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Family Finances and COVID-19: Five Helpful Tips

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Family finances are taking a hit during the COVID-19 crisis. If you and your spouse are facing financial changes, here are five tips to help.

Family finances are taking a huge hit during the COVID-19 crisis. If you or your spouse have lost work hours — or a job — because of the pandemic, you’re likely looking for ways to save money and make every penny count. Focus on the Family asked Scott and Bethany Palmer — The Money Couple — to provide practical tips that you and your spouse can act on today to manage your family finances. Here’s what they said.

Stay positive

Bethany Palmer believes one of the most important things you can do if you lose your job is to look at the crisis as an opportunity. She says, “This may be God opening the door for something else for you. See if this is the time to do a career change or a job change.” If you look for a new position, she offers these insights: “Get a plan for how to get your new job. Resurrect any contact that you have for the position you are considering.”

Prioritize your spending

Identify wants versus needs and plan your family finances accordingly. The Palmers recommend getting the entire family involved in the discussion by asking, “What’s something we all need?” If the family says “food,” then ask, “What’s something we don’t need?” Going out to eat is optional. You and your spouse can help your family make good money choices, and in the process, you teach your children the importance of financial planning. “Your kids see that you’re thinking through these things and making it fun versus just a drag.”

Remember retirement plans

You may be tempted to pause contributions to your retirement plans, but Bethany Palmer encourages couples to continue funding their futures. “If you do have a job, make sure that you are at least putting in for your [company] match to your 401k or 403b. A lot of times, people cut that, but you’re really giving up free money.” If family finances don’t allow you to deposit the full amount, Bethany says doing what you can is still important. “Even if you have to lower the amount you put away each month that is over and above the match, make sure you’re putting in something. There’s something … emotionally satisfying about going with a compromise versus cutting it out altogether.”

Agree on a budget

When planning your family finances, make sure your spouse is involved … and that they agree to the changes. “A lot of times, one person in the relationship puts a budget together and the other person often blows it because they didn’t buy into it,” Bethany says. “Agreeing on the budget is really important.”

Know your money style

You and your spouse have different ways of managing family finances and spending money. Sometimes, those differences will clash and you struggling to find a middle ground. “Oftentimes, when we have tension … your differences are magnified,” Bethany says. “We really encourage couples to make sure that they know their differences in how they approach money decisions.” The best way to approach differences, she says, is to “Know your differences, own your differences and work together with your differences instead of having it tear your relationship apart. Understanding your differences and learning how to work with them versus against them is important, especially in these heightened, stressful financial times.”

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