Budgeting and the wider family

Hi all,

Looking for some advice as to how people handle this. Apologies in advance if this descends into a bit of a rant, but my question is borne of frustration.

How do you all explain to your wider family that you are on a budget and simply don't have the apparent cashflow you used to have?

Case in point:

My Brother phoned me up the other night and suggested that we all went away together as a family on a holiday (Him & his family, Me and My family, and our parents). Sounds like a great idea! we've done it in the past and it was great. (As families we all get on great).

However, my Brother then says he wants to go to a rather expensive place. OK, I say, a bit hesitant - I'll need to check how we can afford this in the budget. At a high-level glance, we can move some money around, readjust our priorities and possibly reduce payments on a debt, but I need to be sure.

My brother then retorts with "well you didn't have to look at your budget when you bought that new Lego Model this month..." My response of: "Well, I've been saving for that in my Budget since March and purchased that before you even suggested going away" fell completely flat with him. He bought the same model back in April when it was released without even thinking about it.

I used to be as free with my money, but at the start of this year I realised I needed to take control of my money. I don't regret anything, but by overspending I've ended up with a very big tax bill to pay, which has brought things into sharp focus.

I did show my brother YNAB a few months back when we went out for a drink (he was asking why I was logging every round on my phone), and he scoffed at the fact that I had a category for "Frothy Coffee". My explanation that it was an item I really wanted to watch how much I spent at the coffee shop, as I was spending up to £70 a month just on coffee, which frankly I didn't need to. Tracking it separately keeps me honest with it.

So how do you share the fact that you've changed in your approach to money with others?

Thanks for any advice!

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  • The only approach that I have found to really work here is to not care about people not in your household (the people whom your budget affects). Anyone else, and you really don't need to justify why you aren't being so free with your money anymore. If they seem interested in the idea of budgeting, great! I have found family to rarely be interested.

    "No" is a full answer when someone asks you if you want to do something. You don't owe the reasons to anyone but yourself.

    Like 8
  • Tobias said:
    No" is a full answer

     Yup. They don't have the ultimate responsibility, so they have no say.

    Like 1
  • Some people you can be honest with.  Other people you cannot.  Some people find budgeting interesting, they may not understand, but they won't dismiss your choices.  They may be supportive, they maybe respectfully dubious, they may ask questions, they may be envious but they won't argue with your decisions. 

    People like your brother won't.  Because you are making a different choice than they do, your choice to be different feels like judgement, and they will argue.  How dare you do anything different?  Any explanation or justification will be met with an argument.  With these people, you need to go on an information diet.  Your choices are yours.  Do not explain them, you don't owe your brother, your mother, your boss, your buddy at the coffee shop a justification as to why you're doing or not doing whatever it is.  They will not respect your choice and will try to argue or demean your choice.  "No," is a complete answer.  I'm also fond of "That doesn't work for me."  If it's something you want to do but not now, then you say, "I can't commit this year, but maybe next year.  I'll need more information about the specifics to see if it's something I want to do."  And then you can answer, "No, that doesn't work for me," or "Sure, but I can't  do X, how about Y."

    There are a lot of things that bring up the argumentative attitude almost universally.   Money and raising kids are two that spring to mind.  Unfortunately there are some people who will argue with anything because they cannot conceive that not everyone thinks the way they do because they don't respect people who are different.  There are some people who will initially argue (because the different choice feels like a value judgment) but if they are generally reasonable and respectful people in your life, you can tell them that you're trying something different, it works for you, but that you're not judging their choices because personal finance is personal.  I had this discussion with both my mom and my mother in law regarding how spouse and I are raising our kids because we got a lot of pointed advice and had defensive discussions as we were making different choices.  Afterwards, they've understood that what worked for them doesn't work for us in the here and now and that's ok.  They may not agree with our choices but they don't argue.

    In the end, you can't reason with the unreasonable.  You don't owe your brother an explanation.  

    Like 6
  • Find a couple of holiday choices that are in your budget and offer them up as suggestions. Maybe he feels your 'no' as a comment on his idea rather than on your own finances. By putting forward alternatives you leave the power of choosing with him (he sounds like that kind of person) but you get something you can afford.

    A bit like when you ask a small child if they want an apple or a banana. Forgetting to mention that doughnuts also exist... 😂

    Like 5
  • Family sucks...  Well, except that they're usually awesome, but still, they can suck.

    Was that convoluted enough?  

    I totally get your frustration.  Personally, I probably would have ranted longer.

