Welcome to the first edition of Managing Debt with Kids – a three part series which focuses on the issues that parents could face if they have debt and a family to support. This first part looks at the challenges that come with supporting a family whilst having to make debt repayments and what you can do to help yourself in this situation.
Being in debt can be tough to deal with at the best of times. But what if you have a family to support and need to make some hefty debt repayments too? On one hand, you need to make sure you’re putting enough food on the table and keeping a roof over your head. On the other hand, you need to keep your creditors happy by continuing to pay off your debt according to your credit agreement. Getting the right balance is absolutely necessary yet can be hard to achieve.
Supporting your family is the priority
It goes without saying that you and your kids need to eat, sleep and keep warm even if you have a ton of debt to pay off. Food and household bills (including secured debt like your mortgage) are the most important things to pay for each month. Making sure you have a (warm) home for your family is right there at the top of the list. Unsecured debts such as credit cards and loans – although important to pay off of course – have to come second.
Debt can really take its toll emotionally through the burden that it often brings. When money starts getting really tight and you end up having to make decisions over which bills you can or can’t pay, you might well end up pretty stressed out or even depressed.
In some cases, parents can end up arguing about bills or fighting about money in front of their children. Even if money arguments are behind closed doors, kids are pretty astute and they can usually pick up on negative vibes or feelings. Not fair on them right? Kids should be allowed to be kids – to grow, play, learn and be free from worry. As a parent, you’re responsible for your child in every way. So if your debt is becoming an issue, it’s time to do something about it!
Getting help to manage your debt
If you’re finding that you don’t have enough money to pay your household bills, feed and clothe your family and make your unsecured debt repayments, then you might need to get some help. The same goes for if you’re feeling like you just can’t cope anymore with your debts.
If you’re in this situation, please don’t be afraid to get help. Debt problems are more common than you’d think so you aren’t alone! No matter how you ended up in trouble with debt, there is always a way to get out of it. Some ways take longer than others but debt problems can be solved.
You’ll find a wealth of information about the type of help you may be able to get for managing your debt here. If you think you do need help with managing your debt, there are number of debt organisations which you can contact. They can offer you sound advice based on your circumstances.
Increase your income
Increasing your income is the best way to take the pressure off in terms of dealing with your regular bills and debt repayments. Juggling a family with work commitments can be tricky though, especially if you’re paying a small fortune in childcare costs. And when you have kids, it’s not all that easy to just nip out and get yourself a second job. Your kids need you around whether you need to earn more money or not to pay off the debts! However, there are some ways you can earn more money even whilst juggling a family and a debt load to boot.
1. Look for a better paid job
Sound obvious? It might be obvious, but this option is often overlooked, especially when you’re already busy coping with everything else. Not many people like change, but if you can manage to get a higher paid job based on the same sort of hours you’re doing now, then you won’t have to make too many changes at home with your children. Instead of looking externally, you could also look within your company and see if you can apply for a promotion that way.
2. Make money from home
This is easier said than done, but you could try to top up your income by doing surveys or selling items on eBay in your spare time. You could even pet sit, babysit or childmind in your own home (certain qualifications are needed in order to become a registered childminder).
If you’re good at writing or a whizz with computers, you could try looking for work on sites such as Elance, People Per Hour or Fiverr. All of these sites frequently list work from home jobs which you might be able to do whilst the kids are in bed. You could even start a blog! Not a short term win of course, but worth looking at for long term earnings from home.
Find out if you’re entitled to help from the Government
If debt is affecting you and your family, now could be a good time to double check whether you’re entitled to any support from the Government. Being in debt isn’t part of any eligibility criteria of course, but you might just be entitled to help because of your level of income and because of the fact that you have children. Below are examples of the kind of support sometimes available for families.
If you live in the UK and have children, you will usually be entitled to child benefit. This is a standard benefit that one parent can claim for a child under the age of 16 (or 20 if they continue with their education).
You can apply for child benefit when your child is born and believe it or not, some people forget to do this! Child benefit can only be backdated for three months, so if you have kids make sure you’ve claimed for each of them.
In addition to this, you might be eligible for certain family benefits such as child tax credit, working tax credit or even free school meals for your kids. Tax credits are usually based on your income and whether you’re applying as a joint couple or as a single parent.
1. Child Tax Credit
If you have kids to support, you might be eligible for child tax credit whether you’re working or not. The amount received depends on your income and the amount of children that you have. If you’re working and have to pay for childcare, you might be able to get extra tax credits to go towards the cost of childcare.
2. Working Tax Credit
If you’re employed or self employed and on a low income, then you may be eligible for working tax credit.
If you’re eligible for tax credits, you’ll be pleased to know that these are paid separately to child benefit. Here’s an introduction to Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit put together by HMRC. To work out if you’re eligible for tax credits, you can use this calculator.
You may also find Sure Start helpful if you have young children. Sure Start is a Government initiative delivered though Sure Start Children’s Centres. These centres work within a community particularly with families who have the greatest need. They can provide access to a range of early childhood services as well as offering advice and support for parents.
If there’s just one thing you will take away from this post, let it be this. If you have debt and also have kids, then do what you can to put your kids first. As for your debts, don’t let them get any worse and don’t be afraid to get help if you need it!
In part 2 of the Managing Debt with Kids series, I’ll be writing about family budgeting in relation to debt and how to make sure kids don’t miss out on the things they enjoy doing. Why not subscribe by email to make sure you don’t miss part 2?
Author Bio: As well as writing for Debt Advice Blog, Hayley also writes about how she’s paying down debt over at her website A Disease Called Debt. There you’ll find further reading on how she’s managing debt with a family as well as a whole bunch of debt payoff tips. You can also follow Hayley on Twitter.