I’m currently on a journey to living a debt free life. To me, debt free means that I do not have any financial obligations to anyone. In the past, it seemed impossible to be a solo mom and be debt free. But from experience, research, and a proper planning, being debt free is more within my reach than I had even expected.
How I Got Started… I live in Delaware. Just like the entire country, we were on lockdown for just about everything unless it was essential. I have 3 daughters that are the ages of 1,7, and 11 which meant that even school was closed. Prior to the pandemic, we were a middle-class family that enjoyed taking trips, eating out, and living care-free. Being an adult in the family, and seeing the concerns with the economy, it was time to make a change.
I have had a corporate job for over 16 years. Since working for the same company, myself and colleagues never imagined that we would be given the option to work from home. We learned that we were essential associates. During this time, we were assured that no matter what was going on in the world, there would be no firing around this time. For the first time in maybe 8 years, I grabbed my handy dandy notebook and pen and wrote down my expenses, my income, and my goal to have all of my credit cards paid off. From the end of April to the first week of May, I was able to see where I had been throwing money away.
What I did… I’m a visual person. Right over desk was a dry erase board mounted on my wall. I had the list of all of my account balances. By this time I had already reduced over $400.00 from my monthly expenses by turning off of my cable, canceled my gym memberships ( I was on a month to month plan), canceled all of my subscriptions ( except Amazon. I was not ready to let that go). Being home on lock down meant just that, I was on lock down. I noticed that I was only driving to go to the store, therefore, I was only getting gas once a month if that. I get paid bi-weekly and started to notice that each paycheck, I was paying off another creditor. My credit score even increased. During the month of March, my FICO score was 551. It had shot up to over 700 points during the month of May.
For once, as a mother, I felt proud to not be living paycheck to paycheck. My house, with all of us being home, on the other hand I was not so proud about.
I started to notice that if I was not constantly picking up behind my children, things were just not getting done. I was literally working 12 hour days Monday through Friday in addition to 8 hour days on Saturday and Sunday. I sat my children down and told them that the truth about the world. What is that truth you ask? The truth is that in order to make money you have to work. I created an age appropriate chore list for the oldest two girls. I opened up a checking account for them. I went with Capital One, because they were the only bank that I had came across that did not change maintenance or monthly fees in general. I let them know that based on my pay cycle and their ability to do their chores, that the could earn money the same time I get paid. That was a way to get them excited about picking up behind themselves. I let them know that out of their “paycheck” I want them to think about 3 categories which were saving, spending, and giving.
We were Learning Together
Growing up, I would hear about building credit. Truth be told, I was today years old, when I found out that you do not have to build credit, unless you plan on borrowing money. I found some amazing tips provided by Dave Ramsey and his daughter Rachel Cruze in their book Smart Money, Smart Kids.One of the many things that stood out in the book about living a debt-free life was that your FICO/credit score is based solely on your debt. Let’s break your FICO Score down:
- 35% of your score is based on your payment history.
- 30% is based on the amount you owe.
- 15% is based on the length of your credit history.
- 10% is based on new credit accounts.
- 10% credit mixed.
So when you add all of those percentages together, you will see that 100% of your score is based on your debit. No where in that total does it focus on your wealth, not what you make, not how much you have saved, not on the length of time you have been on a job. Whew, all this time, I have been worrying about the wrong thing. My thought process has been to strive to get and maintain good credit. That is where I’m can make the change for the rest of my life and for my children.
Money Personalities can be used as a guide. In my opinion, when it comes to money, you are either a saver or a spender. Neither are bad as long as both are done and applied in moderation. Another tip given by Dave and his daughter was not to make your spending personality the right personality and the personality of your children the wrong personality. With that being said, let me give you a summary personality of my daughters because I have both. My oldest is definitely my spender. She cannot make money last in her hands for more than an hour most of the time. The benefit of her personality is that she does not mind being a giver. The opportunity of being a spender however, is that you do not want to spend so much that you do not have enough to save or give. Now my 7-year-old, she is a saver. Her birthday was in November and she still has the majority of the money from her birthday. The benefit of being a saver is that they prepare for the unexpected. The cons, of a saver, is that she often opts out of things that could be fun if she knows that she has to spend her money, and they could turn stingy and not want to give either. The great thing about the age and stage of my kids is that I let them both know that the money that we have is only ours to manage. It is not ours. It belongs to God. My role as a parent for both personalities is to coach and to give them things to think about when they want to spend. For example, encourage your children to think about smart purchases. If you go into the store and notice that something seems to be priced at a rate that is more than what you think it is worth, but your child wants it, explain why you think that. One of my approaches is to say, it is your money. You can do what you want with it. But, do you really want to spend that amount on a toy that will likely break by the time we get to the car?
In the Bible, scripture teaches us in Proverbs 22:6 to “train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” It is important to instill in my children that we are not selfish and we do not borrow money. It is important to encourage them to view wealth as a responsibility rather than a free ticket throughout life. My girls do not know what I make, but I do make it my business and theirs to show them how I budget. I remember sounding like my parents the first time I had to say, you think money grows on trees. In actuality, how would they think differently if they were not seeing me take my finances seriously? I have become intentional about setting budgets for everything, the grocery bill, electric water, and gas. I followed up with the budgeting action with the mindset that once the money is gone from one spending category, that it is gone. If I have a monthly spending allowance of $400.00 and I plan grocery haul that is costing $430.00, something has to come off of that list. There is no borrowing from the gas fund. Remember, I’m going for being financially responsible not an entitled child. I did not come from a debt free environment, but that does not mean that my children cannot come from one as a result of me.
As, Dave Ramsey says, “more is caught than taught (“Your kids and money: More is caught than taught,” 2015).” If you kids see you make smart money decisions they will too.
I hope this post is helpful to you and your family. Make sure you join my mailing list so that you are notified whenever I post similar posts.
Savings guides that I use and refer to are:
- personal experience
- Smart Money, Smart Kids by Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze
- Credit Karma
- Digit Application. By signing up with digit with my link, you will receive 5.00. https://digit.co/r/-1OiC9m3C4?ab
Your kids and money: More is caught than taught. (2015, December 5). daveramsey.com. https://www.daveramsey.com/blog/more-is-caught-than-taught