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Imagine how much better off we'd all be if we'd learned this at high school?

managing family finances
No matter how good or bad your finances might be, there are some decisions you can make today to improve your outlook

My husband and I met at work when I was in my early twenties and he was in his early thirties. We fell for each other, hard, and spent every single moment we could together travelling, eating out, shopping, seeing movies, just having the time of our lives.

We were both spending every single cent we made.

I wasn’t earning much yet and my husband had expensive hobbies. He was a mad keen surfer, snowboarder, cyclist and jet skier. Outside of his exercise equipment he didn’t own anything.

We were a perfect match.

Just as an FYI, you should know that this post is sponsored by QT Mutual Bank. But all opinions expressed by the author are 100% authentic and written in their own words.

Some might think we should have been a bit more sensible when it came to managing our money but I’m really happy to have those memories. However, once we became engaged we knew it was time to use our money more wisely. We moved in together and we no longer had to spend hundreds of dollars a week on activities just to spend time together. We were just as happy to snuggle at home.

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managing family finances
“We dreamed about the future we’d build together…”

We dreamed about the future we’d build together and just how we planned to get there. My new fiancé managed to get himself a demanding sales position and I was working less and earning less so was happy to manage our fiancés. Fifteen years later, I still manage them. Each week I sit down and monitor our money. We discuss where we are today and where we’d like to be.

Our children have hobbies and so do we, but we do it in a way that is sustainable and that doesn’t affect our financial future.

When it comes to money we’re all about balance – sure we need to be careful but we also need to live, have experiences and enjoy each day however the only reason we can enjoy ourselves is because we’ve worked so hard to get to where we are today and we’ll never stop paying attention to our finances.

I know too many couples who are struggling. They are my age, with kids, and are constantly juggling bills. It’s no way to live.

No matter how good or bad your finances might be, there are some decisions you can make today to improve your outlook:

managing family finances
Sit down and decide how much you want to spend each week.
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1.  Know how much you are spending

We all know how much our bills are but what about your spending. Do you know how much you spend on taking the kids out, on eating out, on groceries, on coffee? It’s these smaller expenditures that add up and negatively affect the bottom line.

Sit down and decide how much you want to spend each week. Set an amount for groceries and then decide on an ‘allowance’, an amount of money each of you can spend each week on whatever you like. This is the money you use on the kids, on lunches and coffees. You both get the same amount so there’s no unplanned spending and no resentment. It works really well.

That way, any bigger purchases can be discussed. It’s strict but it really makes a huge difference.

2.  Pay your bills on time

Every time you pay a bill late, you get a late fee added on. These are a killer. They all add up. Sit down, figure out when each of your bills is due and schedule the payment to happen automatically.

Then, once a week check that all the bills have been paid with the correct amount. I always round up the amount I think I owe on things like phone bills that change each month. Then the worst that can happen is that you are slightly in credit each month.

It’s also a good idea to pay a weekly or fortnightly amount towards larger bills like electricity. Then, each quarter when the bill arrives you simply pay the difference.

managing family finances
Insurance baby!

3.  Insurance baby!

Insurance is important, but only insurance that you need. These days you can pretty much insure anything – pets, funerals…

Let’s discuss the insurance most important for families.

You need income protection and life insurance, at least on the main bread winner in the family. It’s really important. That way you’ll be okay no matter what happens and so will your children.

Next, you need home and contents insurance. Look around the room you are sitting in right now. Home insurance needs no explanation. Always always always have home insurance, but make sure it is home and contents insurance. You have electronic devices of all kinds, jewellery, the children’s musical instruments and plenty of other items it would be difficult to replace if disaster struck.

Call companies yourself and make sure you choose a company that properly explains all your options, offers you a fair premium and covers you for the type of disasters you are likely to face.

4.  Focus on the highest interest loans first

Mortgage aside, the loans that should be repaid first are those that have the highest interest rate attached. Don’t know how much interest you are being charged on your car loan and credit cards? Then find out straight away.

Once you have identified the loan with the highest interest rate attached, throw as much money as possible towards it. Once that is paid off move on to the next one.

Many financial services advise you to pay the smallest loans first so you can feel a sense of achievement as you pay them off, but it makes much more sense to save yourself hundreds of dollars on the loans that carry the highest interest rate.

Also, once a year ring the companies you have loans with and ask if you have the best deal possible. Ask for a lower interest rate. You never know. The smallest decrease to good customers such as yourself can have a huge impact.

managing family finances
“You need to prioritise your savings.”

5.  Save save save

Too many families are asset rich and cash poor. They have their mortgage, their cars and other assets but no money in the bank.

You have to prioritise your savings. Think of your savings as another bill you pay each fortnight or each month. Don’t skip it. Ideally, families will save enough money to cover three months worth of bills. This can be difficult to do. Just sit down and figure out how much you can save. Then set it up so it happens automatically.

Also, make sure your savings is in the highest interest account possible. There are some brilliant savings accounts out there that don’t lock your money in.

I don’t know about you but my husband and I sleep much better knowing we have money in the bank. We set savings goals and stick to them.

If unplanned expenses crop up we know we have the money for them.

Cash is and always will be king.

What is one of the best financial decisions your family has ever made?

QT_Mutual_Bank_logoFor those who don’t know, QT Mutual Bank has been around since 1965. In your head, you must be thinking – “What’s a Mutual Bank?” In 25 words or less, a mutual bank simply means a bank that is 100% owned by customers. That’s right! Unlike other conventional banks who have shareholders to keep happy, profits from a mutual bank go straight back to its members’ by reinvesting in ways to improve their financial products and services. QT Mutual Bank is different from every other bank in the sense that they want you help you get a little bit in front. Did you know – over 40% of QT Mutual Bank home loan owners are 6 or more months ahead of their mortgage repayment? They’re also giving you a chance to win a car you’ll love…

QT Mutual Bank  and CGU (their insurance partner) are giving you the chance to win your very own Mazda 3 Neo Manual. Simply switch your car or home insurance before 29 March 2014, and you’ll automatically be in the running to win.

Get your chance to win in 2 easy steps

1)       Call QT Mutual Bank on 13 29 30 to complete a car or home insurance quote.

2)       Purchase the quote and you’ll automatically be in the running to win a brand new Mazda 3 Neo Manual!

Entry is open to Queensland residents only and to those who switch their insurance provider [not existing policy holders]. Winners will be announced on 7th April.

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