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Money Lessons from Real Families

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Face Your Finances
The Blinzler Family
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By Amy Schlatter

Jaci Blinzler, 49

Parkville, Missouri

Insecure about her money-handling skills, Jaci didn't resist when her husband demanded that he do it all. "I was clueless," she says. "I just let him take care of everything." But when he left the marriage—and withdrew all support—she got a crash how-to course. "It was painful," she says. "The phone and utility bills were in his name, and I had trouble getting the accounts switched." In addition, the couple had joint bank accounts, so for the first time in 22 years Jaci had to open her own.

Hungry for guidance, she entered a financial makeover contest at her credit union. "I met with a coach periodically for almost a year," says Jaci, who has a 15-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter. "The kids attended every session and learned right along with me." It quickly became evident that the family was overspending and not saving at all. "At first I didn't see how we could possibly sock anything away, considering what I make," says Jaci, who's an office manager for a medical coding company. "But our mentor suggested asking my son and daughter to come up with some ideas." The two decided they could babysit and pet-sit to pay for some of their sports fees, and offered to drop some activities to save money. They each chose a favorite one and withdrew from the others.

During the early months on the new budget, Jaci's daughter kept asking, "When will this be over?" Finally she admitted she just wanted to buy some inexpensive jewelry and hair bows. "I told her we'd find a way," says Jaci. "Being careful is for life, so it's important to set aside a small amount of money for fun. Otherwise you start to feel deprived and discouraged."

The Blinzler family won the $10,000 grand prize in the credit union contest—they saved the most and paid down the biggest debt. The extra cash was a big deal, Jaci says, but not as important as the knowledge she and the children gained. "I went from being a scared suddenly single mother to being in full control," she says. "Plus, the kids don't see finances as frightening and mysterious. They understand that they can be in charge. And now so do I."

Be the Boss of Your Money

  • Dare to be aware. People who keep their head in the sand give away all their power, says Price. "This is not healthy for your relationship," she adds. "The in-control partner ends up becoming like a parent." Besides, she says, "Money management is not rocket science. Eventually a life event will mean you have to step up and make bigger decisions. If you can read and do basic math, you'll be fine."
  • School yourself. Find strategies for your situation by visiting the National Endowment for Financial Education site at nefe.org. You don't have to go for a CPA. Just spend a few minutes a couple times a week with the free tutorials, brushing up your skills and boosting your confidence.
  • Include the kids. You don't want to dump your adult worries on your children, of course. "But you can explain that nobody has enough money to do or have absolutely everything she might want," says Liz Pulliam Weston, author of Your Credit Score. "We all have to make choices." Your kids may have cost-saving or income-generating ideas you hadn't thought of. Ask them.