Kids, We’re In Debt

Preface: My wife and I were discussing various financial subjects over dinner one evening last week when  Tori, our ten year old daughter, blurted out, “I remember when mom told us we were in debt.”   After she told us the story from her perspective, I asked her if she would be willing to write me a blog post about it.  Immediately after dinner she sat down in front of the computer, and began typing away.  The following is the story of our journey out of debt through the eyes of our daughter.

Three years and four months ago my mom took me and my brother, Tristan, to Walmart. When we got to a parking spot, we just sat there, staring at each other. After a while we asked, “Mom, what’s going on? Are we in trouble?” Mom shook her head. “Kids, I have to tell you something.” Tristan and I were a little bit scared. What could she possibly need to tell us? It was a perfectly normal day with a mother and her two kids going grocery shopping.

But then she dropped this on us: “Kids, we’re in debt.”

She was fighting back tears, but not enough to keep them away. “What’s debt?” I asked, since I was only 7. Mom explained to me how debt is when we spend more money than we had and we had to pay it back. I didn’t get how this affected me until she said that we’d buy fewer toys and more of what we need rather than want. This caused my heart to shatter.

I thought that we were poor and we’d never do anything fun again. I was afraid to ask how far we were in debt or how long we’d even be in debt. The more she explained, the more it felt like we would be in debt forever. But the amazing thing is, I was wrong.

Most days my mom and dad get together and go through the bills and our budget. In the beginning of the week they talk about our budget for the next weekend as well as groceries and gas.

By the way, in my opinion gas is really expensive.  I saw my dad fill up our van once and it cost $83!

Anyway, we save money for extra things that come up by putting money in an envelope that we keep in one of our kitchen drawers. This, in my opinion, is very smart! This is just of one of the many smart strategies that have helped us get through the last few years.

At the start of our journey, I noticed a large difference from what I was used to. I was not happy about this change, because it included hesitating to do some of the fun things we’d usually done in the past.

We always have to stop and think about money and math, and I hate math.

But I eventually got used to it.

I am so happy that we are almost out of debt and that I learned so much from this experience. I know now that if you don’t have a budget and you spend more money than you really have, you’re in big trouble! I know this will help me when I am an adult and I’m finally the one in charge. But we still have fifteen more months, which sounds like a long time, but three years and four months seemed long too.

We’re all going to screw up sometimes and it will cost us. Sometimes the cost will be big and seem horrible, and partly is, but there’s always a bright side in every situation. My bright side was that I learned and experienced so much. But I only learned by paying attention to things that seemed so small and pointless to me before.

You should pay attention too, you just might learn something.


Postscript:  I was amazed by the things that my daughter has picked up on.  The $83 bill for filling up our van was when gas prices were close to $4.00 per gallon and was the most I ever paid for a tank of gas.   I remember complaining about it quite forcefully when it happened, but had completely forgotten about it until I read her post.  It’s no secret in our home that we are using the envelope method and cash only spending for our day to day expenditures, but it’s not something I thought Tori would really pay attention to.  The thing that surprised me the most was her observation of Vonnie and I going through the numbers and ensuring something fits in our budget when we discuss doing a family activity.  It saddens me that I had been such a poor role model for my daughter for such a long time.  But I am thrilled that not only has she seen her mom and dad turn their financial life around, but that there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that she fully understands the transformation her family has undertaken over the last few years.  She has walked this journey with us, and that experience will benefit her as she grows into the strong woman I know she is destined to become.


About Travis

49 Responses to “Kids, We’re In Debt”

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  1. It’s amazing to me how quickly kids can pick up on things. Tori’s observations about what was happening financially were spot on and she definitely has learned life lessons about finances that she will never learn in school.

    Great post Tori! I love your writing 🙂

    • Travis says:

      Tori says: Thank you Suzanne. You are the reason why we’ve come so close to getting out of debt and I really appreciate the CareOne program.

      Travis says: The reason for her learning these lessons is unfortunate, but you are right…I’m very glad that she has will have these lessons to take with her into adulthood as they are just not adequately addressed yet in our schools.

  2. Monica says:

    Wow, that was a great post written by Tori. She has definitely learned a great lesson from both you and Vonnie. A life lesson that she will carry with her into adulthood. Great job Tori!!

    • Travis says:

      Tori says: I am so gad my dad has so many great friends from this life saving program. Thank you 😉

      Travis says: Monica, as a graduate of the DMP you understand better than any one what our family has and is going through – so I know you can identify with the desire I feel to do my very best to make sure my children don’t duplicate our mistake. She’s a bright young lady, and I just KNOW it’s gonna sink in!

