Managing Your Family's Financial Resources

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Introduction
Financial problems affect almost everyone at one time or another. We may be just starting out with an entry-level job, a new home, or a new marriage. We may have school loans to pay, or we may be facing reduced income due to a career change or a depressed economy. Perhaps the availability of credit has begun to "snowball" and payments now seem overwhelming to us.

Working Our Way Through
Whatever the situation, we must now live on less. What do we do to make ends meet? Raising our self-esteem, not our income, is our first task in resolving financial concerns. One of the greatest risks we face when struggling with financial problems is allowing our feelings to overcome us to the point where we do nothing. The less we do, the more frustrated we become, and the more distorted will be our thinking. We may forget we ever did anything worthwhile, and lose sight of alternatives. Or, we may become fatalistic, leading us to impulsively purchase even more that is unnecessary, thereby adding to our level of debt.

Learning How To Economize
The answer is to not allow our feelings to overcome us, but to instead, develop a systematic plan of action. Measures we can take include cutting back on the use of energy: purchasing "generic", yet wholesome food; avoiding long distance telephone calls; and reducing the use of family vehicles. We can also watch for special sales, collect coupons, and comparison shop for regularly needed items and other necessary purchases.

Developing A Realistic Budget
Basically we need to list our fixed expenses on paper and subtract that amount from our monthly "take home" pay from all sources. What is left is what we can realistically spend for necessities like food, health care, household, and personal items. 

It's helpful to make a list of expenditures and prioritize them, determining where we can cut back on spending, and how we can set aside at least a small amount of money each month toward long range needs like school requirements; or expenses such as medical crises, automotive repairs, or unexpected household problems. Effective budgeting does more than establish the amount of money we have available. Sound budgeting also helps us determine what things in life are really of importance. Through applying sound budgeting principles, we may find that we are spending a large portion of our income on purchases that do not really reflect our needs, or our values. This can be extremely valuable in minimizing our tendencies toward "impulse buying". Perhaps the most useful standard for financial management is to ask ourselves with each purchase, "Is this something we truly need, or is it only something we want to have?"

Encouraging Family Teamwork
To manage our financial resources effectively, we need to encourage our families to work together as a team. To do that, we should first realistically explore our financial circumstances with our spouse. Once understanding has evolved, we should then discuss our financial circumstances with our children in a manner appropriate to their age. Because children's imagined fears can be worse than reality, we can ease those fears greatly through open discussion, and at the same time, promote cooperation and teamwork in our effort to reduce our financial burdens. Once our children are involved, we need to take time to listen to their feelings, ideas and suggestions. The more children take part in decision making, the more they will follow through. And, don't forget to recognize them for their efforts.

Take Heart
Remember, financial problems are almost always temporary. They can be overcome. Overcoming financial problems can inspire growth and provide valuable learning for prevention of future financial crisis. 

Our financial problems may give us a new perspective on what is really of value. In that way, we will be able to enjoy the good life . . . that which can be purchased . . . and that which cannot. 

While we may not have a lot of money to spend, we may discover something far more valuable! Dealing with financial problems is really about discovering values--not just the values we get from being a wise shopper, but the values that shape our lives and the value we attach to ourselves and our families.