by Seth Busetti
We have all felt the pressure when certain aspects of our lives start to expand and encroach on other areas. Some things are hard to avoid. For example, life seems to be going pretty smoothly, and then a few trips out of town for work come up. You’re going to be gone all weekend? Or maybe school events start piling up. How are we going to do all of this? More commitments means more strain on life – it may all be good, but it nonetheless starts to take a toll. Maybe like my youngest “me too” child, you suffer from chronic FOMO – fear of missing out – and feel like you have to make room for everything. Maybe like me, when life starts to get too complicated, you hopelessly daydream of escaping to the wilderness to live a simpler life. We’ll build our own log cabin! But for most of us, living in either extreme for very long is unrealistic. We can’t simplify down to nothing, and we can expand to accommodate everything.
In our financial lives we experience the same thing. As Dave Ramsey often proclaims, to become debt free you’ve got strip out all the excess, eat rice and beans, beans and rice. Well, we did that for a number of years (for us it was spaghetti), and you just can’t live that way forever. Being frugal is good, but it can start to take a toll too. For us, eating out or eating leftovers isn’t always about saving money, sometimes it is just one less night that we have to cook. “Less” simplifies our life. But what about the temptation to inflate? Pay raise? Let’s loosen up and go out more. Nice bonus? Better buy some new clothes to match. Found some margins in the budget? Enroll the kids in swimming lessons. All of these are good things. But “more” complicates our life.
This is why Alexis and I review our financial strategy every few months. It has become something of a family tradition. We’ll pick a night, order a pizza, put a movie on for the kids, and the grownups dig into the money plan. Are all of our numbers still on track? Has the water bill gone up? Do we have enough in the vacation fund to reallocate that money elsewhere? But we also discuss the relational and emotional side of things. Do we feel overly restricted anywhere? Is there anything we can cut out to de-stress our lives? We discuss not just how the numbers work out, but what will simplify our lives and what will complicate our lives.
I should note that we’ve encountered many budget-savvy families where one spouse handles the entirety of the financial plan, and the other person abides by it. More often than not, the control freak of the relationship gets the satisfaction of dictating the plan, which tends to look like reigning in life towards the “less” side of the spectrum. The free spirit then takes it upon themselves to push the bounds of that plan towards the “more” side. This can create relational tension, which although it may be in balance, isn’t the relationship we are going for. The best family financial plan isn’t going to be based on tension, it should be a shared vision, where the whole family moves forward together. How are are you balancing the less and more aspects of life? Are you talking about it together? What could you do to simplify life? Are you taking on too many responsibilities? Where do you need to expand to enrich your experience and grow as people?
Try it. Clear some time each month to discuss your family financial plan together. Look at the numbers, but also talk about your expectations and shared dreams! If you need some help getting alignment on your shared financial plan, we can help. We offer a range of personalized coaching plans in addition to our free online resources.