Ever feel like money is one of the biggest sources of stress in your family relationships? You’re not alone. According to the Australian Psychological Society, financial issues are a leading cause of stress for the average Aussie.
The good news is that things can get better (yes, without winning the lotto), when each family member takes the time to improve their money habits.
One of the most important lessons you can learn is that family finances take cooperative effort. Put simply, it doesn’t do any good for one person to be great at budgeting and planning ahead if someone else is wasting money, wasting resources that cost money, or not feeling good about what has been planned for. This is true whether the family is two partners and a dog (or three), or mum, dad and umpteen kids.
Of course, that’s not to say that the littlies should get an equal say in dividing up the budget. But getting involved to some degree can give them a chance to practice real day-to-day money habits.
Here are a few ways you can get started …
Get younger kids involved in planning the grocery shopping
Start by making a grocery list together, planning out what you need. As you choose better value items in each shop, explain the decision-making process and ask your child to help you compare two different products on a cost-per-100g basis. If they crack it when they can’t have lollies or treats, have some coping mechanisms at the ready – for yourself, just as much as them1.
Encourage each other’s savings goals
Everyone in the family has (or should have) goals they’re saving towards. Sharing your progress and encouraging each other can be a great way to solidify a positive financial habit. For example, kids could have a printable chart on the front of the fridge where their pocket money savings are tracked for everyone to see. Partners can encourage each other to save by planning romantic ‘staycations’ or complimenting smart spending choices.
Use the right language
One APA publication recommends being very careful when you explain why you’re not buying something. For example, when explaining why they can’t have a toy or treat, don’t say ‘we can’t afford it’, say ‘that’s not how we choose to spend our money’2. This makes it extra clear that it’s a deliberate choice to forego the tempting item in question. In turn, this can help teach children about delayed gratification. It may even be helpful for the adults in the family to have a think about how they’ve used words such as ‘afford’ in the past, and how that might impact the way they spend quickly on pay day.
Make it fun
Speaking of language, the word ‘budget’ is often associated with restriction, cutting back, and negative feelings. You can turn that around by making different forms of thriftiness into fun activities. For example, you could batch cook a tasty budget-friendly meal as a family. Or you could watch YouTube tutorials on repairing common household items instead of replacing them, and spend an afternoon getting handy and creative.
Sometimes as a family you do need to cut back, but it’s important to remind each other that in the end, it’s all worth it. In other words, it’s a good idea to have a shared goal to work towards. A common example is a short family holiday. Younger kids can get involved by saving coins in a transparent money box; the visual aspect really helps. Older kids can help to research good value for money options. Parents can set ‘stretch goals’ like extra activities, better accommodation and more spending money.
Once you put some of these strategies in place, there’s a strong chance you’ll see a change in how well your family budget is balanced. But more importantly, you’ll feel more in control and less stressed. Take that feeling even further by learning more about your own personal finances. Who knows, what you learn could help your family enjoy a more comfotable lifestyle on a budget!
1 https://www.canstarblue.com.au/stores-services/how-to-avoid-toddler-tantrums-at-the-shops/. Accessed 31 July 2019.
2 https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/money-family. Accessed 31 July 2019.