The Best Ways to Manage Family Budgets
No matter the size of your family, you’ll know how hard it can be to juggle family life and finances each month. Sometimes things run like clockwork, others times can be a struggle, but that’s the beauty of family living. You have to run with the good and the bad, but it can be a little more comfortable if you choose to take control of your household budget and start planning ahead. Getting the balance right can be a tricky task, especially if you want to give everyone the most you can but on a limited budget. Of course, you don’t have to break the bank when it comes to spending your hard-earned paycheck, so take a look at some of the ways you can create and manage a budget suited to your family needs.
Tracking your spending
One of the first things to do before setting your household budget is to track the spending you are already doing on a regular basis. This has to include everything you usually buy including general bills and the incidentals that can add up over the week. Making a note of each expense, no matter how small will give you the best view on where your money is going. It’s important to remember at this stage that you shouldn’t be giving yourself a hard time when you start to see the costs rack up. Everyone makes small buys here and there, and learning to control these is part of the goal. This will also help you to identify trends in spending and highlight any areas that can change. It might be something as simple as avoiding a particular coffee shop on the way to work or changing that takeaway once a week to a ‘fakeaway’ at home that will help to tip the budget scales in your favor.
Setting a budget
So you’ve tracked your spending over a period of time, and now it’s down to the hard part of setting a realistic budget. At this point, you don’t want to set yourself something that is totally unrealistic and hard to achieve, as you’ll just fall back into the spending habits again. When you look at setting a budget, you have to also take into consideration different times of the year and any special occasions that might crop up. Having some flexibility in your figures can help to plan for these costs and not spring any surprises on you last minute. When you set your goals, look for areas that you can cut back on and amounts you could possibly save with alternative lifestyle choices. Look out for overspending in areas such as grocery shopping, entertainment, and vacations. You could also check bills to see if you are getting the best deals on the market.
Get everyone onboard
If you’re really enthused about setting goals and getting more out of the household budget, it’s vital to get everyone in the same mindset. Educating every member of the house on why it is essential for you to cut back and save for a rainy day will help you achieve these goals more quickly and with less conflict. Kids can sometimes be resistant to change, especially if they’ve been enjoying certain luxuries around the house and getting them into a budget-friendly mindset may take some time. Taking control of the budget can be a hard job, particularly if you have resistance in the ranks, so getting everyone to buy into this idea will be easier for you in the long run. An excellent way to incentivize everyone is to give them a sense of the rewards they could get if you achieve your goals. A family vacation or new computer game could have them all focusing on the end result.
Short-term and long-term goals
Planning ahead can help you realise both short term and long term goals, which helps to plan and set budgets according to each requirement. Having separate pots will assist in keeping everything manageable, and you can efficiently monitor each stage you are at during the budgeting process. There are lots of tools to help with budgeting on a monthly and weekly basis, and this can bring goals in line and easily visible so you can tweak and improve as you move along. Long-term objectives will require some robust saving and willpower skills as it can be tempting to spend some of the cash that you are building up especially if it’s been sitting in an account for long periods of time. Noting down any emergency funds that are needed and planning for any improvements to your home can also help to keep tabs on big expenses. You could also consider splitting your paycheck into amounts and only giving yourself what you need for the month into a separate account so you can put the rest into your savings directly. That way you might not be tempted to dip into it unnecessarily.
Scheduling bill payments
Unfortunately, it’s a fact of life that you need to pay your bills on time. That said, if you have household bills coming out at different times of the month, it can be difficult to keep tabs on everything, which may end up in missed payments. To make sure this doesn’t happen, during your spending tracking stage, all bills and outgoings should be noted in date order. This way you can see what you have coming out and when. If everything is all over the place, then why not ring these vendors and agree on a date that is convenient for your budget? Many people opt for dates at the end or middle of the month, so it brings all outgoings together, meaning you will manage them better. Scheduling bill paying days will also help reduce any issues with missed payments and leave you with an improved view of your situation for the month or week ahead.
Do free things
Believe it or not, but there are tons of free or low-cost activities and attractions that you can do that will help keep your entertainment spending to a minimum. When you are on a budget, it can sometimes feel like you are being deprived of the things you like to do so taking the time to research all the free things will help you enjoy this process more. The choice available offers everything from picnics in the park to visiting national museums. There are lots of options for families of all sizes and ages too so both bigger kids and tiny tots will be entertained for hours. It’s important to have fun as a family, as tighter budgeting can feel like a draining process if you’re not looking at the end result. Of course, once you’ve reached your goal, you can also use some of the money to reward everyone with an amazing experience that will help to create cherished memories for the whole family.
Look back at your progress
A good way to feel great about tracking and monitoring your household budget is to re-evaluate the progress you are making as a family. This could be something as simple as seeing how much money you have saved over the past year or could be how much time you’ve spent together as a family as your spending habits have changed. You may have also encountered some setbacks on the path to better budgeting, and this is something that can also be learned from. Identifying each area and resolving those issues can help to bring the goals back on track. It may be that you also need to tweak the plan to accommodate changes in family situations. Areas such as having a baby or falling ill may make budgeting more difficult if incoming money into the household is limited. You will also have to adjust or completely re-do planners to fit in with lifestyle changes and family dynamics to get a better sense of where you could save on bills or general expenses in this period of adjustment. Don’t be disheartened if progress is slower than expected too, as this can have detrimental effects on how you carry on with your plans.
However large or small the growth is, you should always take stock of how far you’ve come especially when times have felt difficult. These little rewards will help to keep you motivated on the path ahead and make you feel good about keeping up with this new lifestyle.
Taking the time to budget for family bills and household expenses can help you achieve a range of goals for everyone in your home. Making small changes can have huge impacts, so start planning today for a better future.