How to Get Your Family to Save

by Jonni McCoy


How do you get your family committed to a budget?

This proves to be one of the harder parts of the miserly lifestyle. If you are pinching the copper from each penny, but your family eats out for lunch or buys designer jeans, you have a hole in the budget bag.

Spouses and children need to be handled a bit differently, so I will address them separately.

In order to get my spouse to agree to the spending changes that I wanted to try, I needed to convince him that those changes would be easy and profitable.

The best thing I did to convince my husband was to annualize the savings that we could achieve. By reducing expenses and applying my guidelines to our groceries, I showed him that I could save $6,800 per year from our current budget. By quitting my job, I could reduce other hidden expenses by another $8,600 per year. By doing both (quitting and applying miserly ways), I was saving our family over $15,000 per year. Ask what they could do with an extra $15,000.

Another thing that impressed my husband was the first major purchase made with the savings I had accumulated. After 2 months of miserly shopping and cooking, I had set aside enough money to buy 6 oak dining room chairs. That spoke to him.

The icing on the cake was when I explained that it doesn't take me that much time, and is well worth the trouble (it takes me about 7 hours per week).

Many of us tend to have certain weak spots in which we spend freely. Be creative with any trouble spots that your family has with money. If the problem is with buying books, learn to use the inter-library loan system to read any book in print for free. Do the same for music or videos. If it's the "gotta have a new outfit every day" attitude that is eating up the budget, learn where the best rerun and consignment shops are located. If computer software is the weakness, explore some shareware catalogs for cheaper fare. If eating out is the problem, make tasty lunches for them to take.

The last tip that helped my husband "see the light" was to write down everything that we spent for one month. Categorize what you spent (entertainment, food, subscriptions, clothes, household, hobbies, bank fees for overdraft charges, etc.) and figure the total for each category. See how much was wasted on trivia. Show your spouse the damage. He/she might become a convert then.

Convincing the kids to save can be equally as challenging as the spouse. The younger kids seem to need a different approach than the hormonal teenagers, so I will add some tips for the older kids separately.

While shopping, it is very easy to give in to a child's persistent whining about a toy or special food treat, especially when you are holding a toddler, a shopping list, and your diaper bag. It's easier to just grab what is convenient or familiar and get out of the store as fast as possible.

These are the times where your miserly skills are tested severely. The best way to solve this battle is to get your kids on your side. Get them to see the finances your way. If junior understands that there is a limited amount of money to be spent at the store, then he will say, "Oh, yeah" when you remind him that you can't afford that impulse item or more expensive brand of cereal.

With this in mind, I have made some tips that have helped get my kids involved:

  • While at the store, explain the total amount that you plan to spend at this store.

  • Control your own impulse shopping. If they are used to seeing you buy whatever you want when you go shopping, then they won't understand why they can't do the same. Let them see you put some of your things back when you realize you have gone beyond the budget.

  • Use the opportunity to help them learn to make choices. Explain that if we buy this brand of cereal that we won't have enough money to do something else.

  • Ask them if they want to use their allowance to buy it. They then realize the value of money.

  • For the very persistent (and young), let them pick only one item that isn't budgeted for. All other wants have to be traded for that one, so that when you get to the cash register, they only have one item.

Someone said that my grocery spending goal was nice, but that I must not have any teenagers in the house. She was right, I don't have teenagers in the house, but I know many families that do, and who still stay within their budget. Below are some of their suggestions.

When shopping for clothes and the "name brand" bug bites the kids, try these tips on for size:

  • Give them their portion of the budgeted clothes money. This amount should be no more than what would pay for good off-brand clothes on sale or at a rerun store.

  • Let them make up the difference for designer label clothes by using their allowance and job money.

  • Show them how to shop for their name brand items at good resale, consignment and thrift shops.

For food, try these kitchen tested ideas:

  • Watch what is being snacked on. Snack foods and teenagers can be a costly combination. Make your own muffins, breads, pizza, drinks, etc.

  • If you can't make something very well (such as potato chips), stock up on them when they go on sale.

  • Also, since bulk eating is usually an issue, practice bulk cooking (cooking once a month, etc.)>

Happy Frugality!


Jonni is the author of "Miserly Moms: Living on One Income in a Two Income Economy". Available at Amazon

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