Love and Money: Families who discuss finances openly are more likely to stay together

By Julie Cole, CFP, FLMI Annuity Product Manager

moneyDuring uncertain economic times, levels of financial stress are sure to be even higher. Families find themselves having to readjust their expenditures and their expectations as a result of the economic downturn. Relationships become strained under the pressures of plunging stock prices, falling home values, and rising unemployment. Times are tough enough without money squabbles adding to the tension. Ginita Wall, CFP® and founder of the San Diego, California based financial planning advisory firm Plan for Wealth, suggests making money talks a regular part of every relationship. Don’t leave discussions about finances to chance. “Schedule meetings to talk about money,” says Wall. “Discuss your financial situation, dreams, and goals, and generate ideas to improve your future. Then do something fun, like watching a movie, afterwards.”

When talking about finances don’t sling the blame. Talk about your financial circumstances and accept where you are. Explore what you need to do now and re-examine the ways you spend. If you’ve always operated in a certain way, maybe that
way has to change. Most of us are due for a change. Discussions that start out with “If only we had….” are not healthy discussions. Don’t second-guess past decisions. Statements like, “If only we hadn’t taken that vacation and put all the expenses on
our credit card,” or “If we had paid down our credit card bills with our tax refund instead of buying a new computer,” should be considered off limits.

Your family discussions should focus on actions that you can commit to right away and without too much disruption. Drastic changes are difficult to make and may lead to resentment. If you declare “We will no longer eat out!” and you don’t participate in planning and preparing the family meals, this can lead to some disputes. Consider making modest changes that you can easily keep. If your family is very devoted to eating out  three times a week, then consider cutting back to eating out just two times a week and make that one home meal preparation part of family time. This can save you up to $120 per month
and help the family spend more time together.

Many couples already know they are spending too much—whether it’s dining out, buying clothes, collecting golf accessories or jewelry. Cut back in those areas. Keep track of
everything you spend for at least one month. This will give you a good idea of where you can cut back. In other words, deal in reality, not unreality. People often don’t know where their money goes. When they see how much they’ve been spending, they say things like, “ I had no idea we spent that much on eating out.” Remember you’re not sacrificing your lifestyle forever; you’re just tightening your belt for a while.

Involve children in finding ways to save money, as long as their roles are appropriate to their age. If you have to economize, explain the situation and ask the child to think of areas in which to economize, too. Otherwise, they might feel like they are being punished. Kids can learn some money management skills at the same time.

A recent decade-long study of San Francisco families found that their happiness depended more on how open they were in discussing financial issues than on their level of income. The worst thing couples can do is to continue to fight about finances and decide to divorce. That is sure to cause more financial distress than anything. Work together toward a solution.

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Decorating a Table on a Budget for the Holidays

For me, the holidays mean spending time with family at my parent’s house, making memories, taking pictures, eating special meals and giving gifts.  I like getting a good bargain on the gifts and typically search print ads, online sales, and in store for the best deals possible.  Who doesn’t want to stretch their dollar around the holidays?

Decorating my dining room table for a holiday get-together was not on my list this year, or in my budget, however, when the opportunity presented itself to host a holiday party for 4, I couldn’t say no!  Hosting a party also meant decorating my home accordingly, so I had some work ahead of me.

I started with some research.  The Black Friday ads were mostly toys and gadgets.  I was looking for decorative items so the ads after Thanksgiving were not the most helpful.  Searching in-store ended up being the most lucrative.  By waiting until after December 1st to purchase table décor, I ended up saving 60% at one store and got other necessary items at the Dollar Tree for $1.00 per item.  The key to decorating on a budget is to be thrifty and to keep looking!  If you see something you like but it isn’t in your budge, shop around.  You can also look for coupons online or figure out how to replicate that idea on your own budget.  Sometimes it takes a little imagination to stay on budget!

For my project I started with two things: a color scheme and a budget of $20.00.  By establishing my color scheme (red and gold) before I went shopping, it helped eliminate the decorative items that did not fit my theme and kept me on task.  I chose this theme because I already have lots of red and gold in my house, so remember, use what you already have instead of starting brand new.  This will help you save money and stay on budget!

I only had $20.00 to spend and here’s what I bought:

4 cloth napkins – $2.00 (2 pack/$1.00 per pack)
1 table runner – $1.00
4 charger plates – $4.00
1 container décor for centerpiece – $7.99
TOTAL = $14.99 (not including tax)

Other items needed for my table (already have):

4 plates
4 sets of silverware
4 wine glasses
Decorative bowl
Extra ornaments

After purchasing all the needed items and gathering the items I already had, it was time to decorate for the party.  Putting out the table runner, setting the table, and decorating the table really got me in the holiday spirit!

And what would decorating a table on a budget be without pictures!  I’ve showcased my work below:

clip_image002(close up of table setting)

pic 5(close up of centerpiece)

pic 6(close up of whole table)

For me the holidays are about enjoying the people around you and this holiday table will help me do just that!  I look forward to having my guests over this weekend and enjoying my holiday table on a budget.  Even though I didn’t spend a lot of money, my table is simple and elegant and exactly what I wanted!


Happy Holidays from my table to yours!