Finances are challenging, and sadly they come between families on a daily basis. Handling family finances comes with intense pressure, especially with children involved. The last thing we want to do as parents is create stress around money, causing our children to grow up worrying about their earnings before choosing a life they love.
What if we first choose to stop worrying about our money, trusting that we will have what we need, and with this lessened anxiety we will likely choose to live a life of increased financial discipline.
Before taking steps to financial freedom there are a few things to do that will help get started. Record your total household income for the month. On one column record the expenses and bills that can't be changed (the mortgage, electric, water, etc.). On another column record the bills and expenses that can theoretically be canceled (Netflix, alarm systems, etc.). On a third column record the current debt totals. Consider what can be eliminated, and choose a debt to work on first. Lastly, create a monthly budget. This is challenging for us, we are terrible with a budget, and have since decided to live as frugally as possible. If your family can stay on a budget successfully you probably have no reason to read this article; most of us don't handle budgets well, similar to dieting, we become rebellious and ultimately make the issue worse.
Think of financial freedom as the ultimate goal, but live life in complete fullness on the path to this freedom. Over-restricting finances and stealing the joy out of life has far greater consequences than carrying debt.
1. Lessen the eating bill by simply avoiding restaurants as often as possible. Cooking at home is definitely less expensive, and likely more healthy. Big batch meals are also wonderful, and you don't have to eat them day after day, instead you can freeze the meals and pull them out on various weeks. Make the meals that your family loves, and make dinner time around the table a joy. Cook together, bake together, build community around meals.
2. Head outside to the park or take a nature walk or hike. You may not love this idea, and would prefer a trip to the mall, but after a few visits to the prettiest park (even if you have to drive a little further) is good for the soul. Pack up a yummy snack picnic of cheese, crackers, and some homemade cookies. Bring the frisbee, or even a board game, and don't forget the blanket.
3. Make your home a true sanctuary, and you'll spend more time loving your home. Rearrange your home, and you'll discover new places for items that will give it a refreshed and inspiring look. When our homes are a true sanctuary we're less inclined to head out and purchase more items to make it "better".
4. When birthdays and holidays arrive choose to make something for your loved ones. Gift cards are our least favorite item to give; they lack personality and sentimentality.
5. Visit the library. The library allows your children to find movies, magazines, and of course, endless books. Choose a book to read together as a family, and make an event of it. Share this book together a few days each week as a storytime.
6. Plant perennials. Not everyone is a plant person, but perennials return each year, and they become strong and lovelier. With birthday celebrations in the spring, summer, and fall, you can take a few cuttings and a mason jar to present as a gift. An overflowing perennial garden makes your outdoor spaces pleasant and colorful.
7. Sell or donate your unused items. Have a garage sale and allow your children to put the money towards a family vacation. The vacation doesn't have to be elaborate, only meaningful. Instead of heading to the commercial theme parks, take them to a national park, or a national monument. Take them to the art museum in the city and give them time to observe and sketch.
8. Eliminate the need for individual cell phones, purchase a landline. Typically landlines cost lest, and if one member of the family is home and the other is out, there is truly only need for one phone. Do we really need data on our phones? I've been trying to convince our family to try this, it would save us substantially.
9. Make ordinary family time the most excitable time. Find the beauty in washing dishes and cleaning floors. Our children, while they're young, copy the attitude we present. If we show excitement around "laundry day" they'll surely join in. Maybe visit the library one week and find a book on DIY cleaning supplies. Try making something together that not only saves money, but increases the time together.
10. With discipline, take advantage of secured credit cards to build credit. Yes, credit cards are typically a terrible idea, it's challenging to be disciplined. But, with great discipline and cash back you can essentially gain "free money".
A life without worry around money is a life of financial freedom. Debt freedom doesn't promise freedom, but freedom comes when we can stop pursuing money as our ultimate goal.
*This is a collaborative post.