By Too Lee Soong
Do you and your spouse argue frequently about money? Do you disagree on how to spend or save your income? Is your spouse more of a saver than a spender? Do you understand and know each other’s financial management habits? Have you communicated to each other your financial goals?
Money management is a key to a happy and stable family. We all have different beliefs, motivations, emotions and preferences, which can affect our relationship with our spouse if we are not careful. Money can enhance or destroy your marriage if you do not manage it well.
Here are 4 tips to managing your family finances more effectively:
1. Seek Understanding
Be aware that each individual has different values, standards, and goals that influence his or her view of money and its uses.
Understand the family financial rules that existed in your spouse's family of origin and how they affect his or her financial perspective.
Communicate openly and lovingly with your spouse about your family financial patterns. Assess your family financial rules and decide which ones you want to keep and which ones you want to change.
Consider the motivation behind your financial habits. Do you spend money to "keep up with the Joneses" or improve your social image? Do you spend money to buy the love and affection of others? Do you control the family money too much because you do not trust your spouse?
Plan a family activity to teach all family members about the family finances. For example, discuss and show your children how the money is allocated to various expenses and savings programs.
2. Manage your financial behavior
Manage your money with a written budget.
Make a list defining each spouse's financial roles and responsibilities.
Make purchases that are appropriate to your income level.
Make a list separating your basic needs from your wants. Keep expenses constant even when your income increases.
Give family members some allowance to spend how they choose without being accountable to anyone.
3. Cut expenses
Avoid impulse buying. Make a shopping list and stick to it. Set time delays or waiting periods before making large purchases.
Calculate hidden and indirect costs associated with a purchase.
Eliminate debt and interest payments. Use an accelerated payment for debt reduction. Avoid using credit for things you do not need.
4. Prepare for the future
Establish an emergency savings fund of at least three months' income. If the family has only one breadwinner, consider having savings of six months' income.
Review medical, life, and property insurance policies to make sure they fit your circumstances.
There are plenty of free information on basic personal finance management, and by setting aside some effort and time to look into it, you can make a real difference to your family’s financial situation.