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How to beat the recession

ADVICE: Tokie Laotan-Brown

THERE'S NO doubt that many families have found 2013 a tough year.

Frozen or falling wages, rising bills, and cuts to benefits mean that many are struggling to meet basic living costs and balance their budgets.

According to a recent research from Barclays Your Bank, an initiative that encourages customers to share their ideas for better banking, more than 80 per cent of parents are worried about their family finances and whether they can afford to pay for everything over the next 12 months.

ESCALATE

And as the festive season approaches, the effects of the recession on families are likely to escalate.

Now, one person who has faced her own struggles to make ends meet and provide for her family has written a book about her experiences in a bid to help other families.

Ireland-based author and mother-of-three, Tokie Laotan-Brown, says she wrote Recession buster: 10 Steps to managing your household budget for families and individuals who are keen to make their money go further. 

Laotan-Brown grew up in Germany, and moved to Ireland in 2000 with her family. During her professional career, she has worked in property management and is well used to handling large amounts of money.

However, it was when her husband decided to give up a well paid prestigious job to become a chef shortly after moving to Ireland that her interest in household budgeting really began.

“Around 2004, my husband decided he wanted to quit IT and become a chef so panic set,” she recalls. “I thought ‘how are we going to manage with money? How are we going to survive?’ Before he got a job as a chef, he had to survive on social welfare payments while he went back to college. So from there, we had to manage the amount of money coming in. We were moving from a very high income to something really low but I had to make it work.”

Laotan-Brown set herself the task of drawing up a strict budget and supplemented her family’s income with earnings from a number of small ventures, including cooking for people in the community as well as hairdressing.


BUDGET TIPS: Laotan-Brown hopes to help families with her new book

Later that year, after standing as a candidate in the local council elections in Galway, she got a job with Galway Council, working on housing projects. The job brought her into contact with many families who were all finding it hard to manage their finances.

“The families I worked with and even my extended family were all saying the same thing, they were struggling with bills,” she says. “They always wondered why I never complained about my bills. And I would say I have a system I use that works. I would always say you have to prepare for these bills but they never understood what I was talking about. I’ve sat down with many families and looked at their finances and said ‘Oh you could do this or do that. ’ I did it so many times that one friend said ‘Ok why don’t you just write a book?’

GOALS

The book has 10 chapters that outline each of the 10 steps such as working out your budget, setting financial goals and dealing with debt.

And it’s the debt issue that has resonated with a lot of her readers so far.

Laotan-Brown understands the impulse that many have to bury their heads in the sand when demanding notices drop through the letterbox. However, she says this is not the way to deal with the issue.

“Initially, we all get shocked that this is happening, we all have that panic attack,” she says. “However I find that it’s best to take charge and call creditors first before they write the letters. You tell them ‘this is the situation, this is how I want to deal with it, are you willing to accept my plan to deal with it?’ And usually, they are very happy because you are saving them money because they don’t have to write or call you or deal with the debt collectors.”

One chapter of the book that has raised eyebrows is on ‘How to deal with a spendthrift partner’ where she recommends giving the less financially responsible half of the couple a pocket money allowance. Isn’t that likely to cause more arguments than it resolves?

She laughs. “My methods could cause arguments” she admitted. Anything to do with money will always bring arguments but it’s finding a way out of it that matters.

“My husband and I have had our issues over money. He just loves to go out and buy stuff and each time he reads this chapter, he says ‘yes I know this is me’ but there first has to be an understanding that this is just who the person is. The next step is acknowledging that you need a budget and acknowledging that something needs to change if everybody’s going to be happy.”

Recession buster: 10 Steps to managing your household budget by Tokie Laotan-Brown is available from Amazon

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