I was raised by Grandparents who went through the Great-US Depression in the 1930s. So, I have a unique perspective about finances among my peers. Let me just say it. Getting a rein on our budgets is about common sense, effective stress management, as well as longer-term happiness and wellness.

In this economy, we all see the empty houses and rentals/lets as bankruptcies keep climbing. Regrouping financially or setting financial priorities seems to be our elephant in the room. Hands down folks, if we don't talk about this, when we buy on impulse without thought of consequences, well, eventually some bill may come due that we can't pay. With credit-card payments coming due and summer holidays needing deposits soon, let's just open the drapes and doors and air this out.

Starting with budgets, do you have one? If not, why? What's in it for you to have one and review and/or manage your spending? If you don't have a clear vision and mission statement for you and your family yet, the link to the Be-Clear-vision-&-mission exercise is below (1).

Behaviorally we make choices one step at a time, so getting started practically, here's seven steps for regrouping financially one step at time after months of holiday fun. These steps are meant to also pragmatically transition your relationship with personal finances.

Set priorities by deciding what's important to you each week, month, in three and six months, one year, five years, and so on. The point of this step is to ensure that things don't fall apart financially on a daily, monthly, and long-term basis. Much tension comes from mismanaged funds. What is your priority? Saving more for holiday or paying off college educations or retirement? Will you need to choose or find ways to make extra income to meet your priorities? And so on.

After you set priorities, then get real about the monthly and quarterly amounts needed for food, water, and shelter, automobile insurance, vehicle registration, etc. If you don't know how much you're spending on food in total, that could be a place to start. Track your food expenses (eating out, grocery store, junk-food runs, etc.). Be sure to include other necessities such as utility bills, household mortgage or rent, taxes, and fuel. Simply put, this step puts your priorities in order from the most-to-least needed. Choose between needs and wants. List as many of these bills as you're able to identify over a 12-month period. Please remember that being too frugal can also be costly. For example, skipping dental care or eating noodles for weeks to buy expensive gadgets or vacations may have costly longer-term consequences. What I'm saying is please be kind to yourself and manage your priorities so you don't become ill and fall behind on the rent or house mortgage, utilities, and added crucial expenses. You and your family are worth it!

Once you understand your monthly priorities, then it is time to engage your family if you have one. You're not alone in avoiding the money topic because it can be a source of tension due to differing views. There are those that want to spend regardless and are not afraid of debt while others prefer to save something for an emergency. There are ways to navigate this that can be fun and helpful without deteriorating into brawls. For those of you that are hiding the true condition of your finances from your family, I invite you to free yourself from this now. Redirect the energy you may spend worrying about finances to engaging the family in creative solutions. If nothing else, how you manage your money during a downturn is a great example for your children.

When your family engages, then it is time to review the monthly necessities with their help.

Once the family is in agreement on what the priorities are, then look at debt and your emergency funds. Both of these should have a higher priority than college funds or holiday plans!! Know what you are paying monthly and annually for each debt and find ways to put that money back into your family budget. Start with the highest rates of interest and work your way down from there. As you do this, it can be helpful to find creative ways to pay for new purchases with cash: clipping coupons, odd jobs, etc. Avoid buying things if you do not have an adequate emergency savings, which is generally three to fours times your monthly salary.

Now you can begin to fine tune things. Assess your phone, internet, and insurance coverage regularly. Verify that your plan policies are current and the deductibles are fair. This year I saved nearly $1,500 by reviewing plans with my insurance and cell phone providers. That's literally free money folks. Also, make use of opportunities by looking for free seminars and workshops about finance, investment, and career development. For example, setting career goals in life is truly crucial as the job market is highly competitive. Or, regardless of how little your estate is, you may need estate planning. So, look for ways to learn more about do-it-yourself options.

