Tuesday 31 March 2015

The best ways to bank for busy families

Nobody ever said that being a parent was going to be easy, but let’s be honest, few of us were really prepared for just how demanding it can be to raise a family these days. 

Between the all-consuming jobs, the school run, the seemingly never-ending list of errands, and after all those after-class activities our little loved ones are involved, we’re barely left with enough hours in the day to devote some quality time to our children, never mind anything else. 

Still, at least we’re not alone. Revealing the findings of a survey carried out in 2013, the Daily Mail reports that families were spending barely more than half an hour a week together as a result of the increasing pressures of modern life

In between all of that, we’ve still got to find at least some time to sit down and take care of the finances. Without being able to deal with those direct debits, to keep on top of the household expenditure, and to check those pay cheques are going in when they’re supposed to, any downtime we do get to spend with the kids is only going to spent worrying about the budget. 

Rising costs 
There’s a lot to worry about too. In a January 2015 article published in The Telegraph, the newspaper’s Social Affairs Editor John Bingham reports that the average cost of raising a child in Britain is somewhere in the region of £230,000 from birth until their 18th birthday. 

Multiply that by several children, and that’s an awful lot of money to keep track of over the years. Still, wouldn’t it be nice if we could actually spend less time managing our money effectively in order to give our children more than 30 minutes of our time over the course of a week?

Making life easier for the modern family
The banks themselves certainly think so. Throughout the last several years, both big brand players and the smaller-named banks alike have been taking huge strides towards introducing new features, new services and new ways of banking, all designed to make our lives a little easier. 

This includes efforts to data from all of those services together into one cross-platform approach to banking, a move Kallol Karmakar, Product Manager at financial software firm Misys, says is the best way for families like ours to get the best possible service from our bank when we need it the most. 

“Banking applications are complex and may consist of multiple back-end bank systems,” says Kallol. “...banks need to aggregate their data from across all these locations and present it coherently in one view.” 

Whilst most of the high street banks are still working on perfecting that approach, their efforts have at least resulted in a number of methods designed to take the hard work out of handling our finances, and ultimately give us more time with our loved ones. 

Which of these methods is likely to work out best for you and your family? That’s likely going to depend on your circumstances. 

Mobile banking 
With so many other things competing for our attention, banking can easily become one of those things that we simply run out of time to deal with, but it doesn’t have to be. More and more banks are releasing their own mobile and tablet apps, making it much easier to check balances and handle payments even when we’re on the move. 

You probably don’t need us to tell you that this is ideal for those occasions when you need to keep on top of the simple tasks whilst running the kids to and fro or handling all those countless errands. 

Internet banking 
We don't always have the time to pop into a branch or make those important phone calls during business hours, which can sometimes mean we miss out on the opportunity to really manage our money the way we'd like. 

This is when firing up the laptop and making the most of our bank's Internet site can really come in handy (this is the way I prefer). With everything available online, we can steal a few moments after the kids are tucked up in bed for the night to take care of those tasks that would otherwise have gone unfinished during the day. 

As parents, there’s enough that we’re left to figure out for ourselves without managing our finances being one of them, so it’s sometimes nice to have somebody sit down and go through things with us. Though getting the time to pop into a branch for a face-to-face chat with an advisor isn’t always the easiest thing in the world, it does certainly help when it comes to things like setting up savings funds for the kid’s university fees. 

Those aren’t the only options open to us of course. Telephone banking, using the small number of functions available through an ATM machines, and even using smart TVs to manage our accounts all offer their own benefits, though they perhaps don’t go quite so far in helping us to enjoy spending more quality time with our loved ones without worrying ourselves crazy over the family finances. 

Which method do you prefer?

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