One of the biggest achievements of my life was the day I married my wife, 14 years ago. I finally found my soul mate and the person with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life. You know, rainbows, unicorns, and glitter everyday. It also meant going from worrying about one person to worrying about three people. That’s right, I said three people. I married into a package deal. I became a stepfather to a three-year old boy right from the start and I loved it. I then became a father to a beautiful little girl about a year later, which now means we were pretty much an instant family of four.
I am giving you this background so you can understand that I basically went from zero to sixty in about five seconds financially. I was used to pretty much spending money on whatever I wanted because I could pay my bills and have enough left over to do what I wanted. Now, back then I wasn’t worried about paying back my student loans quickly, it was all about me and having fun. Don’t judge.
So, I basically now have a wife and two small humans, the latter of which are totally dependent on my wife and me for everything. They need food, clothes, toys, entertainment, medical care, diapers, etc. No worries, I didn’t know anything about finances back then and I had credit cards, I could handle it. Whatever.
And so it went, for fourteen years….Flash to modern-day.
Here I sit with a 17-year-old step-son, a 14-year-old daughter, four dogs, three cats, three vehicles, a cargo trailer for my DJ equipment, a full-time white-collar job, a side hustle as a wedding DJ, a wife that works three part-time jobs, and still fighting the good financial fight. This time however, I am armed with knowledge, perseverance, and experience. The key words in that sentence are knowledge and experience.
I have learned many things over the past fourteen years about becoming financially responsible and how to control my finances while also balancing a family in the process. Much of this was learned through trial and error and some was learned through basic research.
I would like to share a few things to balance frugal finances and family that have worked for me:
- Never tell your kids that you don’t have the money for something:
For years, my wife and I kept telling our kids that we didn’t have enough money for something when they asked for it. We figured that, it was basically the truth. It wasn’t in our budget, so we “didn’t have the money”. We didn’t realize that we were basically telling our kids that we were living in poverty, when we really weren’t, we were just in debt. Kids will take this literally and start to believe that you are literally poor and going to lose everything tomorrow.
Instead, we have learned to tell our kids that we have the money to buy that, but we are choosing not to. Sometimes we will give them the choice to buy it, but they will have to give up something else in order to get that item. This will not work too well with very young children because they don’t really have the ability to weigh the alternatives that far out in the future, but with my children, they tend to think about it more. They will either use their 9own money, take the trade-off, or realize they don’t need the item, but at least they don’t think negatively about the situation.
2. Pay your children a commission, not an allowance:
We have battled with our children for years over chores. It has always been a matter of, “How much am I getting paid?”. They definitely have the “time is money” mentality, which may not be a bad thing, except when it is with me.
We started off paying them a flat allowance per week, which was fine for about three weeks. Then we noticed that the quantity and quality of work was going downhill fast. We would have to remind them to do things, the cat litter boxes were partially done, some trash cans were left full, etc., but they still wanted their money.
That’s when we decided to start paying them for what they actually do. We started keeping track of the work they actually did and paid them accordingly. This seemed to work better since, if the work wasn’t being done, they wouldn’t get as much money. Now that my son has a real job, we don’t do this with him anymore, but he learned a lot from his experience and is a great worker. My daughter is not so happy that she has inherited his work, but gets more money.
3. Keep your wife happy:
This one is simply from my perspective, but I’m sure it applies to any husband out there reading this. The number one reason for marital problems and divorces is finances. One of the major reasons I began my debt-free journey is because of the tension it was causing in my marriage and the fact that every time my wife and I discussed finances, it was more of an argument that a discussion. Not because we didn’t like each other, but because we simply fed up with our situation and frustrated with where we were.
When you are going through a debt-free journey, you are on a tight budget and almost every extra dollar you have is going to paying off your debt. This means that you are going through life on what seems like auto-pilot, day after day, with not much entertainment or excitement at all. This can also wear on a relationship when you are used to going out to eat, going to the movies, or doing other things together or as a family.
Earmark a few dollars every month to do something special for your wife or, if your wife is more family oriented, the whole family. This will not only make her feel special, but will break the monotony of the monthly budget.
Remember, “Happy Wife, Happy Life”. This also applies to your husband if you are reading this from the other perspective.
4. Keep yourself happy:
Not only do you have to keep your family happy, you have to keep yourself happy. As I mentioned earlier, the monthly budget can make life pretty plain and vanilla. You can really fall into a rut fairly quickly. It is great to think about your spouse and your kids, but don’t forget to think about yourself and your mental health and happiness. If you have a hobby that you enjoy, don’t make it an expensive hobby, make sure you continue to enjoy it. Just because you are on a journey to eliminate your debt and are bound to the monster we call a monthly budget, doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy life. Try hiking, running, biking, drawing, whatever makes you feel good and doesn’t break the bank.
Life is not perfect, and our budget remains fluid, but these four things have been working for me and I love sharing anything that works. Your mileage may vary.
I’m sure there are many more things that you can do to balance family and finances, and I would love to hear from you.
What do you do to balance finances and family?