FCS7005 Coping With a Money Crunch: Family Cooperation1 Mary N. Harrison and Katey Walker2 1. This document is FCS7005, one of a series of the Family, Youth and Community Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date November 1, 1984. Revised: December 16, 2005. Visit the EDIS Web Site at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu. 2. Written by Katey Walker, former Family Resource Management Specialist, revised by Mary N. Harrison, Professor, Consumer Education, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville FL 32611. The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A. & M. University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Larry Arrington, Dean It's easy to say that financial problems, such as losing your job, should be shared with your family. But it's hard to know just how to do that. One method of bringing the family together with a feeling of team spirit is a family council. This is a simple strategy for bringing a harmonious pattern into the family routine. The chief benefit of the family council is that matters of common family interest can be agreed upon. Here is a group in which each member has rights, responsibilities, and privileges, but which must act in certain matters as a single unit. Information about the family problem or problems are collected and shared, making better judgment possible than if only one or two in the family made decisions. The existence of the group and the rights of everyone in it are safeguarded. The members of the family get a feeling of security from this unity. Family Council Guidelines The benefits from a family council will depend on everyone working together. Here are some suggestions for success: Give each family member an opportunity to speak freely and with the assurance that what is said will be treated in confidence. Help each member have a chance to tell his/her side of the story. This is one good way to find out the real causes underlying problems which may seem unimportant on the surface. Sometimes a family agreement cannot be reached easily when hard problems arise. If so, any plan or solution should be tried on a trial basis, and changed if the results show it doesn't work. During the discussion, the attitude of Dad and Mom is an important factor in making the council a success. Focus on problem solving, not on criticism or blame. Children learn by having a chance to take part, and their opinions should be respected. In money matters, the family council can make group decisions based on everyone's input; they will be more likely to have the cooperation and support of the whole family. The mechanics of the council are not as important as the spirit behind the idea.
Coping With a Money Crunch: Family Cooperation 2 Evaluate the Ways Your Family Uses Money Many people buy things, not because they need them, but because they want to spend money to satisfy their emotions. Now, more than ever, it's time to tighten the purse strings and abandon self-defeating spending habits. Do you see yourself and your family in any of the following examples? Do you have a "get even"philosophy? In other words, do you feel you deserve to buy something for yourself just because someone else gets something new? Do you buy things you don't really need now because you think "tomorrow it may cost even more?" Or because "we might be even less able to afford it later?" Do you use money to bribe or reward others? Or do you withhold money as a punishment? Do you spend money as a way to work off frustration or to relieve boredom or anxiety? If you answer YES to any of these questions, you have found some guidelines on where to begin to change your spending habits. This can change a conflict-ridden family into a cooperative one. To change spending habits when your income has dropped, you must review and change many decisions which are important to you. Reducing expenses means giving up, at least for now, doing things the way you want. It helps to tackle one problem area at a time. For example, during one family council session, focus on ways to substitute human and community resources for money. At another session, tackle methods for record keeping. Keeping good records helps you keep track of your money and control your spending. At still another, discuss where it will be easiest to spend less. Talk about cleaning supplies, food, clothing, utilities, recreation, driving, and insurance. (While some insurance "frills" can be easily dropped, don't tamper with basic coverage during this period when you are economically vulnerable.) Before any item or service is purchased, ask:: Can I do without it? Can I postpone it? Can I substitute something less expensive? Can I shop around for a better deal? Can I make or do it myself? Make Decisions Together Success in decision making comes from sharing the united efforts of a family that works together to understand its own needs and respects the needs of others. Children who are included in family decisions usually welcome the opportunity to figure out how they can contribute to the family's support during the crisis period. Children can take part in a family council quite early (a four-year-old can decide to help turn the lights off or prioritize recreation choices). The chance to explain how family choices are affecting them and to feel that their needs will be considered in future decisions gives both parents and children feelings of security and belonging. This helps everyone feel that they are important members of the family and that other people care about them. At times of stress during a money crunch, this feeling of belong and cooperating as a team is very helpful.