Guest Expert

Become Your Family’s Financial Manager

Karen Collacut

Money is not the most important thing in the world to you. As a parent, your child's health probably tops that list.  But money touches almost everything that is important in your life. And when you have kids with ADHD and other health challenges, money often becomes an important factor in your decision-making – even though you wish it didn't.

When there are money problems, everything else feels harder. How you manage your money impacts the choices you have available to you, and the decisions you are able to make around managing your child's health and education.

As a parent, you know you wear many hats – leader, teacher, counselor,disciplinarian, playmate, confidante and more.  But you may not have thought about one critical role that you engage in every day– the role of Financial Manager.

As Family Financial Manager, you are responsible for how your money flows through your household. In the chaos of a busy family, financial decisions are often made in the moment, based on the crisis of the day.  Just getting the bills paid and the groceries purchased can seem like a monumental task.

Even if you are not the one who writes the checks or pays the bills, confidently wearing a Financial Manager hat in your family can make many of the challenges you face easier to deal with, and allow you to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. Every parent has a role to play in financial management.

Become a Super Star Financial Manager

There are three main steps you can take to make managing family finances easier. These solutions pave the way for you to make decisions that are based on what you want for your child's health, not based in fear of spending.

1. Talk about It

Everyone gets tense when talking about money because the conversation is usually associated with upset, fights, stress and difficult, and unfinished conversations. Many couples only talk about money when there is a crisis.

Solution: Schedule Money Meetings. Create a time for money conversations and practice talking about money regularly, not just when there is a problem.  Name your meetings something fun, like Money Mondays or Wealthy Wednesdays, and put them on the calendar.  Have an agenda and a time frame so that each meeting has structure.  Access a sample agenda.

2. Use this Simple “Divide & Conquer” Plan

Family finances can feel really complicated, and it's hard to hold it all in your head.  Expenses are not due at the same every month, and it is difficult to plan for the groceries for this week, next week's medical expenses, and the tax bill in three months. When you try to run your whole money life from one account, it is like grocery shopping for the week without using a buggy or a cart – it's just too much to hold in one place.

Solution: Create a Divide & Conquer Plan.  One of the simplest ways to be on top of your spending is to separate your money into different accounts.  This allows you to be very clear about what the money is for, and how you choose to spend it.

Keep money that is needed to pay the Fixed Expenses and bills in one account. Put your Groceries, Gas and Family Fun spending in another.  Separating these expenses will give you clarity, and it will ensure you don't spend the mortgage payment at the grocery store or the movies.

One way to reduce expenses is to decide how much you want to spend on groceries, gas and family fun for the month.  Transfer that amount to the new account and monitor your spending.  When the account is getting close to empty, slow down or stop spending until the next month.

Use savings accounts to create virtual envelopes to save for longer-term expenses and goals. Transfer money into the account monthly so when a payment is due, you have what you need.

3. Create a Simple System for Organization

Keeping on top of bills due, school trip forms, annual payment notices and doctor's bills can feel daunting.   It seems like there are reams of paper that come into the house. When there is no system to deal with all of the paper, it can feel overwhelming.  Bills get paid late, and there is a mad scramble for the paperwork to get the kids into soccer on time.

Solution: Create a Money Spot. Choose a specific location in your home for all financial information to go when it comes into the house. Teach your spouse and the kids to put their items there to be dealt with.  Try a three-tiered tray system or three baskets.

Basket 1 – All incoming financial information for sorting.

Basket 2 – Bills to Be Paid.

Basket 3 – Completed items to be filed.

Use this simple system to manage the flood of financial paperwork.  When you sit down for your Money Meeting, your papers will all be in one spot and you will be able to pay bills, discuss opportunities and make decisions. Collect the tools you need to manage your family finances: stapler, sticky notes, stamps, paper clips, and envelopes. Keep them handy at your Money Spot so you can complete your financial tasks in one sitting.  Get instructions here.

The Gift of Financial Confidence

You wear many parent hats, and they're all important. But your role as Financial Manager influences all of the other ones. When you become a Financial management superstar, it will have a massive impact on the rest of your life.

Put this 3 step system into place. Create a plan. Separate your expenses using different bank accounts.  Use Money Meetings to talk about what is coming up, and make decisions together.

Taking action with these 3 solutions will decrease stress, increase communication and make your money work for your life. That way, you can enjoy having more time and energy to focus on your other fantastic parent roles.

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