  3. Cait says:

    What a great post by a beautiful young writer. You should be proud of everything she has learned, Travis – including that writing is a great way to express yourself. Thanks for the read, Tori!

    • Travis says:

      Tori says: Thank you so much! I love to write because it is my favorite way to express myself and the characters in my stories. Hope I can meet you some day!

      Travis says: I love to read the ideas she comes up with – I am truly a proud and lucky daddy. 🙂

  4. Brad Chaffee says:

    Tori, this is a fantastic article and I’m quite proud that you contributed to this blog, which was born at a time when we started our debt free journey. You’re quite the writer!!

    My oldest son is only 6 but I hope one day he understands why debt is so bad and why it was so important that we embraced this new debt free lifestyle. For his age I think he gets it but only time will tell. The things you are learning right now will be so important for you as you become older and begin to manage your own money.

    The best thing you can do is never forget how your mother felt that day she revealed the news and also how hard it was to climb out of that hole. That reminder could save you if you are ever tempted by debt.

    Your parents have obviously done a great job raising you and I admire them so much for starting this journey instead of taking the easy way out — which in the financial world is bankruptcy. They had a mighty mountain to climb but all of their hard work and sacrifice is paying off. It is obvious you all are growing as a family in the process! That’s the best part!!

    Great article and I hope to see more articles from you in the future! You did such a great job!! 🙂

    • Travis says:

      Tori says: Thanks Brad, you have been such a great friend of my dads and were very supportive to him! I really hope to write more and more articles and I am working on a new book as well. Thanks!

      Travis says: Knowing you, Brad, your 6 year old could probably put on a debt free clinic at this point. LOL. You know I agree with you about Bankruptcy – there is certainly a place for it, but it should be a final resort. The problem is so many people don’t know there are other options…..we have to get the word out that there are other solutions before resorting to the ‘B’ word!

  5. Brad Chaffee says:

    Oh and will we see a Tori blog in the future? I’ve heard you like writing and I bet the Tori Chronicles would be fun to read. I would definitely subscribe! 😀

    • Travis says:

      Tori says: Lol! I just might start one!

      Travis says: We’ll see about that young lady (although you certainly have the ability) – somehow I think SIMS would get a higher priority. Haha – I have no doubt you’ll hear from Tori the writer again in the future. 🙂

  6. J. Money says:

    I LOVE THIS TORI!!!! So awesome!!! I’m so going to link it to my blog and on social media 🙂 You’ve got a most wonderful family over there!! You’re blessed!

    • Travis says:

      Tori says: Thanks J.Money……I’ve heard so much about you and hope to meet you one day! I promise I’ll keep writing since everyone loves what I write and that I enjoy doing so.

      Travis says: Awhile back Tori heard Vonnie and I talking about you and wanted to know what you looked like….so I looked up one of the post fincon11 videos and pointed you out. Vonnie and I are blessed to have such an awesome daughter….she (as well as our son) definitely keeps life interesting…and us on our toes!

      • J. Money says:

        Hehe, awesome! I hope to meet you too one day Tori! You’re an incredibly bright young lady with a great future ahead of you 🙂 Keep pouring your heart into your articles!

  7. Your daughter is a better writer than like, half the other blogs I read. I’m dying of the sweetness right now. You HAVE to be so proud, Travis!

  8. says:

    Such a great article Tori! You are a wonderful writer and I hope to see more of your writing in the future. I know your dad is extremely proud.

    • Travis says:

      Tori says: Thanks Sherrian, I never want to stop writing. It’s one of my favorite subjects and I am always the only person cheering when we get a writing assignment.

      Travis says: Hearing her perspective on our journey was quite the treat….and having the ability to post her thoughts here on Enemy Of Debt is something that definitely means a lot to me. Tori always surprises me with her imagination and abilities – I’m glad you enjoyed the post Sherrian!

  9. Awesome job Tori!! You and your family are an inspiration!!

    • Travis says:

      Tori Says: I am so glad to hear that Ashley! I hope people learn from my journey as much as I did. Thank you!

      Travis Says: Aw, thanks Ashley! Also, thanks for your comment and your support for Tori on her first post!

  10. Great insight by your daughter! I love the idea of having your daughter write from her perspective as well, it helps make a situation more real. Kids have a unique way of looking at things and hold less back than we tend to do.

