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In some sort of ironic twist, I have become the family financial manager. I say ironic twist because I'm more or less you're typical English Lit major kinda gal and my husband, well, he has the word budget in his professional job title, which should make him the perfect candidate for the home job.
Nope, it's me.
And I don't mind it. I almost like it.
It's true. There is a math geek buried deep inside me that longs to do a little subtraction, division and, when we're lucky, some addition and multiplication. But more than anything, it just makes sense. I do the shopping, I stay at home with my two boys so you could say that I have the time to manage the finances.
But even though I have the time I don't like to waste it. Instead, I like to maximize it and be as efficient as possible. So I do as much as possible online. We have a credit union that has an excellent online banking system and that serves as our hub. My husband has direct deposit for his paychecks so those go right into our account every two weeks. Our credit card and mortgage are through the same credit union so I just have to set up account transfers to pay those bills. Actually, the mortgage is set up as an automatic monthly payment so I don't have to do anything to pay that bill!
For all of our utilities and other regular bills (gas, electric, phone, cable, insurance, etc.) I have electronic payments set up so that when I receive a bill I just go online, input the amount that I need to pay for a particular bill and it is automatically sent on the date that I set. It's practically magic. I don't have to write any checks, fish through my bag for a stamp or worry about the payment being late.
Aside from the ease of electronic payments there is also the fact that it does save real money. You might not think of it, but saving 42 cents on every monthly bill does add up. I figure we have about 8 bills that we pay each month, so that's a savings of $3.36 each month, or $40.32 each year. EDITED: Suzy pointed out that stamps are now 44 cents, so the savings is even greater: $3.52 each month, $42.24 each year.
Speaking of savings, one other key to managing my family's finances is to make the most of the money we have. My income plummeted (to almost non-existent levels) once we had kids and decided that I would stay home and care for them full time. We need, then, to save where we can. So I do the usual: I comparison shop, use coupons and continue to wear sports bras that I bought back in the 1990s. I also use the power of the Internet to save even more. By "liking" my favorite brands on Facebook, for example, I can often get notice of discounts, coupons or special deals. Similarly, I join rewards programs for brands I buy regularly (like the Stonyfield rewards program that gives me lots of free product just for inputting codes online from their yogurt).
One thing I don't do, and that many experts recommend, is budget. Strict budgets are just too . . . well, they are too strict for this gal. It's kinda like weight loss: Some people say you should weigh yourself all the time to keep your weight in check. But, for me, I prefer to gauge my weight by how my clothes fit.
It's the same with budgeting. I like to go by feel. I try to keep our weekly shopping tab to a certain amount. If I go over it by much one week I make a concerted effort to go under that amount the next week. And if we have a lot of extra things going on one month, I try to keep our spending a little lower the next.
It's just what works for me and for my family.
But what about you? Do you manage your family's finances? Have any tips you'd like to share? Think I'm ridiculous for not budgeting? Share your thoughts in the comments!