Mar 16, 2010

Ways To Make & Save Money #11: Communicate With Your Family

You can read the rest of the Ways to Make & Save Money series here.

I totally believe it when I hear that financial issues can cause huge problems in family relationships because I know firsthand how important money is. One thing that helps our family tremendously is good communication about finances and goals.

Right now, it’s just Marc and me who make most of the decisions. We are really on the same page when it comes to our financial goals, and we agree on living frugally, limiting spending, and saving as much as possible. Plus, I appreciate how supportive he is of all the work I do to keep our grocery and household spending down – most weeks, he takes the boys to swim class alone so I can go grocery shopping by myself. (It’s funny how easy it is to hit five or six stores if I’m alone and how hard it is to do more than two if I’ve got the kids.) In turn, he appreciates how hard I work at saving us money while maintaining our lifestyle.

Even though our kids are young, we take advantage of opportunities to talk with them about money. Just yesterday, the boys asked for Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, which I haven’t bought recently because I haven’t been able to find it for 50 cents or less (note: that’s my target price on cereal). Of course, there’s a ton of cereal in the house, and other breakfast foods too, but not that specific variety.

I sat down and explained that we don’t have any Cinnamon Toast Crunch right now because I haven’t found any good sales. But I got an adorable plea to "Please, can you buy it anyway?" So I responded, "Sure, I can buy expensive cereal, but I won’t be able to buy you toys. Would you rather have a new toy or Cinnamon Toast Crunch?"

I could almost see the computations in their head as they processed the question. And then came the answer: "A new toy." Alex said it first, but Tyler said it too, and in a way that made it clear he wasn’t just parroting his older brother.

Here’s another example of why communication is important: I buy lots of things, but if Marc can’t find them when he needs them, he’s liable to go out and buy more stuff at a much higher price (and with good reason!). So we have designated places in the house for our stockpile – toiletries are in a closet, separated by category; paper goods are in a hall closet, although I recently stockpiled so much that there’s also a tower on the landing of the stairs; light bulbs are in the garage, etc. I also let him know what food is in the fridge/freezer/pantry, because he’s so polite and cautious about not eating anything that I might have plans for.

Of course, we talk about the big picture too – a lot. While we don’t plan regular meetings to discuss our family finances, I keep him in the loop on how we’re doing on spending, saving and any changes I think we should be making. On the rare occasion that we don’t see exactly eye-to-eye, we compromise.

The best part of all this communication is that everyone is happy, because we all know what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. And that gets us to our goals all the faster.

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