    • Travis says:

      Tori Says: Thanks John hope to write many more!

      Travis says: I agree with that, John! I’ve always wondered what my kids have thought of this whole journey….but it’s never occurred to me to simply ask them! Having Tori take some time, and express her feelings and experiences through writing was a perfect way to understand how she views what our family is going through!

  11. This was such a great article Tori! I love your insights and your writing style. I hope you can write more soon.

    If you remember these lessons, you are going to be ahead of so many people when you get older!

    • Travis says:

      Tori Says: Thank you Khaleef. I’m so happy so many people like my writing. I try to make it as realistic as possible in my writing so they truly understand. Thanks for commenting!

      Travis Says: Thanks for your support, Khaleef – great to hear from you. I may have to think about another writing project for her, heh? 🙂

  12. Suzanne says:

    Wow, just wow! Tori is not only a great story teller, but clearly one smart girl. I can only imagine how gratifying it is to see how your financial challenges have positively influenced your children. You are setting the most awesome example ever, they are watching you and Vonnie correct past mistakes and take control, that makes you the most awesome role models ever. What an amazing young lady you have!

    • Travis says:

      Tori says: Thanks Suzanne, you are one of the many reasons why we’ve accomplished so much. I cant wait to meet you one day…..I really appreciate your comment!

      Travis says: As a parent you understand that the window we have to influence who are children are is short. Vonnie and I have to make the most of that time, and I hope and pray that we are doing just that – thank you so very much for your comment. 🙂

  13. Kathy says:

    Tori….you GO girl!

    What an amazing 10 year old. The descriptive words that pour out of your brain astound me! Better than some adults!

    Fantastic post on how debt affects children. And, how effective learning good skills are to us all.

    I’ll be forwarding this onto my family so my 7 & 10 yr old nieces can read it.

    Keep up the writing!

    • Travis says:

      Tori Says: Thanks Kathy I’m hoping to write many more blog posts!

      Travis Says: Ooooh, Kathy – if you do forward on to your nieces you’ll have to let let me know what their thoughts are!

  14. Well done, Tori! I love how you’ve learned so much about personal finance at such a young age…you’re building a fantastic foundation for a wonderful future!

    • Travis says:

      Tori Says: Thank you so much!I hope I have inspired others to not always expect the worst.

      Travis Says: That’s my girl, an optimist just like her dad. 🙂 As my kids go progress through school, I’m finding that they are learning things faster, and at an earlier age than when I was a kid. Financial education just isn’t keeping up….I just don’t see kids getting the education they need to give them that foundation to be successful in handling their finances as an adult. Sure, many will just “figure it out,” but something this important should not just be left to chance – so I’m happy that my kids are indeed building that foundation! Thanks for your comment, The Happy Homeowner!

  15. Tori, you’re my new hero. You know more about debt at 10 years old than I did in college. Can’t wait to read your future blog: Enemy of Debt AND Math.

    Future looks bright for you. Keep at it.

    • Travis says:

      “Enemy of Debt AND Math” – That’s hilarious, Johnny! The thing is, I could totally see Tori naming a blog something fun like that. 🙂

  16. I am very shocked that small kids understand family problem so quickly . i am very proud on them . tori has a great post . i want that my child is like him. the imagination power and the word thinking power of 10 year old child is too good . and yes debt effects a children a lot . so tori is real hero . keep it up .

    • Travis says:

      Thanks for your kind words, Christopher – I most awesome thing is, as we continue to be open and honest about our debt relief journey, and not afraid to have our children hear us talk about finances they talk about it more too. Whereas my wife and I are a little skeptical to tell people about our debt and how we’re eliminating it, Tori sees it as nothing but a positive step, and wants to tell everyone. 🙂

  17. Kelly says:

    Never stop writing Tori! You have a wonderful, honest, funny, and well developed “voice” and I want to hear more of it! Travis, obviously you’re a family of great writers… I heartily approve! 😉

    • Travis says:

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment Kelly! It’s so fun to share a passion with my daughter – I hope that our shared love of writing will keep us connected as she gets older. I can almost guarantee that you’ll hear more from Tori. I cannot confirm or deny that something else is in the works…..

