Raising a family isn't easy, especially when there's a budget to meet. That's why Kelly Whalen blogs about her experiences as her family's "CFO" on The Centsible Life. She stepped away from her CFO duties to chat for a bit about personal finance, budgeting for a family and what you're really arguing about when you argue about money.
You have an interview series with the "family CFO." What does that mean, precisely?
The family CFO is the family's chief financial officer: the person who manages the money in the household. I thought it would be a great way to feature how everyday people manage their money, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
How do you find money-saving tips in such a wide variety of categories?
My blog is based on my life, so the tips are drawn from my experience. Whether it's tips on saving on childcare for date night or ways to reduce your cell phone bill, they are actual tips I've used.
If you could go back and reverse one money mistake you've made, which one would it be?
That's a tough question - I think we all have more money mistakes than we'd care to admit! The biggest mistake we made was many years ago. We bought a compact station wagon to replace our car when we had two small kids. I resisted the minivan and was very pleased with my decision until we found out #3 was on her way just two months later! Three car seats don't exactly fit into the back of a compact station wagon, so that was an expensive mistake we paid for for years! My husband drove the station wagon and I had to get the dreaded minivan, and we ended up with two overlapping car payments for four years.
What would you say to a couple who keeps finding themselves arguing about money?
Stop talking about the issue at hand and go back to basics. You need to discuss and come to an agreement about what your goals are as a couple and as a family. When you know what your goals are, it's easier to compromise on the small stuff and make purchasing decisions. While I recommend a list of questions for before marriage, these could easily be revisited when you're having a challenging time with your marriage and money.
I would also suggest if you are at the point where every discussion about finances is an argument, you should consider what your arguments are really about. I'm a big fan of talk therapy, so if you find yourself at a standstill, it's time to consider bringing in an objective person to help you work out the deeper issues.
What tips do you have for evaluating a budget? What should be cut, and what should stay?
Evaluating a budget is very personal. It's all about your goals. With that in mind, every expense becomes a barrier to traveling the world or buying your dream home, and you'll be much more likely to slash expenses that aren't truly necessary.
When it comes to deciding what to cut and what to stay, I find that it's completely personal - it is called personal finance for a reason, after all. I recommend taking a hard look at every expense via an expense audit. Try cutting it out or reducing it if you're on the fence about giving it up altogether, and you may find that you can live without more than you realized.
What's the one thing you wish everyone knew about personal finance?
Personal finance is not boring! Understanding money is a means to create the life you want. It's a powerful tool to be able to master your money and get everything you can out of your hard-earned dollars.