Paying off an oppressive amount of debt is never easy, regardless of your life situation.
However, if you’re paying off credit card debt while supporting your family, it’s especially easy to feel overwhelmed or hopeless. And it’s no wonder: the cost of food, housing, and child care grows every year, while wages predominantly remain stagnant.
Having children is incredibly rewarding. But, for all the positives of parenting, there are “costs” such as constant demands of your time, energy and finances – all of which must be satisfied somehow.
Below are five tips on how to balance paying off credit card debt while caring for children.
If you haven’t done so already, track your spending habits and make a budget for your household. It might seem intimidating at first, especially if you’ve been putting it off, but you simply can’t plan on guesswork alone.
Once you’ve got a clear picture of how much money you have coming in vs. how much is going out, as well as how you got into credit card debt in the first place, you can begin your plan of attack.
- Address high-interest credit cards first. Pay the minimums on other credit cards while you deploy as much money as possible to your highest-interest debt, then apply the same method to each card until all are paid off.
- Consider balance transfers. Take advantage of low or no-fee transfers or credit cards with favorable annual percentage rate (APR) promotions.
- Seek credit counseling from an accredited agency. If you’ve taken a hard look at your finances and can’t see a way out, a credit counseling agency like DebtWave may be able to help you build a plan to get you consumer-debt free in three to five years.
Quick (or Big) Wins
Make room in your budget by cutting or lowering expenses for items such as cable or your cell phone plan. Another option is to make spending adjustments in areas like your grocery budget. Consider swapping store-brand products for name-brand grocery items. In some cases, downsizing a car or apartment could free up hundreds of dollars each month.
We know easier said than done, right? And just where are you supposed to find the time to earn more money, with a family to support?
It may be difficult, but it is possible. Plus, every dollar you earn that is applied to your debt buys you a little more breathing room, and, ultimately, freedom from debt. Never forget that there is a limit to how much you can save, but no limit to how much you can earn. You could sell things you no longer need, refurbish furniture, or start freelancing – there is no limit on ways to increase your monthly income.
Save a Little Now to Save a Lot Later
Consider applying some of the funds from your quick wins “extra income” or save a small portion of your regular income each month until you reach a savings goal of $1,000.
A cool thousand doesn’t seem like a lot, and truth be told, it’s really not. However, kids change your life in unexpected ways. There will be expenses that you just can’t see coming, and raising a family means that you’ll be more vulnerable than ever to the trap of consistently turning to credit cards to cover unexpected expenses.
Having a reserve will help you avoid the slow downward spiral back into debt, undoing all your hard work month by month. Also, don’t forget to pay yourself back!
Don’t Forget to Have Fun
At every stage of your children’s lives, it’s vital to model financial responsibility. Being open with your children about debt offers them a firsthand education on money management. With any luck, you will impart valuable lessons that will keep your children mindful of practicing positive money habits and values for the rest of their lives.
Ask family and friends who want to give birthday or holiday presents to consider giving your kids tickets to experiences or events so that your children learn to value adventure over material items.
Until you are back in full control of your financial situation, there probably won’t be much money for big vacations or blowout birthday parties. But, that doesn’t mean that your family has to live a life of deprivation.
Camping or family road trips are economical vacation options that will create lifelong memories without breaking the bank. Most museums have days where the public, or at least children, get in free. Take advantage of hiking trails or plan a picnic lunch at a nearby park. Consider having your kids pick out a park to explore or picnic in, or to plan a day being tourists in your own town. The thrill of being in charge is enough of a trip for a lot of kids.
Are you raising a family and struggling with debt? Share questions and tips you’ve learned along the way with us in the comments below!