Getting By in Uncertain Times – It’s a Family Thing

It’s a Family Thing
Jar of Coins

Communicate with children about money matters.

From as early of an age as four or five years old, children can be taught they are part of a team and the family team has to modify some behaviors to help conserve money.  When communicating about money matters with children strive to be as calm, clear, and concise as possible.  Pause to answer their questions as they arise, understanding that kids will be kids and their timing might not always be the greatest.  Whatever the time or circumstance when they decide to voice their concerns, remember what you say is just as important as your tone and how you do the explaining.

Age and Maturity Levels Matter

Of course what you say to whom will depend on their age and maturity level.  For instance, a four year old can be taught to turn the water off while brushing their teeth and to turn out the lights when they leave a room.  A tween can be asked to not stand with the refrigerator door open and to take shorter showers to cut down on utility bills.  Ask your tweens and teens to come up with ideas for how the family can cut back.  You may wish to start by asking them to embrace their creativity and to dream up ideas for family activities that won’t cost money.  You might be surprised to see when unleashed, just how creative they can be.  Enlisting help from children encourages ownership in the success of the family weathering ‘the storm’.  Youth who are able to identify cost-cutting goals for the family strengthen their problem-solving skills.  After all, as emerging adults they will be faced with multiple money decisions every day.  Challenging them to brainstorm with you will serve them well when they leave the nest.

Working Teens

Research shows that teen employment increases family costs for transportation, clothing, and food.  Together with your working teen, analyze the expenses and income from their job.  At this current time, do the costs outweigh the benefits to the family?  Secondly, even if up until now your youth’s earnings were all their own, now is a time to consider asking them to chip in.  The amount is not as important as involving them in concrete solutions to real world problems; actively enlist them in the solution.  Keep in mind that research suggests limiting students’ work load to no more than ten hours per week reduces potential negative impacts on their academics and overall well-being.

Viewing Obstacles and Opportunities
Family in the Woods

Teach a valuable life skill to your children.

This is a perfect time to teach a valuable life skill to your children, and that is the concept of needs versus wants.  We all know that to survive we require water, food, clothing, shelter and for most of us, transportation is essential.  Bottled water, restaurant food and prepared meals, name brand clothing and luxury cars drain our wallets and impact our bottom line, especially when our resources have been significantly reduced.  Explaining this concept by using examples that actually apply to your household are the most helpful.  “We’re going to sit down together and plan our meals and make a grocery list and this is how much money we have to work with.”   “If you insist on that particular brand, you’ll have to make this purchase using your own money.  Understand I will not make up the difference with family money when the next thing comes up and you have depleted your personal funds.”

United We Stand

Your family will weather these uncertain times and there is the potential for positive things to come out of this experience.  No less than a better appreciation for all that you do have, a closer examination of needs and wants, and of course, good planning are only two benefits.  In retrospect, you will identify more.