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Smart money tips for family finances

planning finances with family
August 22, 2017

By Maggie Tomasek

Personal finance isn’t always just personal. It can also be about you, your partner and your family working together to make smart money moves for your collective financial future.

Entrants for Alliant’s recent nationwide Smartest Financial Decision Contest had a lot to say about this particular topic. We pulled together a few of their smartest tips for family finances, so you can get inspired by and learn from Alliant members and other folks like you:

  • "For our family, our smartest financial decision was to become a team and handle our expenses together. Before we came together, unified, only one member of the household monitored the status of the accounts. The other members of the family were unaware of household expenses; how much money came in; how much money was going out; and no one knew why there seemed to be no money left at the end of the month. Now, the family comes together to decide the budget for the upcoming month. We use a zero dollar budget tool that allows us to account for the whereabouts of every dollar into and out of our accounts. This approach has brought the family closer by creating conversation about what is going on in our lives as we plan for the upcoming month. We are all aware of how the household spends our income. And by planning together we avoid the old arguments created by spontaneous spending. Now the family can create achievable goals by including savings in our budget. We have paid off several of our debts with plans to be debt free within two years. All the bills are paid on time with money left over for recreation. Money is no longer a burden for our family." – Michael W.
  • "The smartest financial decision I ever made was to instill the importance of saving and investing to my son. As a young adult, saving for the future was never something that I was so concerned about. I was more interested in seeing my money in my paycheck. Fast forward to today and I spend a lot of time with my son, reinforcing the importance of saving for the future so that he will not have a huge burden to contend with as he gets older. I have taught him to track his spending so that he can see firsthand how you spend more than you think you do. This has helped us see how you spend money on items that you "need" vs. what you "want." Hindsight is 20/20 and I wish I had someone to instill these values in me when I was younger so that I would not have a hard time saving as I got older. I learned from my mistakes and I feel that while I missed out on learning the importance of saving, I have learned to pay myself first and I hope that slow and steady will get me to a good place. However, if my son is able to learn from my mistake, then at least I know history will not repeat itself." – Anna F.
  • "The smartest financial decision that I’ve ever made was for my wife and I to set our spending and consumption patterns to what we enjoyed in college and not to our income. Throughout our 20s, as our careers progressed, our incomes went up but our spending barely budged. We lived in dorm-like apartments near our work, we shared a compact economy car, and our trips mostly involved staying with family. But none of these things bothered us at 20, so they didn’t need to bother us at 25. … We saved and invested. By the time we were 30, we had the financial freedom to start our own business." – Chris D.
  • "On the sound advice from a friend, I faithfully deposited money into my children's Alliant savings account every paycheck since they were babies to cover their large expenses as they grow up. So now when they need money for a class trip ($1,200) or sports camp ($600), I'm able to pull the money from their account to cover the cost. The money has ALREADY been placed aside for them, and these large expenses do not negatively impact our monthly household budget. If I hadn't done this I would not be able to afford, or justify some of their expensive activities, or class trips." – Anel R.
  • "The smartest financial decision I ever made was openly discussing finances with my now husband even before we got engaged. He had made some poor decisions and had the wrong kind of debt and bad credit. We made a plan to get things straightened out – prioritizing what to pay off first, moving to an apartment with lower rent, and starting to build up our savings. Within a few years we paid for a wedding, honeymoon, and down payment on our first home. Ten years later, we just sold that first home to buy a larger home for our growing family." – Katie A.

Maggie Tomasek is the PR and Social Media Specialist at Alliant. She began her career as a journalist for newspapers in Utica, N.Y., Des Moines and Cincinnati before moving to Chicago in 2009. Maggie is a six-time Chicago Marathon finisher and a lifelong creative writer with a passion for comedy. Her mom instilled in her a great sense of fiscal responsibility, and her big sister told her to throw that responsibility out the window every once in a while in the name of life experience. So far, that combination of financial advice has worked out pretty well for her.