The diapers, the dance lessons, the clothes... kids are expensive! Start paying off your credit card balance now with this advice from money pros and moms who have been in your shoes.

By Michelle Crouch
December 05, 2018
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Credit: Andrey_Kuzmin/Shutterstock

The first step of getting your family free of credit card debt? Knowing where you stand. Start by writing down the balance and interest rate for each of your credit cards.

“We had no idea we owed $50,000 until we added it up,” says Rebecca Arcarese, a mom of two in Seattle, who paid it off in three-and-a-half years. Even the average consumer is $6,300 in debt!

Then follow these simple steps to start consolidating and saving:

Step 1: Categorize Your Purchases

“I looked at three months of credit-card statements, grouped everything into categories, and totaled it up,” says Sami Womack, a mom of three in Nacogdoches, Texas, who paid off $14,000 in creditcard debt in three years. “It was a big kick in the stomach. For instance, we were spending $800 a month on eating out!”

Step 2: Set Your Goals

Put Money Toward Debt Every Week

Break your big goal into a few doable pieces so you don’t just give up, says Kara Stevens, a blogger at TheFrugalFeminista.com. Suppose you are trying to pay down $6,000 in credit-card debt in six months. That means you need to pay $1,000 a month, or $250 a week.

Pay in Cash

You know you can’t get out of debt if you keep racking up more. “We cut up every card except one and put that one in a block of ice in the freezer,” says Arcarese. “If we had an emergency, we knew we could chip through the ice to get it.”

Step 3: Take Action

Step Up Meal Planning

“I started making slow-cooker meals that would be ready when we walked in the door from all our kid activities,” says Jamie Jeffers, a mom of five in Cincinnati who paid off $22,000 in a little more than two years. “Besides saving money, I ended up losing 8 pounds because I wasn’t making as many fast-food runs.” Even if you can do a swap just once a week, it’ll make a big difference.

“We used to order two large pizzas on Fridays, which cost around $30,” says Kimberly Palmer, author of Smart Mom, Rich Mom: How to Build Wealth While Raising a Family. “Now we make them ourselves and spend $8 on the groceries, saving almost $1,200 a year!”

Trade Your Kid's Stuff

“I spent very little on baby clothes because I swapped our outgrown wardrobe at my moms-group meetups,” says Arcarese, who also took a job at a coffee shop from 3 a.m. to 8 a.m. so she could earn extra money and not have to pay for child care.

Lower Monthly Bills

Consider ditching cable (the average bill is around $100 per month) and opting for a streaming service instead; you may also be able to get a cheaper Wi-Fi package and cell-phone plan.

Consider a Radical Change

“We moved from our house with a $3,000-per-month mortgage to a $700-per-month apartment, the cheapest one we could find,” says Arcarese. “That freed up a lot of cash we could put toward our debt every month.”

Step 4: Prevent Debt Creep

Know Your Triggers

“I had to consciously stop comparing myself to people I barely knew on Instagram who were buying things and going on amazing vacations,” says Womack.

Keep a Reminder

“We posted all of our credit-card statements on the refrigerator. As we paid them off, we took them down and had a small celebration,” says Arcarese. “When I wanted to buy something, I would remember that bill on my fridge.”

Have a Spending Buddy

“Agree that you’ll discuss any purchase over a certain dollar amount with a spouse, a sister, or a good friend,” suggests Janet Bodnar, author of Kiplinger’s Money Smart Women.

Stay Strong When the Kids Ask for Stuff

“And make sure your spouse is 100 percent on board too,” says Jeffers. Reward your children more often with time—building a snowman, snuggling with a book, cooking together—rather than gifts.

Parents Magazine

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