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Family Finances: How to Make Debt Management a Priority

When things are running smoothly in your home, each family member feels the positive ripple effects in their everyday interactions. The opposite can also be true, especially when it comes to debt and money stress. Debt management is one of those things that can add tension to money conversations and also add strain to already-tight budgets.

This month, in light of International Women’s Day, we want to give women a variety of tools and some sound advice that will help you and improve your family’s financial health — and boost your financial confidence.

Have you been opting out of debt and money management in your home?

Self-doubt, shame, guilt…all these factors can contribute to low financial confidence. And women are more likely to experience this than men for a few reasons:

  • Women who earn significantly less than their spouses report lower financial literacy scores.
  • Women are most likely to take time off work to raise children or care for family members, reducing the amount of time they spend in the workplace.
  • Women are overrepresented in lower paying occupations compared to men.

The above factors also put women at risk of borrowing more money to fill in the gaps, which is one reason why Canadian women carry heavier debt than men. The good news is that when couples earn a similar income, they score equally in financial knowledge. This means that when women take an active role in their household finances, they are more likely to have higher financial literacy and feel more confident in their financial decisions.

3 ways to improve your family’s financial health

You and your spouse are a team. And as part of a team, you both need to be involved when it comes to financial matters. While you might not always share the same financial habits and values, it’s essential to find the money management strategies that work for both of you — so you can both work toward common money goals for your family. Here are three ways to do that:

  1. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Is one spouse handling all the money matters while the other is left in the dark? Time to loosen the reins and start having those money talks.
  • Schedule a time when you can both discuss your household finances without interruptions. Read this blog post for ideas.
  • Go over all your bills together, including credit card statements, utility bills and everyday purchases like groceries, clothing and household items.
  • Create a budget together, using our budgeting worksheet. Jot down all your expenses and list your total household income per month. Then, discuss ways to simplify the payment process such as automating your bill payments to avoid late fees or missed payments. After that, discuss who will pay which bills.
  1. Make debt management a priority. If your current system of debt repayment is getting you nowhere fast, it’s time to implement some new strategies. Together, go over these debt management options with your spouse:
  • DIY debt control such as transferring high-interest balances onto a line of credit or lower interest card. Or, funneling all extra money toward one credit card each month until it’s paid, using the debt snowball method.
  • Compare debt relief options such as a consolidation loan or a consumer proposal using our repayment options calculator.
  • Speak to a Licensed Insolvency Trustee for debt advice and solutions.
  1. Set financial goals together. No matter how big or small, you should both be working together to achieve goals for your family. And this may involve compromising on some ideas. Whether you plan to build a deck or take a vacation this summer, or you want to open a TSFA or maximize your RRSP contributions, you need to make a plan to ensure these things happen. Use this module from the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada to set SMART goals you can both work together to achieve.

 

How will you take a more active role in your family’s debt and money management? There’s no better time than now to get started!

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