Planning is Tangela Walker-Craft’s specialty. The married mother of one has been steadfast in keeping household debt to a minimum. For example, when the Crafts purchased their home in 1993, the Lakeland, Florida, couple was determined not to be consumed by a hefty mortgage. Instead of buying a home for the $110,000 the couple qualified for, they wisely purchased a home for $20,000 less to give themselves a cushion. Over the years, the 39-year-old and her husband Ernest, 40, have built an exceptional payment history and have been able to use that to their advantage by refinancing to pay off their auto loans or to get a better rate.
In 2002, the Crafts began to shore up their finances for a new addition to the family. Walker-Craft, a former teacher, was able to leave her job to take care of their daughter, Emari, now 8 years old. Though she was already careful with financial planning, having one income forced her to become even more prudent. The family began living well below their means, often shopping off-season for clothes and household items. Each month, they calculate monthly expenses versus monthly income. They create a checklist of bills that must be paid and include a cushion for unforeseen expenses.
Walker-Craft also used her time away from the classroom to pursue a side business. In late 2005, while caring for her toddler, she founded Simply Necessary Inc., which produces Walker-Craft’s invention, the Go Pillow, a multifunctional product that can serve as a breastfeeding cover-up for moms.
Here are some tips that can help you and your family manage household finances:
Prepare for the unexpected. Unforeseen events can often derail long-term financial goals. Build your emergency cushion. The Crafts have an emergency fund that covers six months of expenses. Also keep a checklist of long-term goals to make sure you are on track. “Before you figure out where you’re going, you have to know where you been,” says Sharon Harvey Rosenberg, author of The Frugal Duchess: How to Live Well and Save Money (DPL Press; $14.95). “It helps to have a full, complete background of the family finances and a list of what you’d like to accomplish in the future.”
Bring your children in on the finances. Don’t shield children from the family’s financial picture. With age-appropriate lessons, take the time to teach them about debt, credit cards, and savings. This way, if your family has a financial goal, the children will be more inclined to contribute.
Have adequate life and disability insurance. It’s important to have enough life insurance in the event of the untimely death of you, your spouse, or both. The insurance calculator at Bank Rate (www.bankrate.com) can give you an idea of how much life insurance you’ll need. Also have short- and long-term disability plans in place. The Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education (www. life happens.org) has a disability insurance needs calculator.
Work with your spouse. Adding a partner and child to the mix can make financial planning more complicated if all parties are not in agreement. In order for the planning of family finances to go smoothly, make sure that you and your spouse are on the same page about how money should be handled as a family. “You have to be able to communicate with your partner to make things successful,” says Michelle Oliver, president of The Oliver Financial Group, a Henrico, Virginia-based financial services firm.
MONEY MANAGEMENT RESOURCES
A Purse of Your Own: An Easy Guide to Financial Security, (Fireside; $15) by Debra Owens offers advice on establishing financial independence.
Get Financially Naked: How to Talk Money with Your Honey, (Adams Media; $12.95) by Manisha Thakor and Sharon Kedar, provides guidance on discussing finances with your spouse or significant other.