  18. Sarah says:

    What an insightful, wonderfully written post! Your daughter is so talented — not a lot of ten year olds can write this well, so you both should be proud. The part where she said “this made my heart shatter” made me laugh so hard! Way to go, Tori! 🙂

    • Travis says:

      LOL, I’m glad you were able to find some humor in the post too. Not that this wasn’t a traumatic experience for my kids, but my daughter (taking after her mother) is a tad melodramatic. 🙂

  19. debtgirl says:

    That is a very cool post!!! I love her perspective. My teen knows we have to be careful, but I haven’t told her the “whole story” afraid it might affect her self esteem which is so fragile in Middle School. Next or two, we are going to have the talk and she will know the whole reason we are so careful!

    • Travis says:

      We’ve told The kids more bits and pieces over time, but they do not know “the number.” That is one thing that we would not want them to spread to their friends. 🙂 I think the important thing is that they know debt is bad, and to learn the right way to manage money. The details of debt relief programs and bankruptcy can come later. Thanks so much for sharing your perspective as well!

      • debtgirl says:

        Good point Travis. I think key is to help them learn the RIGHT WAY for sure. I think she is smarter than her ol’mom! I hope to help her with these skills because I know the wrong way. I have learned though!

  20. Natalie F says:

    It’s truly shocking how quick kids are to learn the things around them. You’ve got a smart little girl there. Its good to see that she understands and is learning the value of money. As parents, we always hope our kids won’t make the same mistakes we did.

    • Travis says:

      That’s right, Natalie F….the goal is definitely to have our kids not make the same mistakes. All we can do is be open and honest with them, give them as much love and information as possible, and hope for the best. She IS a smart girl, and I have all the confidence in the world that it will sink in!

  21. PK says:

    Well done, Tori! That was a well-written, insightful post AND you have learned (and are continuing to learn) important life lessons. Kudos to your parents for including you and your brother on this journey so you can learn to avoid making the same mistakes and learn how to fix your mistakes when you do make them (we all make mistakes).

    • Travis says:

      You hit the nail on the head PK, in my opinion – I agree that it is equally important to learn how to handle finances correctly as well as recover from mistakes. We obviously cannot tell our kids all the details, but we do not hide our daily conversations about finances and making very basic financial decisions.

  22. WOW says:

    Congrats on your progress.

    Let me tell you my story. Im a doctor in Chicago. my wife and i are 45. My first job in 1997 was for 120000 but i make about 350000 now. I got married ten years ago and have two kids. I paid off 43 K in student loans in 1999. I always saved more than I spent. We have no debt (one exception) So, by 20008 we paid off the mortgage on our house worth about 450K and we saved about 1.5 million in a Schwab account and about 1 million in various retirement accounts. We have about 400K in 529 plans and stopped contributing, Kids 9 and 6. It was great not giving interest to the credit card companies or mortgage companies (15 year loan paid off in 7). The only thing we did in 2012 was add on to the house. A 300K project which we took out a HELOC at 3.75%. The balance is 210,000 and we are deciding whether or not to pay it off this year.

    We dont live OK, just below our means. We dry fuel efficient cars, diesels, saving 2000 in fuel costs per year. Energy efficiency was a priority in adding on to the house, so we spend less on elec and natural gas compared to our neighbors.

    Best thing, Im not stressed. If i lose my job, Im OK. If I die, the family and kids are OK.


    • Travis says:

      Not being worried about you or your family’s financial state if a tragedy or emergency occur would certainly reduce overall stress – I can’t wait to be able to say the same thing!

  23. jim says:

    Travis & Vonnie,
    I just now read this story. Wow! Really, that’s about all I can say. Tori is a very talented little writer. And you know what? She may never have developed that talent had it not been for her life experiences. Good for you guys for going thru this journey with her. Who EVER knows what life lessons we’re destined to learn and teach? Sounds to me like you’re doing a great job. I believe I just read where you’re debt free – WOW, wow, WOW!!!!!!! Congrats!

    • Travis says:

      We did just complete our Debt Management Plan (and paid off 109K of credit card debt), so it’s a VERY happy weekend in our home. 🙂 We still have some debt, but now we’re in the drivers seat and get to decide what to do with a much larger chunk of money. We’ll be working to pay off the rest of our consumer debt, AND build wealth.

      Tori is an amazing young woman….and a fantastic writer. Just last night she was sitting on her bed with her laptop, and earphones in, writing away on her latest book. I don’t know what this one’s about, but I’m sure she’ll have me read it when it’s done. I agree with you….who knows if she would have realized or developed her love of writing. I am thrilled that she is following in my footsteps as a writer, it always makes a parent proud when a child picks up one of their interests. 🙂

      I’m glad you found and enjoyed this post, Jim!

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