Valentine's Day is just a few days away, and Cupid challenges us to show our affection to that special person (and, I add, without breaking the bank.). If you are like me, you probably haven't even thought about it until now because we believe our love for our spouse or that special person lasts 365 days a year. So every day is, in a sense, Valentines Day.
Now, that may sound like a great line or argument, but I bet it won't work for most of us. We already know the consequences of not having the card and something that shows our undying love.
Over the years I have realized that a sense of financial peace of mind does make a great "I love you" gift throughout the year. Financial peace often can be translated into household peace throughout the year. It is not based on the size of your bank account but the understanding that regardless of the circumstances, your money is being handled responsibly. So, for a "gift that keeps on giving," you might share this list of "loving" suggestions with your spouse to work toward a better sense of financial wellness and stability.
? Be realistic about the financial situation. Learn to live within your income and don't finance your lifestyle through credit.
? Track your spending. When every penny counts, it's important to count every penny. This will help you have control over your money and finances.
? Create a personal cash-flow chart. Using a calendar, list all paydays and anticipated amount of the paychecks. Then list which bills are to be paid out of each check. This eliminates the frustration of meeting payment due dates, and avoids costly over-limit or overdraft fees.
? Find a way to save money. Consider putting 5 to 10 percent of each check directly into a savings account, and vow not to touch it except for emergencies. This could eliminate a lot of marital stress over the year. It's a comfort to know you're prepared.
? Manage bonuses, tax refunds or windfall money. You won't miss what you never had. Use this money to build up your savings account. Put a third away in your savings account, a third to pay off some debt and a third to do something special with the family, maybe save for a special vacation.
? Make the most of your money. Don't pay any annual credit card fees, ATM fees or overdraft fees, and look for a financial institution where free checking is really free. Get serious about grocery shopping, do a food budget, use coupons, shop the store fliers and most importantly stick to it. If you aren't contributing to your retirement plan at work, consider contributing to benefit from any employer match. If your company offers a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), investigate it because it might be a real tax savings benefit.
Remember: Actions speak louder than words. Give your loved one a big hug and kiss and share the gift of financial peace. You'll send a calming signal that you're on top of things, and they will know how much you care about them.
Need answers to your financial questions? Write Ken King, executive director of Family Service Association, at 1930 N. Eighth St., Sheboygan WI 53081 or e-mail him at email@example.com.
Family Service Association is a United Way agency that helps people improve their financial stability and quality of life by providing education, counseling, advocacy and financial management programs.