BAL­ANC­ING THE BOOKS

Parenting - - In This Issue -

A money coach’s guide

Get as much in­for­ma­tion as you can: be de­tailed and

ut­terly re­al­is­tic.

The be­gin­ning of the year is a hard time for fam­ily fi­nances in New Zealand. We just get over Christ­mas, find that our 'cheap' sum­mer hol­i­day was sur­pris­ingly ex­pen­sive and then we have to deal with back-to-school costs.

Be­fore we jump into the ways to save money on th­ese, my first sug­ges­tion is that you take a mo­ment to re­flect. Back-to-school ex­penses are a di­rect cost of hav­ing chil­dren. How would you like your chil­dren to re­mem­ber their start to the school year? What are your val­ues around pro­vid­ing for your chil­dren?

The rea­son I bring this up is twofold. Firstly, school ex­penses can be shock­ingly high, un­der­stand­ably rais­ing stress lev­els for par­ents. But let­ting your chil­dren know you’re stressed about the costs (even if you blame the school) can lead to your child feel­ing guilty that they’re cost­ing you money, and leave them with mem­o­ries of how you re­sented spend­ing money on things that they needed.

Se­condly, by be­ing spe­cific about your val­ues re­gard­ing

Money coach Sarah Mcmur­ray talks us through a par­tic­u­larly busy time of year.

pro­vid­ing for your chil­dren, it’s pos­si­ble to re­frame your ex­pe­ri­ence. In­stead of feel­ing anger and re­sent­ment for the costs, you can feel quiet pride that you are meet­ing your child’s needs and be­ing the kind of par­ent you want to be.

Now get re­ally clear about ex­actly how much it’s go­ing to cost. Get as much in­for­ma­tion as you can: be de­tailed and ut­terly re­al­is­tic. You may need to con­sider:

• Uni­forms and shoes

• Sta­tionery

• In­di­vid­ual sub­ject costs

• Bring-your-own-de­vice (e.g. lap­tops or tablets)

• Swim­ming les­son fees

• Togs / gog­gles / swim caps

• Ex­tra-cur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties e.g. sports, mu­sic, Girl Guides

• School fees or dona­tions

• Lunch boxes, drink bot­tles, school bags

• Class trip costs

• School camp fees

Set­ting it all out can be con­fronting, es­pe­cially when you add up the en­tire cost, but fac­ing the painful truth is go­ing to lead to a bet­ter out­come than ig­nor­ing the in­evitable.

Now re­view the list. Re­sist the temp­ta­tion to just wipe off en­tire cat­e­gories. In­stead ask your­self, “Is there any way I can re­duce my costs here and still meet my child’s need?”

When you’re feel­ing calm, it would be a great idea to ask your teenagers this ques­tion. Get­ting their ideas and buy-in for how you will meet needs with­out over­spend­ing not only recog­nises the con­tri­bu­tion they can make to the fam­ily, but teaches them an in­valu­able les­son about money man­age­ment.

Some ideas to re­duce costs are:

• First, shop at home and in your so­cial net­works. What do you / they al­ready have? Try friends, fam­ily, lo­cal Face­book pages, Trade Me, or Neigh­bourly.

• Can you cut down on the num­ber of uni­form items, or will this put too much day-to-day stress on your fam­ily to get the laun­dry done? A chore for teenagers, maybe?

• Sta­tionery – is it pos­si­ble to cherry-pick the ex­treme spe­cials avail­able at dif­fer­ent stores? Fig­ur­ing out where the best deals are is an­other job a teenager could do.

• Ex­tra-cur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties – could you get a dis­count for vol­un­teer­ing to coach or lead? Are the chil­dren do­ing too many ac­tiv­i­ties? Would grand­par­ents con­trib­ute to th­ese costs as the child’s birth­day present?

• School dona­tions – th­ese are vol­un­tary, but keep in mind that schools re­ally need them. Talk to the school about any dif­fi­cul­ties you have in meet­ing school costs.

• Use a site like Price­spy to find the best deal on de­vices.

• Could you cut on­go­ing costs (like buy­ing lunches) to help pay for needed items?

It’s too late for this year, but plan ahead for next year’s school ex­penses. Some­times needed items can dou­ble as Christ­mas gifts; de­vices could be bought on sale; uni­form items bought through­out the year.

Sarah Mcmur­ray is a money coach, trained by the Fi­nan­cial Re­cov­ery In­sti­tute. A money coach helps peo­ple fig­ure out the emo­tions, thoughts and be­liefs that are driv­ing their (of­ten self-de­struc­tive) be­hav­iours with money. Sarah has a back­ground in both ed­u­ca­tion and busi­ness and is a mother of three. www.re­lat­ing­tomoney.co.nz

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