If you feel like you’re drowning in debt, you aren’t alone. According to a study from ValuePenguin, 41% of Americans have credit card debt. Debt, on its own, is not a sin. But this doesn’t mean that the Bible promotes debt or honors when we get into debt.
The Bible explains that we are to be cautious when considering debt. Proverbs 22:26-27 says, “Don’t be one of those who enter agreements, who put up security for loans. If you have nothing to pay, even your bed will be taken from under you.”
The topic of debt isn’t irrelevant but well known and hated. When you look at your credit card or loan statement, you feel responsible. You feel the commitment when you see the interest you have to pay. You feel liable when the monthly payment leaves your checking account. You also feel the pressure when you must say “no” to something you wish to say “yes” to because debt has tapped out any financial margin.
Unfortunately, your debt affects you and your entire family, including the children. A decision to spend beyond what one can afford injures the household as a whole. Whether or not they can articulate the reason for the burden, they feel it nonetheless. Here are some ways that debt can hurt your family.
Debt can boost household stress.
Personal finances are the leading cause of stress for Americans. This stress has been connected to a lack of sleep, high blood pressure, and even depression. Dr. John Gathergood of the University of Nottingham revealed that people who found it challenging to pay off their debt doubled their chance of experiencing mental health issues like depression and anxiety. This stress, and its symptoms, can negatively influence your interaction with your spouse and children. You can become quick-tempered, easily agitated, or distanced. Your family won’t want to be near you when you act this way.
Debt can bring marital arguments.
Financial issues are often named as one of the leading causes of divorce. These issues are likely indicative of underlying marital problems. Even in marriage, money can bring what’s hidden to light. It can expose communication, expectation, and trust problems that can destroy a marriage because of their harmfulness while hidden under the surface. Still, that doesn’t mean that debt doesn’t, on its own, have little impact on a marriage. The stress debt creates and living beyond your means can force a husband and wife to the financial and argumentative edge.
Debt teaches poor money management to your children.
When it comes to parenting, you should always communicate something to your children. They constantly watch what you do and listen to what you say. So, your words and actions concerning money teach your children about money for better or worse.
Of course, as parents, the question that should be in each of your minds is, “What are we teaching them?” Does the way we manage money support that charity is our main concern? Are they learning about delayed gratification? Are we teaching them to say “no” to worldly desires? Or are they learning something else? The buildup of debt teaches your children something, but you should ensure that what they’re learning is positive.
Debt reduces your family’s sense of stability.
There’s nothing scarier than feeling like you and your family are on shaky ground. Each day, you wake up praying that today isn’t the day when the bottom falls from under you. As a provider, you want to ensure that your family doesn’t go without what they need. Our ultimate security source doesn’t come from a savings or retirement account dollar amount. It comes from God.
In 2 Timothy 6:17, Paul tells us, “not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy.” God is our hope and source of ultimate protection. Still, this doesn’t negate the need for sensible money management. The book of Proverbs clarifies this and provides the benefits of doing so. Proverbs 21:20 reminds us, “Precious treasure and oil are in the dwelling of a wise person, but a fool consumes them.”
While those who save create stability, those who choose to live beyond their means experience instability. Taking on debt is taking on risk. A wallet full of maxed-out credit cards places your family’s finances precarious. One unanticipated expense can send the finances into a nosedive. Debt decreases a family’s sense of stability, concerned about what one miscalculation or unexpected expense will do to them.
Significant debt hurts your family. The impact of maxed-out credit cards and high-interest payments doesn’t stop with you. In some way, its burden is placed on the shoulders of everyone in the house. You are a slave to the lender, and so is everyone else.
Debt can be easy to justify because everyone is dealing with debt of some kind. Whether it’s credit card debt, student loans, or a car loan, you may feel like the debt was understandable. However, debt can hold you down and limit what you can accomplish. For example, your maxed-out credit cards can’t help you when you need a new tire or when your child needs braces. Even worse, your debt can have an adverse effect on your family. If your debt to income ratio is higher than 25%, you may be in danger, and your debt can do some real damage to you and the ones you love.
The best way to get out of debt is to develop a plan. Sit down with your spouse and write out all of the expenses for the household. That way, you can see where your money is going. Then, look at your costs and determine what’s a necessity and what’s a luxury. Once that’s done, start cutting out the frills and use that money to pay down your debts. When you get into a comfortable spot, you could start adding the extras back in one by one if you desire. Being in debt is uncomfortable for everyone. However, with discipline, you can dig yourself out.