“A Debt-Free Family,” Ensign, Oct. 2002, 73
For decades prophets have warned us about incurring debt. To heed their counsel, we held a series of family home evenings, wherein we discussed with our children ways we could all change our spending habits.
For one lesson the children used pretend money to “pay” monthly bills. After paying priority expenses first, they soon saw that little money was left over, and no one wanted to sacrifice needs for short-lived pleasures. I knew this lesson had made an impact when one day our eight-year-old daughter approached us about buying something but changed her mind, saying, “Forget it; we can’t afford it.”
Using pieces of candy to represent money, I also taught a lesson about compound interest and its effect on debt. I started by offering my children jobs to earn three candies a day. Then I let them borrow more candy from me if they committed to pay me back the next day with three times what they had borrowed. We continued this activity for a month, and by the end they were hundreds of candies short. They soon realized it would take them a long time to earn enough candy to repay just one month of indulgence. A version of this activity could also be used to encourage savings and to show how interest accrued can help ensure financial stability.
For another lesson on debt, we made a “financial freedom meter”—a paper thermometer that we could color to chart our progress in paying off our credit card bill. We also brainstormed as a family to see how we could reduce the amount we spent on needs. We came up with a list of many options, including eating at home more and buying secondhand items. Since we felt it was important that I continue to be a stay-at-home mom, we decided together how to pay for our needs with my husband’s income.
In addition to our lessons and activities, we diligently prayed for Heavenly Father’s guidance. He has blessed us abundantly as we have strived to do our part in eliminating our family’s debt. We have been able to meet our goal of becoming debt free, and we love the peace of mind that brings. We look forward to building our savings to establish a better future for our family. I know from personal experience that the Lord helps those who earnestly follow the prophets’ counsel to achieve financial peace and freedom.—Serena Kugath, Crest Haven Ward, Rexburg Idaho East Stake