Loss of a job? Change in circumstances? Or just the sheer volume of debt that becomes unmanageable?

Whatever the reason you got into debt, it’s not just you it has an impact on.

While, as a grown up, you’re the one who needs to have difficult conversations with creditors, make repayments, and cut back on life, it has an impact on your whole family too.

Kids didn’t get in debt.

They didn’t do anything to make your debt uncontrollable, but they are the ones who need to live with it as well.

It’s a terrible thing to admit and something that has filled me with much regret.

Dealing with debt

There were lots of different circumstances that led to us being in very deep debt, but it certainly was nothing to do with our children; they were just along for the ride.

However, when high APR, interest rates and repayments stretched our household budget too much, it was them that were the ones to really suffer.

We had to cut back – and I mean totally cut back. We were spending out more than we had coming in so things had to go. We cut everything from our list that we didn’t really need; TV, food shopping, treats.

They had to face the cuts too. They lost their favourite channels from TV. We no longer could afford to get them a weekly magazine from the shop and we had to say “no” more times when they asked for things that it broke my heart.

It may only seem like small things, but those things were their world. However, it was more than that.

Kids deal with debt

One of our kids tried to hide the holes in her shoes that made her feet wet because she knew we would struggle to buy new ones. They didn’t tell us about birthday parties, so we didn’t need to work out the cost for public transport to get them there (or find money for a gift). Anything that involved us spending more was brushed over.

Debt was not their fault but, because we mismanaged finances, they were being raised in a home with no spare money.

Thinking about it in these terms actually brings a tear to my eye.

They thought by not telling us about things that it would help. We wouldn’t need to spend extra money so it’d be ok. Living so tightly was on their shoulders as well and it felt horrible giving them that burden.

I felt like I’d failed my children, but what actually happened was we started talking more and being open. When we noticed things were being hidden, we talked about it. We somehow found the money! And we adapted our approach to parenting.

Heating stayed off…but…

We needed the gas for cooking so the heating would stay off, or we’d go into emergency on the meter. The house would be cold when they got in from school.

But the kids didn’t see it like that.

All they knew is that cold evenings after school meant warm hugs under a blanket, hot chocolate and a rerun of our favourite DVD.

No trips to theme parks…but…

Half term would come, or the long summer holidays and my Facebook timeline showed pictures of other people’s kids at a queue at a theme park while eating ice creams or snaps of them playing on the beach in Greece. Looking at these photos didn’t make me envious for me, I felt regret that my kids couldn’t have those experiences too.

But the kids didn’t see it like that.

We had plans that didn’t involve spending much money. We’d go Geocaching and have a picnic while our treasure hunting, we’d find free events on locally or we’d do 50 Things to Do Before You’re 11 ¾ – a free online and offline activity from the National Trust.

No fast food…but…

The kids love the big burger place beginning with “M”! I think all children do. However, a trip for lunch can set us back cash that we desperately needed to pay the bills and get by. One meal from a fast food place or a takeaway could see us stretch for a few days’ worth of food – there was no compromise.

But the kids didn’t see it like that.

Instead of missing out, we started to make our own fast food at home. Making our own burgers and bread rolls, the kids loved being involved and kneading the bead. Making food at home from scratch turned into a family activity, which was free to do and taught them some good basic cooking skills.

Fear of missing out

The children didn’t really know much different.

There were times when we had more money, and they did remember doing more, but they were happy with the fun we had as a family.

They didn’t have that fear of missing out and didn’t compare themselves to others as we seem to do more as adults.

Should we have carried on getting them treats?

As it wasn’t their fault, I often wonder if we shouldn’t have cut everything from them too.

While it would take longer to get debt free, they would have more money to do things, go on days out to town with friends, or buy toys when they want them. Should we have got them new clothes, instead of buying second hand or mending any holes?

Debt free faster

Looking at it the other way, paying off debt quicker would mean that we’d have more disposable money sooner.

Then, at that point, we could look to get them treats and have paid for experiences without the constant afterthought that it could have paid for another bill.

When I really think about it, having a lack of money has done no harm at all.

If anything, they’ve taken away a great lesson in life. They’ve grown up in a household where they’ve learnt to stretch, adapt to challenges in life and become good communicators. All these lessons will help them as when they become adults and must start managing finances themselves.