Family and Finances Article from FirstThings.org
Everywhere you turn these days it seems everybody is talking about the economy and its impact. Financial experts often discuss the dangers of people living beyond their means, and it seems that many are reaping the consequences of doing so. But despite the financial woes, is it all bad?
Clearly families are getting hit hard. Studies indicate that for years now, close to 43 percent of American families have spent more than they earned, buying anything they wanted. Now, they are being forced to rethink their spending habits - and it is incredibly painful.
Research shows that although money is not the number one thing couples consider when planning to marry, it is the number one thing they argue about. Instead of being happily married, they find themselves arguing about spending habits, credit card debt and unpaid bills.
An analysis of Federal Reserve statistics in early 2015 revealed that the average U.S. household owes $7,281 on their credit cards. Average indebted households carry $15,609 in credit card debt.
When it comes to spending money, the temptations are plentiful – shiny new cars with the latest gadgets, flat screen televisions, traveling sports leagues, private schools, a new house, surround sound systems, trendy clothing, iPhones - and the list goes on.
Believer it or not, emotions typically drive spending decisions instead of affordability. When it comes to money, a lot can be said about the value of self-discipline and saving to purchase certain items or participate in an activity.
People often complain that family members are like ships passing in the night because of busyness. Maybe the upside of an uncertain economy is that people might step back and evaluate what really matters.
When asked what is most important in life, people consistently say “family” is the single most important priority; yet their lives indicate that money and things are number one.
These ideas can help you make family a higher priority than money.
Focus on building strong, healthy relationships instead of empires. Children spell love T-I-M-E, not T-H-I-N-G-S. There is no downside to living within your means - both financially and time-wise. It could actually mean less stress, more family time, less maintenance, more downtime, fewer arguments and stronger relationships.
Evaluate all of your family activities. Find ways to exercise together, not apart. Exchange gym fees, travel sports and golfing alone to play with the family instead. Instead of paying to play, choose free family hobbies like playing tennis, biking or hiking. It will save you money and time.
Learn how to control your finances instead of letting them control you. Many people believe that more money, a bigger house, and tons of toys are necessary for happiness. Money and toys are no substitute for time, so spend time with the people you love.
Look for opportunities to encourage your loved ones and affirm them as a person worthy of your love.
When you look back on an economic crisis, perhaps you will see that less of some things is more of the best things. You may also see that many of the best things in life truly are free.