Dumping debt requires a long term perspective. The process can be challenging enough for a household of one. Shuttle missions to the moon can be less complicated than obtaining agreement on a financial course of action with more than one person. However, engaging the family in a mission to dump debt, including children from an early age, is essential to smooth out the edges on a process that is rough and tumble.
Making a right turn from fiscal chaos to budgeting nirvana will take effort. Spouses should eventually be in agreement that change is necessary – even if the how is up for debate. Be patient with your spouse and open to explore opposing viewpoints.
Tunnel vision can develop after plugging into a new idea. Give your spouse the space and respect to agree with the need for change in their own time. While waiting, start by working on areas under your control. Cut back on your spending. Shop sales or resale stores to conserve cash. Take your lunch every day or commit to making meals at home to show consistency. Actions – especially those sustained over time – speak volumes.
Children can be a little easier to rally because parents control the purse strings. Be ready for push back if dumping debt requires a significant departure from the norm. They may whine loudly, but improved fiscal skills will positively impact their futures (plus children will get over it).
Dumping Debt as a Family
The home is a massive financial laboratory that – when used constructively – can lay a firm foundation on which to build productive money habits. Much of what we learn about finances is caught vs taught. Involving the family is a great way to find support as well as set the family on a financially sustainable path. Consider the following reasons to tackle debt as a family.
1. The family’s financial literacy will improve. As you begin to approach the household finances more responsibly, those lessons can be shared with all involved. The group can learn more than one person can alone. Share with each other new found theories or techniques and then determine which approach is best. You’ll grow closer as you learn more about dumping debt and work to stabilize the finances.
Assign age-appropriate reading material or videos to everyone and set a date to discuss anything of interest from the assignment.
2. The family fights over money will fizzle. Taking debt elimination on as a family project helps to pull everyone into agreement. Approach the project as a challenge with a definite end by determining your debt free date. Encourage participation with healthy competition. Who can cut the highest spending percentage for the week? Who will be the first to accomplish stated financial goals? Who can find the most savings each week? Ease the tension that exists around strained resources by focusing on the benefits of striving for a debt free lifestyle.
Develop a healthy competition that engages the entire family.
3. The family can hold each other accountable. Dumping debt can be a long term process. After the initial excitement wears off, staying focused will be easier with an accountability team. Be strong when another family member wants to stray. Even children can respectfully remind parents to consider the budget before making purchases. Research shows that we are 33% more likely to accomplish goals when they are written, reviewed weekly, and shared with an accountability partner.
Establish a set time and day to hold family budget review sessions.
4. The family’s youngest members will adopt responsible fiscal habits early. Your money management skills (or lack thereof) are on display for young, impressionable souls to absorb. Including the children, as appropriate for their age, is the best way to help them build healthy money habits that will carry them into adulthood. Lessons like working within a budget, establishing an emergency fund, or saving and paying cash for toys are beneficial at any age. Imagine how much further along your children will be with having learned these financial skills early in life.
Include budget categories for items of interest to children (i.e. toys, activity fees, birthday party gifts, or cell phones). Review their budget items when appropriate during the regular review sessions.
5. The family celebrations will be sweeter. Celebrate each milestone. Make a big deal when you all accomplish a goal. Determine your family’s debt free date and make a plan for a larger celebration. Dream out loud together about what debt freedom will afford. Can you pursue entrepreneurial ambitions? Will you support cherished organizations more substantially? Will you travel to more? Give the group something tangible to work towards and have a great time pursing it. Make this a treasured memory because you all will have worked hard together!
Identify your family’s debt free date.
Can you think of any additional benefits to dumping debt as a family?