As you round this corner, then you can begin to think about stepping up your college and retirement pay-off and/or savings. The rule of thumb that I use is 15%-20% of my monthly income goes toward these priorities. Once your necessities are being met, then you can begin working toward what you want: vacation savings, remodeling, extending wardrobes, special gifts, etc.

Identify your needs from your wants. Arriving at a financial decision should always be filtered through this question. Sometimes there is a fine line between what you need and what you want. There will be differences of opinion as well. A teenager may see a new dress as a need while a parent may not. So this may help. Define eight rules for determining what makes something a need or want that everyone contributes to and agrees upon. Each time that you and/or your family purchase(s) something, then you have these eight rules to guide your decisions. Start with something easy like food. For example, food is a need. However, is purchasing organic food from Whole Foods a need? If so, why? I specify a need as any item that I can't physically live without for a safe and secure life; shelter, general utilities, apparel, food, and transportation are common needs. Cable TV? It's a luxury in my house along with the latest computer, phone, HD TV, etc. We decided long ago that we don't need or want it. Or how about a 3,000 square-foot home with soaring ceilings to have room for holiday gatherings? Again, a luxury. Delaying such wants, a big home with a gourmet kitchen, outside fireplace, pool, and 3-car garage is among the big keys, etc. to regrouping and establishing wealth: full stop. If you master the self-discipline of delayed gratification now, you create a more stable basis for a happier and healthy life, family, and retirement.

Be sure that you tie rewards into accomplishing your priorities, as pleasure-based experiences increase the likelihood that our behavior changes become consistent and sustainable. Since getting finances in order is the behavior change, then look for creative ways to reward you and your family that aren't related to spending money: quality family time playing unique games or going to free outings and community events, etc.

Employing the one-twelfth rule for essential monthly and quarterly expenses transitions large amounts being due at once. To illustrate, if your auto insurance is $700/year, then set aside 1/12 of that cost each month so that you can convert your payment schedule from monthly to semi-and-annual payments. There is generally a significant rate reduction for doing this. If you can only afford $5 extra per month toward this conversion, it's a start. (Hint, look at your spending on coffee or eating out each month to find extra bits for this.)

Focus on where you are able to spend less cash without depriving yourself. Again, decide what is a need or want and what is a wasteful or indulgent practice: taxicab rides, gym memberships that you aren't using, unnecessary trips to the store (fuel), expensive lunches, unnecessary shopping, etc.

Also, I strongly recommend looking into long-term-care insurance now! My Grandpa made the mistake of waiting too long, and there is a point that you cannot be covered for nursing care or assisted living when you become elderly.
All in all, regrouping after the fun is about finding what's in it for you to be kind to yourself and your loved ones. So ask yourself this. What's in it for me to know what I want and how I want to live? Be clear, you're worth it!

Internet resource referenced in article.

(1) http://beclearsuccess.clearactionnow.com/staying-on-plan-holiday-jetpak/.

I'm here to support you with this. Please let me know if I may help.

Author's Bio: 

Using a pragmatic approach to business and life, Deone Benninghoven, MSM is known as The Be-Clear Gal. She is a sought after coach, speaker, consultant, and author that facilitates the performance development of individuals, teams, and organizations using a strength-based and systemic approach. Her clients consistently indicate that Benninghoven's approach to change management is practical, useful, and sustainable. Individuals, and groups such as Microsoft, Accenture, Symbol Technologies, sovereign nations, local and regional municipalities, leave her Be-Clear keynotes with academically-sound and evidence-based information shared in a fun and easy-to-understand and apply format.

Benninghoven holds a BS and MSM from Antioch University Seattle in Organizational Design & Leadership Development and Management and lives in Seattle, WA. Believing that one step at a time the sculpture, dance, and song of life emerges, she is involved in multiple coaching and organizational-development associations, Toastmasters, the Seattle Writer's Guild, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, City of Seattle Youth Services, and sports, art, dance, and singing groups.

"Be clear on who you are and then be it" (Be True, Be Happy, Hanns-Oskar Porr).