Q. Our two-income family has been cut back to about half of what we earned five years ago and our two kids have tried to help but haven't got the idea. Even though they baby-sit, do lawn care, and work at a fast food take-out place, they're still asking for stuff, and expecting us to put it on our credit cards. We're trying to do what Suze Orman and all the other experts say about paying cash or doing without-but it's really hard to get that message across to the kids. Any tips?
Ans. Try basic steps. Sit down around the dining room table and put most of the credit cards in a pile. (Save one or two for real emergencies, not new cell phones.) Take out a scissors and cut up the cards and again say you are going to either pay with money from your pockets or not make purchases unless they are absolutely necessary for survival. Stress that you are attacking this serious problem as a family and you are depending upon their help and understanding to solve this critical problem. Promise that once you have cleared your debt you will celebrate together with "treats." Psychologists have noted that when kids are included in family problems and called upon to help work them out, they actually acquire better, more mature behavior overall, because they are proud to be part of the solution.