Depending on the type of debt you have, your debt could be a soul-sucking force that affects every aspect of your life… or at least it seems like it does. Believe me, I’ve been there (slowly working my way out of it!) and sometimes paying off debt feels like an insurmountable goal.
The times it get really tough, though, are when I have to talk to my family about my debt. It’s tough to say “no” to fun things all the time, and it’s tough to have to explain to my parents for the 1000th time why I can’t just spend $200 on a gift “even though I have a job.”
If your family doesn’t understand your debt issues, or you feel like you’re letting your family down because you have debt, here are 3 ways to talk to your family about debt, plus some strategies for managing your debt and your sanity.
1. Open Lines of Communication
Talking about your debt shouldn’t be a one-way street. Especially if you’re married, your debt needs to be a regular family discussion. After all, even if your spouse isn’t helping pay down your debt, they’re still affected by it because of things you can’t do (expensive trips, gifts, etc.)
After explaining your debt situation and repayment plan, you need to listen to your family’s concerns about your debt. Is your spouse worried you’ll never be able to afford a house? Are your parents concerned you’re living in poverty? You may realize that most of your family’s fears are unreasonable, and all you need to do is reassure them that you have a plan and no, you’re not starving to death.
2. Make Sure You Really Have a Debt Repayment Plan
When you talk about your debt and your repayment plan, have solid numbers! Don’t just say “I’m paying $100 a month.” Talk about which debt you’re repaying, why you’re paying $100 (could you pay more? Could you apply for a different payment plan?), and how long it will take you to repay your debt.
There are many different ways to pay off debt – the snowball method, where you pay off your lowest debts first and “snowball” from there, or paying off your debt with the highest interest. How you decide which debts to pay off is up to you, but the important thing is to show your family you have a concrete plan. It’s easy to say “I’ll pay off debt one day”, but by sitting down and really figuring out the numbers, you’ll know exactly when you’ll pay off your debt. Talk to your family about debt, but also show them some action.
3. Make it a Win-Win
Paying off debt isn’t all work, no fun. While the majority of your extra money should go to pay off your debt, this doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with your family. There are plenty of free activities you can do, like free museum days, trips to the park, hiking, playing in the snow, etc.
Coupons, Groupons, and two-for-one deals are great ways to go out on a date night, too. Sure, it might seem tacky (and I don’t recommend on using coupons during your first date), but if your spouse would like to enjoy a fun date night, there’s no harm in using coupons. It saves you money, gets you out of the house, and makes you both happy. Just make sure to only do it in moderation – and tip on the pre-coupon meal!
Also, try to see your family if they live out of state. If your family is older or in poor health (and you like them), you will regret it if you don’t visit them every once in a while. In an ideal situation, your parents might offer to fly you out to visit, but if that’s not an option, search for cheap flights, take some crummy layovers, or even take the train/Greyhound if that’s cheaper and you can take vacation.
It’s important to talk to your family about debt to re-assure them you have a plan, it’s a solid one, and you’re still making time for them. While debt repayment should be one of your top concerns, don’t lead a life that’s all work and no fun – no one ever wished they worked more on their deathbed, after all! These 3 tips will help give you the tools to talk to your family about your debt, and should help you relieve some of the personal stress associated with debt repayment.
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How have you talked to your family about debt, and were they more reasonable about it than you thought?