I like to buy big-ticket items – new computers, new televisions, new lawn mowers. My wife likes to buy small-ticket items – and lots of them. We have two children (and a third on the way) and both of them like stuff – bubble gum, crayons, toys, dolls, video games, etc. So, how do we, a family full of ‘spenders’ – manage to reduce debt, save money, and live on a budget?
Me – Daddy, Husband, Budget Creator, Grocery Shopper, Planner
As I’m sure you can figure out, I’m our family’s ‘money nerd’. I like to crunch numbers, create graphs, develop systems, pay bills, and balance checkbooks. So, I handle the day-to-day management of our finances. I make sure that my wife has money in her checking account and cash for monthly expenses. I buy most of our groceries and I handle transfers to our savings and retirement accounts. I’m the one who casts the vision – and does the research – and reads the books.
My Wife – Mommy, Wife, Organizer, Social Planner, Household Manager
My wife is the best Mommy that I know – and a large portion of her time is spent managing our household and caring for our kids. She has ‘budget veto power’. I create the budget, but she has free reign to change it as she sees fit, based on the real-world needs of our family. (In three years of living on a budget, she’s never actually exercised this ‘veto’ power. We are pretty much on the same wavelength. But, if she ever felt that I was being foolish or difficult, she has every right to make a change. It’s not my money or her money, it’s our money.)
How we work well together -
Like I said, I’m good at creating plans – and creating a vision for our future. My wife, on the other hand, is great at keeping things organized and running smoothly. So, I spend my time thinking about the big things, those things that will help us one year, five years, ten years, and thirty years down the road – and I spend time, each day, working on the details of those plans. But, I also struggle to focus on the little things that really help to save money – and that’s where my wife does a great job. We’ve found a good balance between long-term planning and day-by-day living. And, we’ve learned the power of the word ‘WE’. We are debt free. We are saving for our retirement. We are buying a new lawnmower. As I’ve mentioned many times before, when you read the word “I” on this blog, feel free to replace it with the word “We”. Instead of arguing about our finances – we have have agreed to work together, living within the constraints of our budget.
Our kids and money -
I’ve tried, on several occasions, to institute a system of ‘allowance’ or ‘payments’ for the work that our kids do around the house. But, to be frank, at this point, our kids pretty much do what we ask, without expecting payment. As the kids get older, I’m sure we’ll move towards a chores-list with payments, but, for now, we just don’t need it. Our kids receive money from grandparents for their birthdays and various holidays, and they are free to spend that money on whatever they want, after setting aside a percentage for giving and saving. Instead of focusing on money, we are focusing on responsibility – caring for our toys, turning off lights, being thankful for what we have, and honoring Mommy and Daddy when they say ‘no’ or ‘yes’.
We try to avoid fixed roles, but we do know what we are good at and where we need to improve. I like to cook and shop for groceries, so I do those things for our family. My wife does a great job of cleaning our house and keeping things in order. My daughter is quiet, and she helps keep us focused on family things – playing games, drawing, watching movies. My son, he’s Professor-Inquisitive, and he keeps us on our toes – constantly looking for inexpensive ways to learn more about the world around us.
Frankly, we spend a few minutes, each day, talking about our finances, and then we spend the majority of our time thinking about ‘important’ things – our family, our church, and our friends. Once you take control and decide to manage your finances, you’ll be amazed by the number of issues that seem to disappear (or fix themselves). Now, instead of borrowing our way into misery, we save for the things we want – and then we actually enjoy buying them.
I recently purchased a surround-sound system for our den. I’ve been saving for it for several months, and when we recently took a trip out of town, I found the system that I wanted, and I bought it. Instead of worrying about how we were going to afford it or feeling guilty because ‘we spent too much money’ – I’m sitting here watching the Final Four in brilliant high definition and blazing surround sound. And, I don’t feel like I wasted any money, because I made a well thought out, researched, intentional purchase. The same is true about EVERY purchase we make. We have a budget. We live by that budget. We talk about what we are saving for and what we want to buy. We sacrifice for our futures, and, together, we make purchases that we can enjoy, right now.