How to Discuss Your Family’s Spending Habits

October 12, 2021

Navigating topics related to spending is never easy. With family members, it can feel especially tricky. Maybe one spouse likes to splurge a little too much, or sacrifices must be made for the family to cover rising expenses. Many families avoid talking about money at all, making even basic financial topics uncomfortable to bring up.

Even with a potentially touchy subject, it’s still best to address the issue rather than sweep it under the rug. And there are many ways to preserve your and your family’s financial wellness while tackling necessary money topics.

Research a Plan Connected to Chicago’s South Suburban Living Expenses

A conversation that warrants a family discussion deserves to be well-prepared. According to, almost a third of Americans don’t have a realistic image of their financial circumstances. So, before bringing anything up, take a second look at the state of your financial health and where you’re headed. Some of your concerns could be unwarranted, or maybe things are tighter than you had realized.

Do you know what your main point will be? If not, be sure to get some clarity before calling a family meeting. Unclear information might distract from the essential message you want to get across.

Make the Talk Structured

Emotions can run high in any family conversation. Taking a more structured approach can cool the flames, especially if there are complicated issues to discuss. A formal request for a meeting gives others time to prepare, as well. If you’re seeing siblings around the holidays, that could be a good time to bring up the subject of caregiving for your parents, for instance. Nowadays, a virtual meeting can work just as well and may even be necessary.

Circumstances can change overnight, warranting a reevaluation of the family’s spending. A subject that brings up lots of questions and opinions can require carving an hour in people’s schedules, away from distractions. Say you’re struggling to make loan payments on a family car. Outline the conversation points to keep the conversation on track with questions like:

  • How much wiggle room is in the family’s combined budget?
  • Can annual rates be changed? What are the options?
  • What about reducing costs in other areas?
  • What sacrifices would each member have to make? Will some have to use it less or pay more for gas?
  • What will each person’s responsibilities look like, financial and otherwise?

Naturally, the questions will vary depending on who is involved in decisions. Maybe the conversation starts with your partner, and then once you’ve clarified your options, a new one needs to happen with your 17-year-old.

Follow up with Regular Check-ins

In tense situations, family members quickly fall back into old habits and beliefs, and that includes beliefs about money. If you have aging parents, you and your siblings may need to check in on Mom and Dad about their financial needs and expenses. Maybe you’ve noticed their bills aren’t being paid on time. How much a person needs for retirement can change due to an unexpected health condition or growing living expenses.

Telling your parents about struggles unrelated to them first can break the ice and help them feel more comfortable. They will appreciate your concern if you tie finances into conversations about their general well-being.

Know When to Take a Break – And Circle Back Another Time

Your idea about reigning in personal spending to save for a family vacation may need to simmer while others let it sink in. Your children may not initially take well to having their allowances curtailed. Or perhaps you’re the one who tends to react with a strong opinion before hearing all sides of an issue. Sometimes the best thing to do is table the conversation for another day, especially if there’s not a deadline looming that requires a prompt decision.

Good financial habits aren’t created overnight. Revisit the topic another time once passions have cooled down.

Set a Positive Example for Children

How children see their parents discuss and manage money will set the stage for how they handle their own finances someday. Here are some ways to teach children about healthy spending:

Vocalize your values. With older kids, especially, it’s ok to be transparent about how you use money and why. Important conversations around money will come more easily if parents or guardians have already expressed values in a way kids can understand.

Teach kids about setting financial goals: When you give children spending goal options, they learn critical thinking skills necessary for smart budgeting later on. Creating a chore chart to accompany allowances can teach them about responsibility as well as the value of a dollar.

Make it fun: A lemonade stand or craft table can be an enjoyable way for younger kids to learn to associate their actions with making and saving money.

Show them your financial tools: Whether they watch you set up electronic utility bill payments or purchase a money order, children are fast learners. Just observing the bills getting paid on time can help teach them the value of money saved or well-spent.

Conversations should be age appropriate, of course. Aim to be educational without placing undue stress on the little ones. A healthy family conversation about money should feel productive, like taking a step forward toward an important goal somewhere down the road.

South Suburban Currency Exchanges has lots of services to help your family meet their financial obligations. Give us a call or stop by one of our four locations today.