For some people, the mere mention of the word “budget” is cringe-worthy. There can be many reasons for this. Some people prefer not to live within the constraints of a budget and would rather “wing it.” Others feel that budgeting is futile when there is never enough money to work with.
No matter which side of the fence you fall on, keeping track of expenses can be tricky when you have a family. But if you avoid budgeting, your family could experience a lot more financial hardship than necessary. So here are some tips for creating a monthly budget that is realistic enough to help you save money yet flexible enough to adapt to your changing needs.
Develop a New Perspective on Budgeting
Although most people think of budgets as rigid and restrictive, budgeting doesn’t have to be that way at all. While some folks might consider it fun to spend frivolously with no limits, a little bit of budgeting can actually help you save a lot of money by making sure that you don’t spend more than you can afford.
Remember, this is your budget, and you can structure it any way you want! There are dozens of methods when it comes to creating a budget. Some people like to use smartphone apps like Mint, You Need a Budget (YNAB), or Mvelopes. Just search for the best free budgeting apps and go from there. You can go with any budgeting setup that works for your family. Just make sure it’s easy to use. Some apps make budgeting into a sort of game, so you might find you even enjoy it after a while!
Prepare To Change a Few Habits
Creating a budget means you’ll need to examine what your current spending looks like. If you have significant recurring expenses such as mortgages, car loans, and childcare expenses, these will obviously be a priority. You may need to forego the expensive coffee every morning and start making it at home, or that new pair of shoes might have to wait. Be prepared to change your spending habits and prioritize what is most important. You can live without a pricey latte, but being late on your mortgage or monthly rent can have devastating effects on your family.
Your lifestyle might need to change a bit when you create a budget. However, if you embark on budgeting with the right attitude, it won’t be as painful to make a few cuts here and there.
Focus On Sustainable Spending
Instead of looking for ways to save money in the short term, focus your energy on long-term spending. For example, instead of trying to cut out all restaurants and entertainment for a month or two, look for ways to decrease recurring expenses such as groceries by buying in bulk and planning meals ahead of time.
The same goes for buying certain needed items. For example, if you need a new pair of running shoes, it may be better over the long haul to get high-quality shoes that cost a little more than a cheap pair that will need to be replaced in six months.
Save What You Can
If you’re struggling with bills, it’s hard to imagine trying to build up your savings account. And truthfully, if the monthly interest on revolving loans or credit card bills is keeping you in the hole, it makes more sense to pay off debt first.
However, it would be best if you still tried to save a little bit for emergencies. You don’t need to go overboard—even a few dollars a week can help. The idea is to give you a small cushion to provide you with some peace of mind. If something unexpected comes up—like a car repair or dental emergency, it can blow your whole budget and put you back to square one. Having a little bit set aside can make a difficult situation much less stressful.
If saving seems impossible with your current income level, consider picking up a side gig and depositing what you earn in a savings account. This way, the extra cash is not coming from a budget that is already stretched too thin. Paid online surveys are an excellent opportunity to earn some spare cash. Plus, you can do them anytime and anywhere, so surveys fit into even the busiest family schedule.
Think About Your Goals
When you start budgeting, it’s essential to look at your family’s future. For example, if one of your goals is to send your child to a private school or college, you should set aside money regularly for that goal instead of just hoping for the best when the time comes to apply.
The same applies to other goals. Perhaps you and your partner want to buy a house someday. That will take excellent credit and a decent amount of savings. Looking at your long-term goals can make day-to-day financial sacrifices a whole lot easier.
Consider Your Family’s Priorities
It’s easy to get distracted by what you see around you: a friend or family member who has a fancy car and lives in a desirable neighborhood, for example. But when it comes time to budget your money, it’s important to consider your family’s priorities instead of attempting to live up to other people’s expectations of what you should do with your money.
Ask yourself what’s important to your family and plan your budget around that instead of worrying about what other people think. Keeping up with another’s idea of success is not helpful. Instead, measure your success by your own standards.
Get the Kids Involved
Who said that kids should not be involved in the family’s finances? Your children’s earliest interactions with money will come from you, after all. You can turn it into a learning experience that will stay with them throughout their lives.
Involving your kids in conversations about budgeting will help them see they are valued family members. Let your child see how much cash you have each week for groceries, for example, and have them help you choose what goes in the cart. If they see $100 and how much (or how little) it buys, they will begin to understand the concepts of spending and saving.
Keep Track of Your Progress
Finally, it’s essential to check in on your family’s progress every once in a while so that you can see how much money you actually have left over at the end of the month. Whether you use an app or just a spreadsheet, keeping track of your financial situation can help you improve your budget and make sure that you don’t run out of money before the month is over.
If you take these tips into account when creating a family budget, your family can save a lot of money and still have fun. In fact, with careful planning and attention to detail, you can live within your means and still enjoy your life—no matter how much or how little you have to work with.