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Financial Topics & Tips

Budgeting as a Family

Budgeting should be a family project. Since everyone in the household is affected by the budget, everyone should be aware of what is available to spend -- or not spend. Often, there is one designated person in the family that handles the money -- balancing the checkbook, paying all the bills, providing allowances, etc. That job can be very stressful if that person does not have the full support and understanding of everybody in the family. A healthy and open approach to money management is good for the entire family.

Particularly, at this time of year, with the holiday season approaching, many families will be spending more money than usual.  Finances can put a strain on family relationships, so it is a particularly important time to look for ways to spend wisely, avoid debt and save money.

When developing a family budget, it is good to establish some goals that the family can strive for together. For example, if the whole family knows that their goal is to save for a new house, it will be easier to resist overspending on holidays and entertainment. When establishing goals, it is important to make them SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. For example, if the goal is to save enough to make a down payment on a new car, a SMART goal might sound something like, “We will set aside $200 each month until we have saved $5,000 for the down payment on our new car.” This goal is very specific and measurable. The goal is also timely because you know exactly how long you will have to set the money aside (for as long as it takes to reach $5,000). However, if you do not have $200 to set aside, this goal would not be attainable or realistic. So it's important to set the dollar amount at something that you can afford.

After developing goals, write them down so you can post them for all to see and review them periodically. It brings a sense of accomplishment to see goals being achieved. Seeing the goals on paper will also inspire you to keep saving for your financial goals. You will recall from the earlier section that setting up a realistic budget involves a balancing act between what you earn and what you spend. You should be allocating money based on the financial goals and values established by your family.

Get the kids involved!  Parents often ask if they should include their children in the budgeting process. While the children may not need to know how much their parents earn, it is still important to teach children that money is a family asset that is needed to provide the essentials of food and shelter. Too often children are not taught that money is earned through hard work and needs to be spent wisely and carefully. If children know parents are serious about their financial goals, they will often help with them. Children may even help hold you accountable when you think of overspending.

It is the first and most important step to effective financial planning -- developing and implementing a budget -- which means working to try to live within your financial means.

Source:  Greenpath Debt Solutions (www.greenpath.com)