Q. My husband and I want to be good parents, and part of that is being smarter with our money. How can we learn to make better financial decisions?
A. I wasn't born with a sixth sense when it comes to managing money, but there are a few principles I've learned along the way that have helped me. They'll make a difference in your bottom line, too.
Avoid emotional spending Never shop online or in a store when you're feeling depressed, sad, or lonely. When powered by these emotions you're far more likely to engage in "shopping therapy," and overspend.
Show love through actions, not objects If you like giving gifts and tend to show your love for your kids, partner, or friends through what you buy for them, try shifting your POV. Cards, hugs, and kisses can say it just as well—and save your budget in the process.
Volunteer often Those people who have the best-balanced financial lives understand how lucky they are by volunteering to help those who are less fortunate.
Ask yourself, Is this a need or a want? Follow this approach for every purchase you make, and learn to tell the difference between the two (it's not always easy). On occasion you may decide it's a want and buy it anyway, which is fine. However, doing that too often may lead to increased debt and place an increased financial burden on your family.
Play the waiting game When you see something on sale in the mall or online, wait 24 hours to purchase it. This helps you avoid impulse buying. Over time, you'll be less likely to give in to impulse buying— and healthier financially.
Have a money buddy Accountability is a wonderful thing. Every parent should have a close friend or trusted family member who will ask the hard questions about sticking to your budget, paying down debt, funding a retirement, saving for college, etc. Having someone to support you greatly increases the likelihood that you'll keep your financial commitments and manage your money responsibly.
Get comfortable with negotiation Whether you're negotiating the price of a car, a bid on painting your house, or a knickknack at a yard sale, you need to feel you're getting the best deal possible. Tell the seller, "I don't feel comfortable with that price," and then be quiet. I've found that nine out of ten times, I'll get a counter offer that I'm comfortable with. And if not, I feel the freedom to walk away.
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Ellie Kay is a family financial expert, the author of The 60-Minute Money Workout, and a mom of seven. Read more of her advice at elliekay.com