    It's tough.  Personally, I'm in a similar situation, but backwards, where my mother has actually come to me asking for advice on how to keep their stuff straight, but then doesn't follow through and do things the way I would do it.  Is she wrong?  Well, from my point of view and the way I keep track of my finances, absolutely.  She should be doing X, Y, and Z.  Specifically keeping detailed records of ALL transactions going through both their personal and business accounts, and having categories that all of that money resides in and is being spend from. (read: doing what YNAB is designed for)

    Instead, she's keeping track of some of the transactions in the business account, but only what applies to one portion of their business (my father is a handyman who also owns several rental properties), but is leaving all the other transactions alone, and she therefore can't actually run a YNAB-style budget, because the funds for both portions of the business are co-mingled.  Is it helpful to her?  I think so?  On the other hand, I'm really not interested in knowing all the ins and outs of their finances, so I don't ask more than surface level questions, so I generally only get surface level answers.

    My wife's family, is an interesting ball of wax, because they all have vastly different monetary philosophies than I do, and in some cases are vastly different than each other as well.   Heck, my wife and I have vastly different philosophies.  In general, we (my wife, her family, and I) are willing to limit financial advice to macro-level stuff, and don't get offended when people choose not to follow it.  For example, I had one of my wife's uncles take me aside and suggest that now that we have a kid, I should take out a life insurance policy that isn't tied to my work.  His reasoning was that if I get disabled and stop working, I won't have my work-sponsored insurance any more.  Basically he was taking a worst case scenario sort of insurance, and making it more durable, which makes sense to me.  On the other hand, I simply ignore advice to buy as much ownership in a time share as I possibly can.

    I guess it boils down to people need to know how to not shove their noses into other peoples business.  Given that it sounds like your brother doesn't know how to extract his nose from your business, I think the advice to just not give him any information at all is probably good.

    Like 2
  • I've got other priorities right now, but how about <something that does for in the budget> instead?

    Like 3
  • Yep, it comes down to different views (mindsets) on money. If they are not in the budgeting view (mindset) then trying to explain it to them will just not work until they are really interested in changing. I usually say, let me see if I can fit that into my plans. Or, that I'm already committed to another big purchase. Both are true. My plans are my budget and the big purchase might just be paying the annual car insurance, which is in my budget.

    Co-workers can be just as bad. They just tease me for being a tightwad or stingy. Then they are shocked when I mention a big purchase. They say, we didn't think you spent money! Again, they are in a different mindset and can't make sense of what I'm doing.

    • Khaki Storm Yeah, my Brother is in sales and I know he's recently been paid a large sum of commission so he's pretty cash-rich at the moment, and whilst he's not quite like my Father-in-Law who has to spend every single penny the moment it is earned, he does like to 'flash the cash' a bit. (I suppose that is also a trapping of his employment)

      Like 2
  • All the other responses are better, but this brings back a memory of advice my late father gave me as I was growing up. He always had this adage where he told me, “There’s two things you should never be afraid to say: “No” and “I can’t afford it.”  One is somewhat inclusive of the other, but it always stuck with me and I’ve followed it in many situations such as these. 

    Like 5
  • I think budgeting is just as important for the skinnier families as it is for the wider ones. 😋

    Like 2
  • Hi money and family both can be tricky. The word in PRIORITIES .

    I think you need to be absolutely clear in your head about what your priorities are. It sounds like you would enjoy a holiday with your family but you don't want to spend or don't have the money to spend on the holiday or brother is suggesting. My sister has a great phrase she uses "we can afford it but I don't want to spend my money on that",  one of my brothers on the other hand can never afford anything but his family choses to spend their money on things I consider crap. If you have the money and chose not to spend it on the holiday you are prioritising something ahead of the holiday. Once you have it clear in you head the what and why of your decision you may want to communicate this with your brother. It sounds like you guys are quite close so you probably do want to explain things to him.  

    I think the hardest thing is to get people to understand your motivations  your brother may look at you and think you have money for stuff but no  money to invest in spending  time with family . The question then may be are your priorities more important than your family relationships? 

    I possible way forward might be to say no this time unless I can do it in X budget ( which might mean a shorter holiday for you ) but lets plan it for a future time when i'll have the chance to save up and we can really enjoy it together because this is a good idea and something I want to do.

     I remember my brother who can never afford anything asking why I hadn't visited as often one year and I replied "budget cuts, never popular" he laughed and was ok with that , I think if  I'd made a comment about choosing not to spend my money on visiting him he would have been upset.  His perception it wasn't my choice was the difference .

    Lastly this is your budget your can do what YOU want with it so maybe this time you "find" the money and take the trip and make it clear next time you need to budget?  I have a 4 siblings and one parent  alive and one sibling and one parent  dead and would decimate my budget to have a family holiday with everyone again.



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