Sunday, March 29, 2009

How To Plan Costs And Save Your Money In Time Of Crisis

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Without doubt, one of the most reliable ways to start a fight at home is accidentally saying the word ‘budget‘ (or ‘tracking income and expenses‘). At times, an innocent question like ‘Honey, how much money have we got left till the next paycheck’ could ruin your deserved family evening.
Discussions like this one take place when financial problems already exist and they’re starting becoming visible - either because the checkbook for some reason can’t be balanced, or credit card repayments doubled all of a sudden, or a UPS delivery person became your daily visitor. Anyway, families lose control over their spending and budget and try to talk their way out of “inquisitive” (but very reasonable) questions from their members. What causes such unpleasant discussions and how can families stay out of trouble?
I’ve listed several most frequently cited excuses that are used to confuse a partner and change the subject instead of stepping out of a comfort zone, admitting the financial mess and trying to find ways out.
I’m offended because you don’t believe me. (Or, Do I have to inform you about my every expense?) This is the most popular manipulative excuse (or accusation) used by both family members. The only reasonable (and as emotionless as possible) answer is: “Over the last couple weeks you’ve purchased a lot of stuff we could easily live without, and so we may need to carry some balance on a credit card this month” or “Every week you buy clothes we haven’t budgeted, so we have to gid into savings to fund your purchases”. Facts, not emotions, work best on such manipulative techniques.
Tracking expenses is so embarassing. How could we reach the rock bottom when we have to know where every penny is spent? This question is usually asked in a whining voice in response to a suggestion to define a budget and stick to it. One of the right answers is: “There are ways to avoiding counting every penny and still not spending more than a budgeted amount. Knowing how much money we’ve spent and deliberately resisting the temptation to buy stuff is way less embarassing than getting into debt without any plan to repay it”.
We earn more than we spend. Right? Why bother counting? (Also known as: We’ve never had financial problems before, so we won’t have them in the future.) However, this is likely to be a pleasant but unsustainable illusion when financial troubles are right around the corner. Again, no emotions: “We’re only relying on our home equity and credit card limits to deal with the unexpected. Last month servicing our car cost $400 more than we expected. We always hope that we’ll always have money when we need it but we don’t base this hope on anything. Starting an emergency fund will bring us some peace of mind. And let’s make a simple budget, which will tell us how much money we can safely spend without compromising our short to mid-term goals”.
Also, you need to agree on the three major rules of avoiding conflicts regarding money:
1. Both of you need to define the maximum amount you can spend per week (this amount may vary depending on your utility bills, loan repayments and other obligations). The most important element of this exercise is joint effort. The budget needs to be agreed on by both parties.
2. Both of you need to define the maximum amount each of you can spend without consulting a partner. Buying a CD for $15 might be OK but buying iRobot Roomba without talking to your partner is NOT OK.
3. Avoid lying about money. You might’ve gone a long way towards building trust, but such a simple thing like saying that your new watch costs $100 instead of $500 you’ve actually paid is capable of bringing you back square one. However, show compassion when your partner admits impulse buying instances - but be vary of the trend.

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