This is a guest post from Jana at Daily Money Shot, a personal finance blog discussing money at the intersection of life, pop culture and everything in between.
I talk a lot about how my husband and I didn’t start getting our finances together until we found out I was pregnant. Before that, we happily lived in a world where minimums got paid, debt stuck around and cash flow was drier than the Sahara. But something happened when the pregnancy test came up positive that made us realize we couldn’t live like that anymore. A tiny little person was going to be completely dependent on us for everything; we didn’t want to let her down. And that’s exactly what was going to happen if we didn’t get our financial act together.
So that’s what we did. We started reading books by different personal finance “experts”, I joined an online support group, and we started working together to develop a budget and a plan to corral our spending and get out of debt. As we got farther along in our journey, we came to a few realizations. One, while we were straightening out our finances, we were doing it as much for ourselves as we were for her. Two, there is no better feeling in the world than knowing you’re doing everything you can for your child. And three, life without debt is way better than life with debt. But even more than that, we started to realize why it was so important for us to take charge of our money:
- We never wanted our daughter to see us fight about money. My husband and I used to fight about money. A lot. He didn’t comprehend why we never had any and I was constantly stressed about how everything was going to get paid. He wanted spending money; I wanted to pay the electric bill on time and in full. This led to many late night arguments. I couldn’t bring a child into that mess.
- We wanted her to understand money. Although both of us were fortunate to grow up in middle class households, neither set of parents provided a good financial education. Some of that was our fault, too. As a result, we both started off our adult lives with various debts and a really poor understanding of how to manage our money. If we could get a handle on it now, we’d be able to provide her the education we didn’t receive, giving her a better start than we had.
- We wanted to be able to give her wants, not just needs. Every parent knows she has to provide clothes, food, shelter, education, and love. We can all do that, regardless of income. That’s what our kids need. But my husband and I wanted to be able to provide our daughter with some of her wants. We wanted to be able to treat her to a toy for no particular reason or take her on vacation. It was important to us to say no because we want to (thereby teaching her that she would not always get what she wants), not because we have to.
- We wanted to have choices. It meant a lot to us to have choices in bad situations. For instance, we live in a terrible school district. It is the worst one in our state. Although my husband and I are huge advocates of public school, and ourselves graduates of the public school system (including college and graduate school), the thought of sending our daughter to our local public school made us both cringe. When we didn’t get a spot at the free charter school, we made the choice to put her in private school. Getting rid of our debt and controlling our finances are the only reasons this choice was even possible.
It took us approximately 5 years to pay off our nonmortgage consumer debt. That’s a really long time. But when it got to be too hard or exhausting and we wanted to quit, we kept going back to these 4 points. Because when that test came back positive, it stopped being about us and started being about her. I don’t always agree with using your kids as a reason or justification for anything but in this case, it’s what kept us going. And that’s fine with me.
Readers: What’s kept you going when paying off debt seemed impossible or too hard?