How To Raise a Family And Still Get Out of Debt
It’s no secret that trying to pay off debt with a family is going to present more challenges than paying off debt as just a couple (or even as a single person). You have more people depending on your household income and you have to stretch your budget farther. You may have less time to devote to bringing in more income with overtime, a part-time job, or a side hustle. You may feel like you’re sacrificing more by giving up certain things you want for your kids. And you’re definitely more exhausted when raising a family than just living the married life.
But all that aside, it is still definitely possible to pay off all your debt while raising a family. Many people have done it before. We have done it. You can do it too. It doesn’t matter if you already have debt and you’re thinking about having kids, or if you already have kids and you’ve realized you should dump all the debt…it’s doable. But you have to get your head in the game. Here are 7 pieces of advice for raising a family while still getting out of debt.
1.LIVE ON A MONTHLY BUDGET
The budget is the foundation for all things personal finance. There’s no way around this. If you want to achieve your financial goals, you have to create and live on a budget. The budget is considered the “roadmap” to getting out of debt because you designate where every dollar will go and therefore if you designate it to pay off debt, it’s going to do just that. The budget is for everyone, whether you have a family or not, you have to have a budget.
Related: Why You Need A Budget
2. SET FINANCIAL GOALS
Speaking of those financial goals you want to achieve…you have to set those goals. Decide what those goals are as a family and write them down so they become real. And set timelines for your goals. Don’t just aimlessly hope to pay off debt, set a goal for your debt free date and then attack the debt with gazelle intensity. The more specific your goals are, the better. Where do you want to be one month from now? One year? Five years?
3. PLAN AHEAD
Planning ahead goes right along with living on a budget and setting financial goals. You have to look ahead on your calendar and plan for what’s coming up. You don’t want the irregular or unexpected expenses to completely bust your budget. One of the best ways to plan ahead is to use Sinking Funds in your budget. This means setting aside extra money each month and saving it for expenses that only come up once a year or irregularly. A great example is Christmas! Make sure you’re setting aside a specific amount each month so you will reach your goal by Christmas and not be tempted to put everyone’s gifts on credit cards. Don’t forget about all the irregular expenses like school pictures, taxes, medical appointments, etc. Plan ahead.
4. GET CREATIVE
One of the best things you can do is to get creative with your budget and your money. Cut all the expenses you possibly can. Unused or unnecessary memberships and subscriptions should be the first things to go. Find little ways to reduce all of your spending such as reducing your utility bills, finding cheaper rent, switching your phone plan, buying second hand, or taking a spending freeze.
The other way to get creative is by finding ways to bring in more income. This could be from selling your unused stuff at a yard sale or online marketplace, taking items to a consignment store, making handmade items to sell for profit, starting a home based business (or direct sales), babysitting or dogsitting, you get the idea. Challenge yourself each month to reduce your expenses and bring in some extra money. When you’ve got the petal to the metal, every dollar counts.
5. MEAL PLAN
Before you start rolling your eyes, hear me out. Meal planning really will save you money when you do it right. You can’t just sit down and plan three meals plus snacks every day for the entire month. Truthfully think about your family and what your schedule is like. For us, it’s more realistic to create more of a minimal meal plan. We eat the same thing for breakfast every morning and have only a couple lunches that we rotate. Then we plan for about five meals at home each week just because that’s what is actually realistic for us. If I try to over plan, I end up over spending and by the end of the month we have a lot of food go to waste. We typically grocery shop twice a month and always schedule grocery store pick up because let’s face it, you spend less money when you don’t walk the aisles of temptation! Another fun challenge to try is to meal plan for a week without going to the grocery. Shop your cabinets, pantry, and freezer and you’ll be surprised at just how many meals you can come up with and your budget will thank you! Groceries can be one of the biggest budget busters, especially for families, but on the bright side there are also lots of resources for helping reduce these expenses.
6. PRACTICE CONTENTMENT
Make sure you read that right. PRACTICE contentment. I feel like we (myself included) sometimes say “find contentment” but that just doesn’t work. You aren’t going to wander around and “find” contentment. You have to choose contentment and you have to work at it, just like marriage and everything else. Make an effort to be content with what you have and stop trying to keep up with the Jonses. You’ll start valuing the things that are most important, like experiences and memories, rather than stuff.
7. KNOW WHEN TO HIT THE BRAKES
Everything I’ve previously mentioned includes tips for raising a family while paying off debt, but this one is a little different. If you’re in the season of life where you are growing your family, you need to know when to be gazelle intense and when to hit the brakes. For example, if you’re pregnant, you need to hit pause on the debt snowball and go back to making minimum payments on all the debt. Take every extra penny you can and save it for medical expenses, costs of growing your family (the necessities, we’re not going all out here), and a fully funded maternity leave. As soon as the baby is here and you’re settled (most likely this would be after maternity leave) then you can go back to being gazelle intense with debt payoff. And if you had any money leftover after all the hospital bills, etc. have been paid and your maternity leave is over, then by all means throw that extra money on your debt and move that debt snowball further along.
It is definitely possible to pay off debt while raising a family and I know you can do this. It’s going to be hard work, sometimes you’re going to be exhausted, and sometimes you’re going to wonder if all the sacrificing is worth it. Just remember why you’re doing this. Financial freedom for your family and changing your family tree forever! Those tiny humans you are raising will be watching you and they will learn to manage money well from the beginning. What a blessing to be able to teach them how to live like that. You’re setting them up to be able to live and give like so many others won’t get a chance to. So yes, it’s possible to raise a family while still getting out of debt, and I would even say it’s purposeful.