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Managing your own finances is tricky enough, but add in a partner or spouse, and some often (very) opinionated kids, and you may find it’s not as easy as you thought. Most personal finance and budgeting advice sounds simple, but what if you and your family members disagree on core issues? How can you resolve to be more money savvy while keeping everyone’s needs in mind?
5 tips for managing the family finances without fighting
1. Make a date.
photo credit: Stephan Rosger
While have alone time is important for your relationship, it’s also key to a healthy financial future. Make a date once a month (at home is ok too) where you turn off all the distractions and really talk about upcoming expenses, goals for the short term and how you are doing with your long term goals. This is the time to approach that $5/day coffee habit your spouse has, or for him to talk to you about your ever growing shoe collection. Make this time judgment and frustration free by playing soft music, doing some meditation beforehand, or opening up a bottle of wine.
Make time to talk finances with your kids about once a month as well. We often talk about family goals like a big trip, or new playset and how we can save up for it. When we were house shopping years ago my oldest offered all his savings ($75) to help pay for the new house.
2. Make room for fun.
photo credit: adamjackson1984
All work and no play does indeed make Jack and Jane very dull (and sometimes needlessly frustrated). Make some room in your budget for fun money, family money (for outings to the movies, bowling alley, etc.) and the occasional splurge. If your budget is super tight, make it even simpler-$5 a week or let the kids each pick their favorite box of cereal (with a coupon of course) while you’re at the store.
3. Save for mistakes.
photo credit: phil wood photo
Emergency savings are important, yes, but save up some funds for mistakes just in case. That way when that $200 parking ticket comes in the mail you won’t freak out. That may mean a gentle reminder about feeding the meter, and a little less fun money for your spouse for a few months, but it’s worth it so you don’t have to fight about every penny.
There will definitely be plenty of opportunities to share this lesson with your kids. When Johnny knocks out a window from your neighbor’s house, he can pay for it with his savings, and some extra work around the house. When your teen goes over her minutes on her cell phone she can find a way to make some quick cash to pay you back by babysitting, or using her birthday money.
4. If you do lose your cool, apologize.
Fighting about money is one of the major stressors in most relationships, and money is believed to be a factor in a large percentage of divorces. Sometimes you will lose your cool (hello $1,000 tv bought on a whim), but you’re only human. Calm down, and apologize.
For kids this is key to see that you can lose your cool and move past it. One thing I see many families do is get upset in front of the kids, and apologize behind closed doors. Let your kids see you forgive each other, and try to be forgiving of your kids as well. After all, they do learn from making mistakes.
5. Divide and conquer.
In most relationships one person is good at numbers, while another may be a whiz in the kitchen. Divvy up the responsibilities in your relationship so that each person does the things they are good at, and the less fun financial chores are divided up equally. Just remember to switch it up on occasion. It may make sense for your accountant husband to be in charge of the bills, but it’s also imperative that you know how to access all your family accounts in case of an emergency.
This goes for the kids too, especially as they get older they can help take on family finance tasks such as grocery shopping, helping pay bills, and more.
While I’m no expert in the matter of relationships and money, I do think these tips work. Remember no one is perfect, and while you may slip up from time to time so will your spouse and your kids. Try to remember we all make mistakes, and take a deep breath before you respond.
What are ways you maintain a peaceful family life while keeping your bottom line in mind?