How to Budget for You and Your Family
April 22, 2019 | By Ana Elliot
Having a family is a joy. You've got your partner in crime and your progeny: who could as for more! Speaking of more, with a family, you definitely have more expenses. Saving money and keeping on top of all your spending can be particularly hard with a family. Kids, whatever their age, are an expense and your financial eyes are much bigger than your financial stomach. Balancing your family's needs with its wants can be difficult, especially if you hadn't learned how to balance your own wants and needs when you were younger and single. Well, if you've been struggling, perhaps we can help. Learning how to budget for your family well is really important and it's never too late to learn!
How to Budget for Your Family
Creating A Family Budget
So, step one, before you start slashing your spending, you need to sit down and create a budget. Well, the first step to creating a budget is understanding how much you make and spend a month. Figuring how much you make a month should be relatively straight forward. Combine your paychecks with that of your spouse's (if he or she works) and boom! You have your monthly income. If you do all your purchasing and payments on a card or online, then looking at your spending should be easy. If you dabble in cash, then you need to record your spending so you can see where all of your money is going.
Once you sit down and you look at how you regularly spend your money, you can start seeing where you are spending too much. There are always expenses you can't avoid. Rent/mortgage, health insurance, utilities--These bills aren't going anywhere but looking at how you outside of those non-negotiables. Are you spending too much money eating out? Too much movie going to the movies with the kids? Seeing where you spend too much and knowing how much you have to spend means you can start creating a budget. How much money do you want to save a month? Remove that from your income and set your budget around what is left over. Categories should include things like: Groceries, Restaurants, Entertainment, Kids, Pets; these categories will be informed by your most common spending brackets that you should have noted while looking at your normal monthly spending. If you need help figuring all this out, you should try budgeting apps like Mint or Wally.
What are your financial goals? Seriously. Think about it. What do you want to achieve and accomplish for your family? Is there a trip that you have all been dying to go on? Do you want to save for your children's college funds? A new car? A move? A meaty and substantial savings account for those hard times? Whatever your goals are, you should have a corresponding financial goal set up and planned into your budget. Put yourself on a timeline. If you want to go on a trip in two years, how much will it cost and how much do you have to set aside each month to get to that point? Breaking down your goals to what you want to put away each month will help make it more manageable.
Pay Off Your Debt
So, one way to get the most bang out of your budget bucks is to pay off your debts! Nothing keeps your savings from growing like constantly tackling your debt. Now, it's probably not possible to pay them all of right now. If that was possible, you probably would have done it already. The important thing to get down is a plan for your debt. Similar to making financial savings plans, you want to look at your debt, such as installment loans, and when you want it paid off. How much do you need to pay a month to get yourself out of the shackle of debt within a reasonable time? If you'd like more help with making a plan for your debt, check out this article from the Balance that has some more information.
Work on Your Food Budget
So, one place people and families end up over spending is on food. Cutting your food budget down can seem impossible but it isn't as hard as you would imagine. So, first off, let's discuss the unnecessary elephant in the room: how much you eat out. If you are eating out one to two times a week with a family, you are spending quite a bit of money.
Eating out is almost always more expensive than eating in and, often, unhealthier too! If you want better control of how much you are spending, cut out eating out. Well, maybe don't cut it out completely. Eating out once or twice a month isn't a bad thing but be mindful. Do it for a specific reason, and not just because you didn't feel like cooking or the kids pressured you into it. Save it for a date night or maybe a meal after a soccer game.
So, once you slash your eating out budget down to size, where else can you cut some of the fat off of your food budget? Well, to start with, are you throwing food away? Most Americans do. Whether it is left overs or fruit they thought they'd eat, food you throw away is money you are throwing away. Take stock of how much your family eats and how much you throw away and adjust your groceries accordingly. If your two kids only eat 2 bananas each a week, donÕt buy 6 bananas. Also, plan your meals for the week around your grocery stores weekly ad. Most grocery stores release an ad with all of their deals for the week: the bogos, the reduced prices, and all that jazz. If they've got chicken breasts and hamburger buns on sale, it might be the week for chicken pull apart sandwiches. Also, keep an eye out for the staples your family always eats. Don't buy rice when you've run out--odds are, youÕll be paying full price. AKA, more than you need to. If you see a good price or a BOGO on things your family is always eating, but it then. You'll save money and never have to worry about running out!
Make Sure You Are on Top of Taxes
Most people dread tax season but it's something that is happening the whole year with every paycheck. Make sure you are paying the least amount you need to. Uncle Sam doesn't need to take more from you than necessary. You can make sure you aren't over paying by taking a look at your filing status, make sure you are taking advantage of the child tax credit, keep up to date on the rules for claiming dependents, and catalogue all of your child care expenses.
Ultimately, Know What You Are Worth and What You Spend
The big lesson here is to actually pay attention to your spending. Having a budget made up is great but it wonÕt do any good if you aren't keeping on top of it and checking your spending or your app. Your goals won't happen unless you are going in and transferring money to the appropriate savings accounts every month. Stay on top of your money and don't let it get on top of you. Your family will thank you in the long run; Even if they are complaining about going out to eat less in the short term.