Debt can be a weighty subject for adults, and a confusing one for kids. At first, I shied away from sharing with our kids about our personal debt and becoming debt free. However, we have found that including our kids in our debt free journey has been an overwhelmingly positive experience, one we hope they will take with them into adulthood. Including your kids in your debt free journey without burdening them with the weight of debt is possible.
Here are six ways that we have included our kids in our debt free journey, age appropriately.
What is debt? Why do we have it? What are we going to do about it? These are all great starter conversations when including kids in this journey to debt freedom. Giving kids an opportunity to ask questions, give their thoughts, express their fears on the subject of finances and debt will help open up lines of communication about a topic that can otherwise be easily misunderstood. Don’t be afraid to simplify it in terms they understand.
Visually seeing your debt dwindle is motivating for kids (and parents). We chose to make a paper chain, where each piece represented a certain increment of money. The thrill of taking off chains whenever we paid off an amount made even the smallest pay-offs seem like a big deal, and made the bigger pay off amounts seem like huge victories.
There are many ways you could make your debt free journey visible such as writing it down where the family can see, creating a chart, creating a debt free vision board, or using a calendar to set your debt free goal date and track your progress as you go. There are so many options. Whatever you choose, the goal is to help your family stay motivated and see the progress of debt being paid off.
We gave our kids opportunities to earn money. When we paid them, we began to teach them the same tools that we were learning: to budget, save, spend and give. Inevitably someone wanted to buy something they couldn’t yet afford. Instead of loaning them the money, we explained how a loan would have them paying more and longer for what they wanted. When they reached their goal, we celebrated their accomplishment.
Talk About It
While we were careful that our debt would not be seen as a burden to our kids, we wanted to teach them the constraints it can put on us as adults and why we were making the choices we were to become debt free. When we made decisions to eat at home instead of eating out, we talked about why we made that choice and how when we are out of debt we will have more financial freedom to make different choices. We explained why we said no, for now, to spending money on certain things, and how we can say yes, maybe in an even bigger way, later on.
We celebrated small milestones on our debt free journey. A student loan paid off? A dinner out! A credit card debt gone? A new game and a family game night! Small celebrations helped us all see we were making progress and that being debt free is something worth celebrating.
Keep It Going
For us, becoming debt free is only part of the journey. Staying debt free and how to do so is the next step. We continue to have conversations about budgeting, saving and creating an emergency fund, as well as continuing to give them tools for using their money wisely.