This is such a loaded topic, isn’t it. And unless you’re elite and have no concept of what it means to live within a budget, then money is bound to be a topic of endless discussion in your family.
In our family, I’m the one that manages the money. Sort of. We both have a hand in it, but I’m the one who’s home so I’m the one who moves things around to accommodate for unexpected expenses, automatic bill payments, and all the rest of it.
It takes communication when unexpected things happen, even if both of us have access to the balance statement, and take the time to look. I often say, don’t assume the balance is correct, since the very next day an automatic withdrawal for some bill could come out that might affect the balance in a way you don’t expect at the moment.
For the most part, this works for us.
Once in a while, an expensive month happens. For many people this is Christmas time. For us, it’s tournament time. There’s at least one away-tournament for each kid during hockey season that requires further travel, hotel stay, food at restaurants. Then again one per kid in the summer for baseball. Those add up. We have to have some foresight to accommodate for those.
We also have very old cars. When we least expect it, or are least able to handle it, one of the cars, or both, have issues that can’t be put off. It’s one of those things….
They say to keep a buffer of about three months salary, for those rainy days. This is tricky. Many people live paycheck to paycheck. I used to be a starving student, I’m well aware of how this works. My first job, as a flight attendant for a new charter airline (at the time, they’re now gone), we made less than what the poverty line expectations were in Canada during that time. I had to move back home and buy a car. Not something I envisioned with a University degree under my belt.
And as a SAHM now, with two kids in competitive sports, we certainly have to be extra careful where we spend our funds. We make many concessions. When the kids ask us, for example, why they’ve never been on a plane, we tell them that it was a choice for us. For one of us to stay home and for both kids to play rep sports, something’s gotta give. Airplane tickets to exotic places are not cheap.
I’m the one who handles the finances. I am a very creative person and know how to put money away, or deal with circumstances creatively, so that we don’t lose that buffer. Sometimes, we have to replenish the buffer…
It’s not always easy.
One thing we don’t do is give the kids an allowance. They have everything they need, and then some, including some extras here and there occasionally.
They also don’t get paid for chores. Managing the household is a family responsibility and they are expected to pitch in. We reinforce that it takes all of us to make the household run and even though most of their, um, ‘help‘ is not always up to my expectations, I am learning the hard way to ‘pick my battles’. (Main problem with kids is they do the job in question, but don’t finish it completely. Like, sweep up but not put the broom away, empty the dishwasher but not re-load it with the dirty stuff that’s sitting in the sink, put the laundry away unfolded and leave the basket in the hallway. That kind of thing.)
The now 13yo has worked part-time delivering newspapers for about six months now, and that gives him self-earned pocket money. It’s not much but it is his own money. He had an eye-opening experience a few weeks ago when he bought himself a bunch of junk and lunch at a ski trip and noticed that he spent his entire paycheck on just that one day.
The younger one has a bit of cash in her pocket from people who gift her (and her brother); you know aunts, grandparents, that kind of thing. Both kids usually save this cash and use it for special things. I give them a long leash with that, and it works (so far).
And grandma brings them little ziplock baggies of cash and some candies to take to their tournaments. They can use that money at the tournament if they wish (video games, mini-putt, junk food etc…) or they can keep it and save it. It’s up to them.
There have been months when we go a little overboard on the household budget. I might notice the funds dwindling and wonder, how did we manage to blow through it all so fast this month? A quick check on the balance statements and a light goes on in my brain: X happened and Y happened, which means next month, A can’t happen and neither can B.
I am up front with the kids on that. I don’t believe in keeping the finances secret from them. They should know that it takes creativity and logic in keeping the expenditures below the income, and we often talk about where (and why) we fail (or succeed, be that as it may.)
It is my very sincere intention to let my kids earn their own income right from the get go. I know my daughter has ambition to be a life-guard. She’s only 10, but she’s started with some clubs. My son, he’s a bit more of a challenge. But he looked at umpiring the t-ball teams or girls baseball teams during the summer months. They pay a good chunk of money and it gives him experience he can carry with him later, when he gets into the highschool age, and the age of part-time job applicability.
In the meantime, I sit here moving things around, counting the loose change I have in my pocket, wondering if I should pursue the next step of igniting my own career ambitions. I recently submitted the tennis forms I created as a volunteer, which were received with a ringing endorsement for me, so that could be one thing I can look into. The other thing is writing for publishing. I’m familiar with rejection, having submitted to both contests and other venues, but the time has come to take the next step.
It’s not easy, handling the family budget. It’s not easy to stay on top of it, to make ends meet. It’s not easy to forgo things, to say no to things, to make something last a bit longer by applying some creativity. Sometimes we’d rather pick up a meal than cook one, or stay at a restaurant and have some booze with the meal. With planning and creativity we can do this, but not every single time the hockey team wins a game. 🙄
As I sit here and type this, I ‘forced’ my teenager to cut up veggies for dinner tonight. He’s got hockey, we have to eat early, I’m multitasking a million things (including blogging, they used up all the bandwidth this morning so I couldn’t do it then), so what the heck, kid’s gotta help out, eh? He needed a couple of reminders…but so the story goes.
We make it work. It’s not without challenges, but we manage, more or less.
Do you dispense pocket money to your kids? Do they get paid for chores? How do you manage the family budget? Is it one person that has the oversight, or does everyone have input?