them down and told them about the journey that we were about to embark on, and explained to them why.
We also made sure that they understand that we are completely stable, and no one or nothing is in jeopardy.
We didn’t want to create unnecessary worry in their little hearts.
But we did want them to understand that there will be times when we will say no when we want to say yes just because it’s the right thing to do to get to where we want to go.
Create a Timeline
This road to becoming financially free is finite. It’s not going to last forever if we do the steps, in order, as fast as we can.
Explain to your children that this is only going to last a short while, and that once it’s all over, things will be way better than what they have been.
We have established a timeline of 18-24 months to be 100% debt-free minus the mortgage.
We have visuals and calendars so that we can all see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s good motivation for all of us.
Include them in the Budget
Having a budget doesn’t mean that you have to stop living.
If you know that the kids have something coming up, discuss it as a family and decide if it should be included in the budget.
Examples include extracurricular activities, birthday gifts, new sports equipment, etc.
You have to decide what you are willing to spend the money on.
Include the kids in these conversations. Just remember to keep them age appropriate.
When making the monthly budget, ask them if there is anything coming up that they know they need money for and plan accordingly.
Use this as an Opportunity to Reconnect with Them.
This is probably the thing about our journey that I am most excited about.
We are only 3 months in and have paid off over $7000 of debt with quite a ways to go.
In order for us to meet our goal of 18 months, we have to be really selective on how we spend our money.
At first, this seemed really restrictive to my free spirit lifestyle.
I prefer to go through life by the seat of my pants.
Last minute plans and trips are my jam.
But… Dave says “No”. At least no for now. (I’m referring to Dave Ramsey in case you’ve been living under a rock).
And, if you’re anything like me, you’re already riddled with guilt because you’re away from your kids way more than you would like to be because you are a working mom who works away from home full-time.
So, we are learning to be creative. We are planning to slow down this year, especially this summer and try to spend time together reconnecting as a family.
No fancy trips and vacations.
No new toys.
Just mom, dad, and kiddos enjoying some quality time spent fishing, camping, making smores, and getting to know more about one another.
It will be nice to slow down and soak up more of these precious, fleeting moments.
And it’s free.
And I will almost guarantee that my kids will remember this summer camping on the farm forever, and money will be the last thing on their minds.
Remember Your “Why”
Whenever you get bogged down with the budget, and debt payoff, parenting guilt, and all the other stuff that comes along with it, remember why you are doing this in the first place.
When times get tough, and you feel like straying from the path, remind yourself of how life WILL be if you just stay the course.
I mean, honestly, in the grand scheme of things, a few years of sacrifice will be so worth it in the end when you can be free of the bondage that debt brings.
Think of the vacations then.
Think of the days when you forget that it’s payday because it doesn’t matter as much.
Think of the days when your stress over money is gone.
Think of freedom.
And keep going.
You CAN do this. I mean, hey, if you can raise kids, you can do anything, right?