Many families find that a lot of their fights are related to sideways statements about money that blow up into arguments over how money is spent and saved in their homes. You don’t want this to happen, or if it already happens, you’d love for it to happen less. Money talks and family budget meetings are a way to address money issues head-on, rather than waiting for someone to feel overwhelmed, stressed and explode. You and your family can make strong financial choices together!
Work Toward Your Financial Goals Together
The first step to financial wellness is to admit where you want to go. Are you and your partner hoping to move to a better apartment or buy a house? Hoping to afford a car? Hoping to feel less stressed because you have an emergency fund? Establish your goals and rank them in terms of achievability: many modest goals can be achieved over time, but some small goals must be reached first in the near-term.
Learn to Communicate Effectively About Your Budget and Spending
Many of us feel defensive about our spending choices, so we lash out when someone questions them. One way to calm this impulse is to decide how much “non-essentials money” each of you gets to spend each month, even if it is a truly small amount. Then, assume that you won’t weigh in on how each other spends this money. Decide together what counts as essential; try to be respectful even when you disagree on an essential, and you may have to make a grey area category, something that isn’t truly essential but also doesn’t have to come out of “non-essential money.” Budgets allow you to keep each other accountable and do better each month; the goal is growth, not perfection.
Be Conscious and Honest about Your Financial Situation
Make sure you really know how much money is coming in and going out, as well as how stable your income stream is. If there are things in the financial situation that give you worry, work together in your meetings to establish 2-3 things that you’ll do to cope with this. If there have been layoffs at your partner’s company, ask if he or she would be willing to job search 1 or 2 hours a week to get a head start in the case of a problem. If you suggest items for the other person to do, always follow up with an item you will do yourself, like working overtime to help cushion the emergency fund.
Be Happier as a Family
While these conversations may be tough, you can establish a time limit (say an hour) and make it clear that you’ll switch to an activity you enjoy afterward. Remember that you want to be on the same side as your partner, fighting the financial battles together, rather than each of you fighting the other. Addressing these issues head-on doesn’t just give you a game plan: it also can promote peace and happiness between you.