Each family develops its own method for handling finances. Some don't talk about it much, while others fight about it often. What's certain is that money problems shouldn't be ignored. A healthy approach to money is fundamental to a family's physical and emotional well-being. It has the power to break up families. Even though research on the causes of divorce is controversial, you'll almost always hear money problems cited as among the leading causes of divorce. And no doubt disputes between parents and children often center around purchases.
Experts agree that the best method for managing money as a family is open, positive communication. This is especially important when money is tight. If your family is accustomed to a comfortable lifestyle where money is no object or seldom discussed, it will be difficult to transition to life on a budget. And if your family already squabbles about money, a tighter budget might only increase tensions.
However, there are ways of changing your family's approach to money without hurting your relationships with each other. In fact, learning frugal money management in a communal struggle might actually bring your family closer together. In addition, the need for a strict budget is a great opportunity to teach your children financial discipline -- something they should be learning whether or not the family is on a budget. Showing how to appreciate and maintain financial security is essential to raising a child who doesn't take money for granted and who knows how to be happy in life apart from what money buys. So, financial discipline is a skill they'll benefit from for the rest of their lives.
But this isn't to say that it's easy to become a frugal family, especially if it involves significant changes in your lifestyle. The transition in particular will involve some painful self-discipline on everyone's part. Learn more about explaining that transition to your children on the next page.