Wednesday, 13 May 2009 20:01


Written by  Steven Wightman
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With companies like GM failing because of failure to balance their budgets and in fact, at least until recently, even to be honest about the severity of their problems, there is no better time to drive home the point of the importance of a family budgeting and the opportunities of family building these discussions present.

The key to keeping a budget is first awareness and second inspiration to stay on course.

As you may think there are several ways to do it. When I started as a young man, I used cash in envelopes marked for all my expense categories. When the money ran low, I simply adjusted my lifestyle. My reward was good credit standing and no bill chasing phone calls.
That inspired me to stay on track.
Today we have lots more choices from spreadsheets, PDAs, smartphones, and financial software. Heck, there are even websites to help us track our spending at brokerages and credit card issuers.

Since most of us have learned by now that finances are a critical leg of happiness and family security, it's time to make it a priority in our lives if we haven't already.

I recommend scheduling an hour each week reviewing cash flows. Couples should do this together - at least for a few months - and even involve teenagers. After a few months, the weekly but not the monthly review can be delegated to a competent person.

ACCOUNTABILITY: Someone or all in the group should act as over limit auditors and hold the spenders accountable. This role can rotate to be fair to all. The idea is not to use money for power or argue, but merely to hold people to what they agreed upon in a former budget discussion.

The discussion of finances eventually puts people at ease because they know where they are financially and what they have agreed to do and not to do. This awareness often leads to financial improvement via debt reduction, bolstering savings, or refinancing a mortgage with high payments. But most of all, it serves to build a team to work together to solve financial challenges on one hand while educating and preparing children on a subject not taught in public schools, personal finances. In fact, I believe its absence of these teachings in the living room and classroom is a source shame and of the widespread belief that "money is evil".

The method is less important: Just begin and keep it simple and fun. It's the results that count. If families agree to spend up to an hour a week in a money game designed so they can all win at what they want most, they can't help but gel together to a team of problem solvers where everyone has a stake and that stake is getting what you want by giving yourself to the interest of what's most important to the family as a whole. Although the first meetings may be stormy, if you get people talking regularly you get results. Sooner or later, people will start giving up their smaller things like take out for larger things like college educations.

Small financial successes fuel inspiration to take on bigger ones and make all things possible as long as the conversation lives on.