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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

7 Ways to Reduce Your Family's Money Stress

Welcome amigos!  The United States is by far one of the most hectic places to live in.  The stress in our lives comes in many forms, and from multiple directions, but I dare say that it is probably money (and the pursuit of it) that stresses us all out the most.  That's why I'm devoting this financial literacy piece to ways you can reduce your family's money stress.
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When I was working as a high school assistant principal, what stressed me out the most was not being able to be at home in the evenings on certain days of the week.  Working late kept me from spending time with my toddler children.  I also started to feel like there was a diminishing value to the money I was making (which was pretty darn good) in that the trade-off was often job related stress I brought home from work.

Do you feel like the money you currently make at work is not worth the headaches, and episodes of anger or frustration in your life?  But you're stuck, right?  Or at least you feel like there is no way out because perhaps you've talked to your partner, and the main concern is not being able to pay bills, i.e., keep up your lifestyle.

So both you and your partner are miserable.  Your kids seemingly don't get the best of you on a daily basis.  They in turn act up and add to the stress cloud above your head, and this is your life, being rained on constantly by stress.


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Enough!  My friend, put an end to this stress with the following suggestions:

1.  Tag in and out of the ring.  No, dad, you are not allowed to come home, take your pants off and watch the game on television while your wife who just got off work is in the kitchen trying to cook dinner with the kids running circles around her.  Dad is to interact with the kids while mom cooks dinner.  After dinner, dad and the kids clean-up while mom gets a break to shower or do something relaxing.  So that the routine doesn't get old, switch the roles so that dad cooks and mom interacts with the kids.  Here's the main point:  When partners work together like a wrestling tag-team to do whatever the parenting job entails, things go smoother each evening...and money solutions are discussed with more mental energy.

2.  Make a plan to downscale.  Before I left my job as an administrator, my wife and I thought about how we would bridge the difference in our combined monthly income.  The solution involved my wife working part-time (she was a stay at home mom at the time) in her previous role as a dental assistant.  We also cut expenses, e.g., having a gardener was eliminated and I took on the landscaping chores.  We also dropped to a less expensive cable television package.  Main point: If one of you has had enough of the work stress, make a financial plan to absorb the impact of less money before you make a work related change.

3.  Communicate your money stress to someone.  I worry more than my wife.  Probably because I suffer from anxiety.  Jessica is able to take my worry-loaded rants and transform them into moments of clarity for me.  Do you have someone that can do this for you?  Maybe it's your partner.  Maybe it's your parents.  Bottom line, if you keep your money stress bottled-up, it will explosively vent on someone...like your partner (when he/she buys something somewhat expensive without telling you), your child (when they ask for mall money), at work (when you are asked to pay for something), etc., and you don't want this!

4.  Teach your kids about budgeting and share your finances with them.  When your kids know where you and your partner stand financially, they are less likely to ask for an expensive game system on their birthday or to be placed in an expensive club sport with ridiculous equipment costs.  A money conscious kid cares about his/her parents worrying about money, and they will do whatever they can to help.  It sucks for them, but it could be worse...like living in a third world country with no access to water.

5.  Career advance one at a time, not in tandem!  Couples should not be competitive with each other.  The thought of both heads of a household climbing the ranks at the same time, and making more money sounds great in theory.  But it is a bad idea!  It is best if one person agrees to postpone their career (or educational) advancement goal until the other person has had a chance to do the new job and adjust to the additional demands.

6.  Be at peace with your sense of inadequacy.  Feelings of inadequacy is what makes our money stress turn into a monster.  "We're not making enough money!"  "I'm not able to buy my kids the things they deserve!" And so on.  If you harbor these emotions they will drive you nuts.  Instead, recognize what you do have in life.  Put the emphasis on all of the positive things going for you, like the fact that you have a roof under your head, food to eat, etc. and then go forward!

7.  Sleep, drink plenty of water, and get exercise.  If you and your partner take care of your physical conditions, money stress is less likely to facilitate you getting sick.  Exercising is like entertainment, i.e., capable of letting you temporarily forget your worries.  But it is better than entertainment because you develop a rhythm of the body that has tremendous health benefits...like combating stress!

There are many ways to fight money related stress.  However, the seven above are both free and effective.  Good luck!  

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