Money Sanity Solutions

Written for “Live Free,” the 2015 issue of Giving: Growing Joyful Stewards in Your Congregation, by the Ecumenical Stewardship Center

When it comes to money, families often go silent out of fear or taboo, or else yell in rancor, born of financial anxiety and family conflict. So how do children learn healthy money habits from age five on up? And how can congregations help shape wise financial values and practices in the families they serve?

In Money Sanity Solutions: Linking Money + Meaning (Share Save Spend; 2010), Nathan Dungan presents a gold mine of interactive conversation starters and activities for families, to help them build healthy conversations and habits for dealing with money. In addition to using a DVD, this resource is chock full of discussion questions, exercises and proposed interviews, set in a user-friendly workbook format.

In the section on Money Sanity Basics, Dungan explores three core practices, beginning with becoming aware of our interactions about money: sharing family stories, relating our values to money choices, and noting who have been (or could be) our money mentors. Two other essentials are distinguishing needs versus wants, and determining the “money in, money out” of a family budget.

But that just lays the groundwork. Most of the book is devoted to fifteen “solutions” from which we can choose. They relate to:

  • Rebalancing our money habits;
  • Thinking more deeply about our spending and developing a “consumer conscience;”
  • Recognizing the peer pressure created by our exposure to an average of 5,000 commercials a day;
  • Investing ourselves in others through volunteer service;
  • Discovering the value of part-time jobs;
  • Planning together for family vacations;
  • Realizing the cost of technology connections;
  • Building our savings for financial choices and independence;
  • Devising a plan for those back-to-school days;
  • Changing the way we pay: plastic, cash, or cell?
  • Letting holiday gratitude give us balance over greed; and
  • Revising our expectations of more, more, more.

Living a life that fits with our values and frees us from consumer craziness takes some discipline, Dungan says. But making even small adjustments in family attitudes and activities can make a world of difference in our lives, as children, youth and adults. This is a terrific resource for families in your congregation.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub