Monday, May 24, 2010

Taking the Lead

I mentioned in my last post that I had a great, honest, open discussion with my sisters about finances. One element of this conversation that really stuck out to me was who takes the lead in the family in dealing with the money. There are a few factors in making that decision, and many different ways to make taking the lead work for your family.

Sometimes, people are just numbers people. My brother is one of them. He sees numbers everywhere. He can recall to the day how long he's been married, he does math off the top of his head, he is continuously amazing me with his mad skills. My husband is similar, he just gets along well with numbers. They play nicely together. Finances in the same way make sense to him. He's a natural saver, a planner, and a researcher. He makes wise decisions with his money. He was the hands-down logical choice to make decisions in regards to our family's finances. He does, however, require some balance.

Being a natural saver, his instinct is to save. And granted, most of the time when he says "we can do without" he's right. I naturally have "Attention Deficit...'Ohhhh Shiny!'" This sometimes gets the best of me, as was definitely the case when we first got married, and we had barely enough furniture to sparsely furnish our 2 bedroom townhouse. I definitely required lots of leading and coaching from him when it came to spending wisely and prioritising responsibly. He, on the flip side, needed coaching when we actually had to spend. In the weeks leading up to our marriage he tried many times convincing me that we in fact did not need a couch. At all. It took a few weeks of death stares in our empty living room before he actually caved. When it came to having a baby, we approached getting the gear with a bit more balance. We priced out all the gear we were going to need, shared the list with family and friends, and then prioritized on all the leftover items that weren't gifted to us.

We have now settled down into where we are both comfortable leading, and that's with our strengths. Ted is our financial leader. He manages our day to day finances like bill payments, as well as our long term goals like savings and a down payment. I take the lead when it comes to our expenditures. Being the person spending more time in the house, I know when things need to be updates or replaced. I know when our son has outgrown something, or when something in our kitchen is worn beyond repair. I also know when we need to loosen the purse strings a little for the sake of our family. When saving has gone a little far and a vacation has become necessary.

This is a system that works really well for our family, but it took us a while to get here. Have you found a system that works for your family? Are you still breaking one in? A good question to get started with is asking your spouse what role they think they play in the finances, and also what role they think you play.

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