Facing up to the family budget

It’s half-term for many of us – when Christmas shopping will start in earnest.  So what better week to think about that source of so many family rows – money.

Many family upsets are rooted in the fact that parents and children don’t talk about money together.  How many of us sit down and talk to our children about how much life actually costs?  How many families get together and work out how much they can afford to spend during the holidays and at Christmas? 

Money lessons in primary schools show that younger children really can understand about budgeting, about bills that must be paid and about the difference between things we need and things we want.

But most parents try to shield their children from their money worries.  And this reaches its peak during the holidays and particularly in the run-up to Christmas.

So if you really want to bring a little more harmony to your household, try this:

·         Sit down with a cup of tea and work out how much you need to spend each month on day to day living - things like your rent or mortgage, regular bills like water, heating and light, food, council tax, the cost of getting to work, insurances and loan repayments. 

·         Take that total away from your monthly income, to see how much you have left at the end of the month for non-essentials.

·         Then add up all the non-essential things you spend money on each month, such as social outings, subscriptions, music or film downloads, takeaways... Now see what you actually have left at the end of the month.

·         Then get the family together, so you can all decide together how much you can afford, where you can save money, and what everyone wants to spend the spare family cash on.  

This way everyone – parents, children, grandparents too if they are closely involved with your family – can agree just how much you are going to spend on things for the whole family.  And if you’ve all agreed, there’s a better chance you’ll stick to it.

Every family is different and the answers to keeping the family budget under control will be different too.  But being open with your family, writing down the budget and working out a plan together will certain help reduce the stress of being a parent.