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Family Finances...

For the vast majority of us, the most obvious source of frustration caused by having a larger family is that even when there is enough money for everyone's need, there's none left over for anyone's greed!

We are encouraged to "help" our economy by spending money we haven't yet got on things we don't need, then struggle to repay it at crippling interest rates. And everywhere we turn we & our children are assaulted by subtle pressures to buy more & more of the "right" things, and if we don't we're somehow LOSERS - teenagers are desperately vulnerable to this nonsense, and we don't want to let them down... Banks spend vast sums of money to tempt us to borrow far more than we can realistically afford to repay, just so that we can buy more things we don't need which take up time and space we don't have... And who hasn't suddenly discovered that a new pair of shoes is urgently needed when there's no food in the freezer and there's still two weeks left until payday?

Budgeting is almost a dirty word in our "Buy now, pay later" society. But perhaps we need to look back to previous generations, when larger families were more commonplace, and see how they managed. I asked my stepfather, a retired Citizen's Advice Bureau advisor and himself a father of four, (between him & my mother, there are eight of us!) for some commonsense advice.

His advice (simplified somewhat!) is to tot up your monthly or weekly income. Then work out what your vital expenses are for the same period; these include your rent or mortgage payments, gas, electricity, fares to work or petrol, council tax and insurance. Subtract this from your income to work out what's left; this is how much you have to repay your debts, buy food, clothes and other necessities. Keep track of your expenditure; write it ALL down (and keep all the receipts) for a month or two so you can see where it all goes - it may well surprise you. If you are in dire trouble, go to your local CAB where an advisor will help you get things straight; do not be tempted to borrow more money (otherwise known as "consolidating your debt") as you will probably end up risking your home.

Also, stating the obvious, don't spend more than you've got except in an emergency! And always pay cash - it's very easy to think well, I'll pay it off next month, but before you know it there's an urgent Vet's bill, a couple of school trips, a takeaway meal the night you were too sick to cook and suddenly you owe more than you can pay in one month, so the interest starts to pile up... Been there, done that, lost my T-shirt...

But do not despair - help is at hand! You can choose to TAKE CONTROL and beat the Money Monster! There is a CAB near you to help if things are really out of control, and some excellent resources out there on the Web, but there are also all sorts of websites that promise to help you manage your money by handing over a proportion of it to the owners of the website. Odd, that...

Here are some genuinely helpful resources I've come across - please let me know of any you've found that I haven't - or of any that turned out to be less than useful...

 

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Copyright: Angela Corbet, 2001.