Savings

Money Management Tips: 5 Ways I Simplified My Family Finances

by Suzanne Rust

Keeping on top of my family's expenses can be daunting. I've always fantasized about being one of those fully-in-charge-of-the-purse-strings kind of women, but when reality kicks in, I find that I need help — so in my family, we all pitch in. A little delegation can go a long way; not only does it take a lot off my already-full plate, but it also helps guarantee that we're all on the same page financially. Here's how we split the duties in my household:

1.   The weekly money date to discuss the financial plan

It's not as romantic as dinner and a movie, but neither is almost forgetting to pay the credit card bill! My husband and I try and set aside 30 to 45 minutes a week to go over our finances, decide what needs handling during the week, and who will take care of it. When we have our set "date," I can relax knowing that we will focus solely on financial matters during that time frame. It simplifies things. You can find more tips for talking to your partner about money here.

2.  Volley the monthly payments

Some people nip their bills in the bud as soon as they land in the mailbox. Others put their bills on autopilot with automatic payments. My husband has a steady salary, but I freelance, which means my checks come intermittently. Sometimes we need to be creative and flexible when it comes to finances and bill paying. We usually take turns being in charge of monthly expenses, that way neither of us gets resentful of the duty. It also means we both know where to find all the relevant account information.

3.  Wrestling with random bills

If your household is like mine, you probably find yourself sorting through the mail on a daily basis. Once I weed out the "junk" mail, I begin to tackle my bills by date. It helps to write the due date on the bill's envelope where I can easily see it, so I don't have to take time scrutinizing the fine print when the time comes to make a payment. I happen to be the more organized half of the couple, so I usually handle this responsibility.

4.  Teach the children our family finances

This is a work in progress. We try and give our children a weekly allowance, but other expenses often pop up. Our daughter might have a class trip that requires spending money or a birthday present to buy. Our son, a college student, inevitably needs a new text book or art supplies. Luckily they're old enough to keep track of their expenses, so they're responsible for giving us a list of what they will require for the week. Even if you have young children, they can help clip coupons for the products the family buys. You can also ask them to help with the family finances by budgeting expenses for a family movie night and discussing how much tickets, snacks, and parking cost.

5.  Outsourcing taxes

This is one thing we don't touch on our own anymore. After submitting online unsuccessfully for a few years, we determined that this chore was best handled by a pro-one major headache less for us. I generally take the task of compiling all of our tax material and my husband submits our family finances to our accountant. Not only do we save time by no longer agonizing over the paperwork, but we've also relieved ourselves of the worry of filing incorrectly.*

*Citigroup Inc. and its affiliates do not provide tax or legal advice. To the extent that this material or any attachment concerns tax matters, it is not intended to be used and cannot be used by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Any such taxpayer should seek advice based on the taxpayer's particular circumstances from an independent tax advisor.

Suzanne Rust is a writer, editor, lifestyle expert, and on-air talent. She lives in New York with her husband and two children.

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