Q. My husband and I decided that this was the year that we get our finances in order. We wrote out our budget and for 4 months have been fighting over money. It also feels like the only word I ever say to the kids when they ask for something is “no.” What are we doing wrong?
A. Changing past habits and learning new skills takes time and patience. Very few people are able to balance their budget and maintain peace in the family on their first attempt, so don’t give up. Family budgets work best when everyone is onside and understands the purpose and intent of having a spending plan; which is what a budget really is, a fundamental lifestyle pillar.
Gradually ease in to a family budget
Consider how a person who wants to get fit and eventually run a marathon would plan for this. They may get a check up first, start off by walking and gradually increase their level of activity. Before they know it, they are able to run 10K and enjoy it. Now imagine trying to impose a marathon race on every member of your household. They may run, but it will probably be to get away from you.
How to get on the same page with your spouse
I encourage you to sit down with your husband when you have some quiet time and start fresh. Avoid the blame game, it doesn’t solve anything. Here are some questions to get you going in the right direction:
- What does money mean to each of you?
- What are your financial goals (short, medium and long term)?
- How does each of you see managing your money going forward?
If you really want this to work, each of you will have to compromise here and there. Revisit your expenses over the past 2 months to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything. Don’t forget to list your seasonal expenses, like insurance and car maintenance, and set aside funds for these expenses in a separate savings account. With this information on hand you can refine your budget and develop a spending plan that works.
Make sure your family understands the budget
Depending upon the age of your children and your comfort level, have a family discussion with your kids and talk about the changes you are making and why. It’s important to set some funds aside each month for family events as well as discretionary spending. This will help your kids understand and learn to make spending choices instead of always leaving the decisions in your hands.
Work as a team with your husband and accept the fact that learning to manage your money well is a journey, not a race. Happy trails!