Whether it’s just you and a roommate or you’re a busy family of four, communicating about financial issues and goals is critical for financial success. Here’s how to do it right.
We’ve all been part a team project at one point in our lives. Whenever I had group projects in school, I always dreaded them and saw them as a chore. The effort each of the group members put in wasn’t always equal. It caused a lot of frustration.
Looking back, the few group projects that actually turned out okay and helped me learn all had one thing in common: we communicated well with each other!
In the same way, family spending and saving should be a group effort. By communicating about financial issues and goals with each other, families can prevent frustration and miscommunication, helping everyone feel good about their contributions.
Saving is not just the “bill payer’s” job
Most families have a “bill payer.” That person is responsible for paying utilities, house payments, phone bills, etc. and typically has the best idea of how much money is left over once all monthly living expenses are paid. This person is also more likely to be the one responsible for saving money and planning for future expenses.
However, when only one person in a household knows the income versus the expenses, problems can arise. Without communication between family members about their spending needs and saving efforts, misunderstandings and arguments happen, leaving the bill payer feeling like the workhorse in a group project, taking on all of the responsibility for the group “grade” while no one else is putting in the same effort.
Some practical steps for communicating about financial issues and goals
For example, a married couple decides to cut back on their everyday spending to build up their emergency fund. They meal plan and cook at home instead of going out several times a week. They shop for cheaper car insurance and phone plans to save money each month. By making these changes they hope to save $3,000.00 over the course of a year.
To stay accountable, they decide to sit down weekly to discuss paying bills and celebrate each other’s efforts at spending less. At the end of the year, they are excited to see they added $3,500.00 to their savings account, exceeding their goal by $500.00.
By setting a goal, discussing finances once a week, and celebrating each other’s efforts, they not only accomplished their goal, they exceeded it! It would be easy to assume that the task is complete and there’s nothing else to discuss, right?
Setting expectations can’t stop there. Are they still planning to have weekly check-ins about budget? Is there a new goal to save for? The very next step should be to communicate with each other about what each spouse wants to do with the excess $500.00. Without having a conversation about expectations, one or both could end up disappointed or angry about the other’s decision, ruining the joy they should get from saving an extra $500.
Saving is everybody’s job
Planning and intentionality is vital to successful saving. Communicating about financial issues and goals as a family is the key to accomplishing those goals. Saving is everybody’s job. Every member of the family needs to chip in on the group project and pull their weight.