Although traditionally it is the men who have been the breadwinners, in reality, it is the mothers who spend an enormous amount of time worrying about their family’s finances. As a mother, it is a good idea, therefore, to make sure you are money savvy.
Part of being a mother is juggling the many aspects of family life, be that packing lunches, booking holidays or searching for the safest family car. Of course, all these involve decisions about money in one way or another. However, many mothers are relatively clueless about money management, which makes their position at the decision-making end of the family a little precarious. If thinking about your family’s finances makes you cringe, or if you are constantly reprimanded by your other half for your frivolous spending habits, then it might be a worthwhile investment to get some coaching in this area.
I was privileged to have a great coaching session at the end of 2011 with one of the most skilled coaches in the region, Kevin Craig. During this session we explored extensively my relationship to money. We looked at what I thought about money, how I felt when I had or didn’t have it, how I acted with it and when I was likely to ignore my own spending habits or my dealings with the family finances. This session was very enlightening and enabled me to see the way I viewed money in a way I had never considered before.
Some of what I discussed with Kevin I had thought about before, but so much of what we covered I had not been conscious of before our session. He helped me to develop a sense of my “money honey”; a helpful tool which works by making you personify your wealth. It allows you to have respect for or to feel respected by your money. In this way, I have been able to work on my relationship with my cash — being able to be honest about my true feelings when I do spend and opening myself up to the wisdom of the more sensible “partner”, who is there encouraging me to save and to look after what I have earned.
You too can try your hand at personifying the money in your life. For you, is money the joker or the tyrant? Do you treat money fairly and openly communicate your desires and actions, or is there an element of mystery and dishonesty? How does this relationship deal with things like credit and extra cash? Think about which aspects of your relationship are working and then think about what you need more or less of.
As mothers, we strive to make sure our children are provided with the basics and, for most of us, this is easy to do. Food, clothing, shelter — these are the money-bought essentials, which provide the stability on which you can add the other important components of being a parent — time, love and affection, as well as good schooling and a constant source of stimulating activities.
When thinking about the way finance relates to the family, it is helpful to sit down and consider what you view as the essentials versus other incidences of spending. Some of the things we buy for our children are crucial to their upbringing, such as a healthy and extensive education, but other things are luxury items, such as the latest brand of trainers or trips to theme parks. Treating your children with things can be a great tool for rewarding good behaviour, but doing it too often can have negative consequences. Frequent luxury spending can lead to an attitude of entitlement in your offspring, which isn’t necessarily something you want to encourage.
It is hard sometimes to say no to your children, especially when they reach their teens and the pressure to conform or to have what their peers have gets stronger. However, just giving in to demand will not teach them anything worth learning. They need to know that their happiness does not rely upon having the latest gear and, more importantly, they also need to watch your example. If you are constantly willing to spend on these luxury items, they will lose any ability to value money or to understand the principles and purposes of saving.
It doesn’t work to prevent them from fitting in with their peers at all, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of clever financial planning. Take a step back and balance one decision against another. Short term gains are almost always less satisfying than long term ones. Set yourself a budget for luxury items. It isn’t always helpful to think about what you can afford, as many of you probably could afford a lot more than you should be spending on luxury items for your children. Think about what is reasonable for them, in order for them to feel cherished and provided for, but without being spoilt or feeling as though their every whim can be catered for. This budget will help you to manage your spending better and it will in turn set a good example for your children.
The concept of the “money honey” might be a bit beyond your children’s understanding, depending on how old they are, so they don’t necessarily need to evaluate their own relationship to money as deeply as you do. However, watching you form, develop and nurture a healthy relationship with money will be infinitely useful to them in later life.
By truly living this relationship with my “money honey” and letting go of my “money monster”, I have been able to think even more seriously about my big agenda, my values and the way I want to live my life as a mother to ensure that I am enjoying myself and that my children are provided with what they need, not necessarily always what they want. If personifying your finances doesn’t appeal to you, there are many more traditional ways to think about how being a mother impacts on your spending habits and to evaluate them for the future and, if you are really worried about it, you can always do what I did and find yourself a coach to walk you through it.