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Book Excerpt

Savings are a family affair Add to ...

The following excerpt is from Chapter 4 of Christina Spence's book Living Large on Less.

As you continue your travels along this lovely road towards big savings, you’ll notice that you’re not the only traveler. Who’s that cute little person over there? Isn’t that someone you (or your beloved) just happened to give birth to? And who’s that hunk of manhood, or gorgeous specimen of womanhood moseying along? Lucky you, it’s your significant other! You’ll need your family to join in on this journey of savings with you if you want to reach your financial goals.

That’s why this chapter is devoted to helping you get your family involved in your new living large on less plan. And, although pets can’t help you save money, we’ll also touch on how you can save on the essentials needed to keep your feathered, furry or finned friends happy and healthy, too.

Working as a team for savings

Remember how Mary Poppins could turn anything - even a spoonful of vile medicine - into a wonderful game? Keep her strategy firmly in mind when you’re establishing new saving habits for your family. How so? Make everything frugal a fantastic game and you’ll have happy new frugalites hatching in your nest before you know it. Plus, as a bonus, you’ll also be teaching your family that financial responsibility doesn’t always have to be a chore - it’s a necessity, but one that reaps huge dividends.

The Plan

Good intentions don’t equal good results unless you have a plan of action to help you get there. A goal without a plan is like a meal without utensils—it might look temptingly good, but there’s no way to get in there and enjoy all the benefits of what’s set before you. Your family needs to know about this plan to save money in order for it to work.

You need to communicate to your family three basic aspects of your new spending patterns right from the outset:

1. Why you need to change your spending patterns as a family. Give as much information as is necessary. If your situation is dire, there’s no need to scare everyone. Also, only provide information that kids can understand and won’t be overwhelmed by. (Age appropriate information is important. Young children will only need to know that Mom and Dad want to save more money or pay off a few bills. Older kids can know more details if you’re comfortable sharing them.)

2. What your current spending patterns have been. Armed with facts and figures from your B-4 budget (see chapter two), you can shed light on what’s been good and bad about how the family has been spending money. Don't point fingers of blame at anyone; work at this as a team from the beginning to encourage your family to change for all the right reasons.

3. How you’re going to change. The way you spend—and account for that spending—as a family is going to completely change. Be as specific as possible, again taking into account the age of your children and what information they can rea-dily digest. Get feedback from your family members. You’ll be amazed by how their input and involvement will change new budgeting habits into something the whole family considers a challenge to undertake instead of a burden. This is your plan for action, including spending challenges, budgets, etc. You’ll create goals, such as saving for the kids’ education or paying off a car loan, and create charts and progress reports so that family members can see at a glance how their work is paying off.

Families who are happily living large on less do one thing really well: communicate. They make goals as a family, then track their progress and talk about what went right and wrong along the way. They don’t blame each other for their current financial situation, but rather go at this savings challenge as a team, all in it together. If your family doesn’t consist of natural communicators, perhaps especially not about money, then some habits are going to have to change. In fact, budget consciousness may very well open more lines of communication within your family. Set a day each week to discuss how everyone did with the budget during the past week and to stay focused on longer-term goals, such as savings. Young children may not have much to contribute to the meeting, but this is a great time to update everyone on the progress you are making toward your goals. Kids can stay for the update and then you and your spouse can discuss spending in detail after you let the kids leave the meeting.

The real cost of a two-income family

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