Parents face tremendous financial pressure to raise their families. No doubt, nothing frustrates parents more than advice from a financial planner telling them, “You need to spend less or earn more”. Every family with children finds that their cost of living increases as their children grow. These financial challenges are real. Discovering a one-size-fits-all solution is not easy.
Facing the Reality of Real Challenges
Groceries. Next to shelter and transportation, groceries rank among the top monthly expenses. With the cost of groceries on the rise, meal planning is important to the overall strategy of managing money. Becoming creative meal planners and implementing some of the proven strategies listed here from My Money Coach could reduce your grocery bill. One of many lessons I learned from Suze Orman was about wasting food. Suze suggested taking a five-dollar bill, ripping it in half, and throwing it in the garbage. She explained doing this is exactly the same thing you do with food. When you buy too much food which then spoils or when you cook too much and neglect to freeze it, you throw it into the garbage. You are throwing away money. For me, this was a reality check which I am asking you to do. Look at how you manage your food costs.
Extracurricular Activities. Beyond the everyday needs of food and shelter, parents are challenged with an added expense, their children's extracurricular activities. The enrollment fees for the activities are only part of the total cost. Living in rural Saskatchewan means driving to another town or city for children to play hockey, participate in gymnastics, or take music lessons. Dance or sporting competitions mean further commutes, which includes not only gas money but hotel and meal expenses. Realistically, how much can you afford to pay? The Government of Canada offers some support to help families who enroll their children in fitness activities but how can the maximum fitness tax credit of $300 per child stretch to cover the real cost? Limiting the number of high-cost activities might be a solution. Looking at other low-cost activities offered through school programs may still allow children to be active.
Services. Another challenge is managing all the bills. Never before has the cost of services been so expensive. The cost has increased along with the number of services people use. Think about it: cell phone, satellite, internet and security systems are taking their share of your income. The hardest, if not impossible, part is giving-up something that you have come to cherish as convenient or entertaining for your children and you. Perhaps the service is even described as essential. Deciding what you can live without or at the very least reducing the cost of the service package may free some much-needed cash required elsewhere.
How are you coping? What have you had to reduce or eliminate so money was free for other goals and dreams? What have you had to do to rise to the challenge of raising a family? Many of us face the same challenges. We can learn from each other. The information and advice a financial planner shares is up to you to accept or discard.