Our Family Finances
Somebody is Watching You
You see, your kids, they’re always watching you, for better or for worse. This is why setting a good example for them is a pertinent part of raising responsible children. Whereas most of us do our best to behave well at work, we often think we can “let our hair down” at home, and be lackadaisical in how we treat our family, or in the habits we partake in. But the kids are always watching, whether they let on to this or not, and the things they learn from their parents will likely carry on into adulthood, in one way or another.
As my husband and I worked to figure out exactly where we got the idea that we could be financially irresponsible with our money, one road pointed back to our parents and how they handled their money.
Lessons About Money Taught By Our Parents
- Money is for spending, not managing- My husband and I have wonderful, loving, supportive parents. However, neither my husband nor I can remember much in the way of responsible financial decisions from our parents when we were kids. There were no savings accounts, and every dime (and more) that came in, promptly went out on whatever it was that our parents wanted to have. Not that they never said “no”, it’s just that the goal of having money was to spend it and to accumulate “stuff”.
- Money is a private matter- Even though none of our parents believed in letting the kids in on the financial order of their homes, enough “discussions” were overheard that we both knew that the money situations weren’t good. Because our parents didn’t believe in discussing money matters with children, we had no idea how to avoid the mistakes our parents had made.
- Money is to be feared- Along with the money troubles that plagued our families growing up, we learned that there was never enough money, nor would there ever be enough money. That’s simply how it was in our families. There was an unspoken rule that although some people were “lucky” enough to have what they needed and more in terms of money, that this wasn’t the case with our families, and we got the message that there wasn’t anything that could be done about it. Thus, fear of having money, not having money, and not being able to buy what we needed (or wanted) to buy gave us both an incorrect view of money in general.
Obviously, the above statements about money are false, but they were the only truths we knew in our world, and belief in those truths led to a mess of a situation with our own family finances.
Handling Fear of Money
Ironically, we both handled our misunderstanding about finances in different ways. My goal with money was to make sure that I had the ability to buy whatever I thought I needed or wanted. I learned quickly that the “have nots” were not as popular or accepted as the “haves”, so I purposed to become one of the “haves”, with little or no regard to the impact it had on my finances. Living pay-check to-pay-check and having credit card payments were a regular and normal part of life, and I was OK with that, as it allowed me to have the appearance of being one of the “haves”.
My husband handled his fear of money completely the opposite way. He hoarded money like crazy. When Rick and I first started dating, he had just moved from his $6 an hour job to a $12 or so an hour job, yet he had a savings account that amounted to more than $20,000. Now, that’s some serious hoarding.
After we got married though, Rick, who’d had a poor role model with his abusive alcoholic father, wanted me to manage the family finances. For my part, that was fine with me. I didn’t want to be left with nothing as my mother was left after her divorce. I needed to be “in charge” of things.
Unfortunately, though, “in charge” meant a lifestyle of continuously spending beyond our means. Although Rick didn’t agree with my means of financial management, his father’s tirades had left him fearful of confrontation, and he avoided arguments whenever possible.
Suffice to say, though, that our improper ways of handling our marriage and our family finances led to the mess we’re in now. We’ve never borrowed money from family or friends, but relied solely on credit cards. Yes, we did consider bankruptcy, but we wanted to give responsible money management a serious try first. We fought about money for years. The stress of a ton of debt and no relief in sight really does take its toll on a marriage, but we were and are committed to keeping our family together. And now that we’ve got a plan and are on the same financial path, we are happier than ever.
This may lead you to wonder: Do kids who come from homes with poorly managed finances always repeat the cycle, and if so, why or why not?
In questioning family and friends on this subject, I received a myriad of answers. It seems that everyone has a different of opinions about whether or not how they handle their finances is a result of what they learned at home.
Where does the responsibility lie? So, who is responsible for teaching our kids about money? Should we leave it up to the parents? Should the education system play a role?
I believe strongly that the education system has a responsibility to teach our children about proper finance management, both at the elementary and secondary levels, as well as post-secondary levels. The basics of how to create and live on a budget, use a cheque book and avoid debt are easily taught by the right teacher. And we all know that many parents don’t teach kids about finances, so if in a particular family money isn’t talked about, at least the school system would be there to teach children the basics.
We also teach the kids a more responsible way of handling finances by giving them a weekly list of chores, and then paying them at the end of each week. The requirements in our household are that they put 10% of each week’s pay into a savings account, and 10% into a giving account, and then manage the other 80% as they please. Also, our current stringent budget means very little entertainment money, so it’s been fun to watch as the kids save their money so that they can partake in fun activities that aren’t currently in our budget. And the kids get excited about money as they watch their savings grow and as they earn money on their own to do the fun stuff that we can’t afford right now.
Managing Family Finances Today
My husband and I, through much education about family finance management and a lot of hard work are finally on the same page regarding money. His fear of money is slowing dissipating, in large part due to the fact that I’ve come to face my own money mistakes and the reasons for them.
Today we manage our finances frugally by budgeting, tracking our spending, and meal planning, which helps us to feed our family of six on under $450 a month. We don’t use much in the way of coupons because we don’t eat alot of processed food, but instead grow and preserve many of our own veggies, and make most stuff from scratch.
We are happily living a super-frugal lifestyle, with the common goals of reaching financial independence and focusing on value-based spending. Value-based spending, which is simply making spending decisions based on what’s most important to our family, helps us to curb wasteful spending and make sure our money goes towards the things that matter most to the well-being of our family.
Sometimes it’s tough, on an emotional level, to not spend on “fun” things, but we know we’ll be doing our marriage and our family a great service in the long run if we simply buckle down for a few years.No matter what the influences are that may have caused you to manage money irresponsibly, you can overcome them and create a better financial life for yourself, so start today.
Post contribution by: Laurie B. I practice frugality with my husband, 4 children, 2 horses and 3 cats on a 7-plus acre hobby farm in the Midwest. Here we are learning to be self-sufficient and to achieve the financial peace that comes with being debt free. I also blog about money and about life on the farm at The Frugal Farmer.
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