Debt can cripple your finances and your hopes.
These days, with many people out of work, the possibility of accruing debt is greater than ever.
As a single parent, you can be especially vulnerable to debt. If you’re living on one income instead of two, it can be hard to scale back your lifestyle to match your income.
But resist the subtle temptation to make a little purchase here, and another there, that you can’t afford. Once you’re in debt, you begin accruing interest, and the amount can grow into an insurmountable burden.
Consider Jerry and Sue Bailey of Jackson, Mich. They began a spending pattern that wrecked their family finances. Even though they’re married, they can serve as a wake-up call for single parents who could fall into the same trap.
The Baileys, featured on Fox Business, accumulated debt on 17 credit cards from 1992 to 2005. They didn’t make any outrageous purchases. They undertook some home repairs, replaced the transmission in a car and paid for two daughters’ weddings.
But they got into the habit of making all their purchases with a credit card and not immediately paying off the balances. Their debt eventually reached $92,000. To worsen the situation, Jerry hid the debt from his wife. She found out when debt collectors began calling.
“You feel kind of ashamed that you got there because you believe in paying your debt and paying what you owe,” Sue said.
In 2005, the Baileys enrolled in a debt management program through a nonprofit consumer credit counseling agency.
Last year, they successfully paid off the entire $92,000. But it wasn’t easy. They lived on a strict budget and put off many purchases.
What’s their advice to others? Avoid credit cards altogether or have just one and pay off the balance every month.
“If you don’t have the money to buy something,” Sue said, “you have to ask, ‘Do I need it or do I want it? And can it wait until later?’”
Those are excellent questions for anyone, including single dads. Like others, we’ll always be tempted to buy things we don’t need and spend money we don’t have.
Don’t give in. Ultimately, our children will suffer if we fall into debt. We’ll have less money to provide them opportunities they deserve, and we’ll be setting a bad example of money management.
We want our kids to learn good habits from us, not destructive ones.
As single parents, we need to watch our money even more carefully than married couples. Set a budget and stick to it. If your income drops, lower your spending. Think of your children’s welfare, and you’ll be less likely to make foolish purchases that could haunt you for years.