Families need their money to work for them, rather than it feeling like a struggle to stay afloat every month.
That’s where a budget comes into play. But how can you create one, and what do you have to do to stick to it?
Set down your income and outgoings
First things first, you need to look at how much money is coming in month by month, and how much you are paying out on everyday expenses.
Taking your household income and subtracting what you spend is the foundation of every budget. And more often than not, it will reveal some surprising things. Using a budget worksheet template will make this easier.
Break down your spending
Next, you need to drill down into your outgoings and explore what areas are eating into your income more than others.
This is the best way to find waste is to look at your spending and identify items that aren’t benefiting you in any way. This could be a subscription that you’ve forgotten to council, or a gym membership you no longer use.
Only when you know what you’re spending can you start to make positive changes to your personal finances.
Look at areas where you could reduce costs, e.g. car insurance
There are some expenses that are unavoidable, but that doesn’t mean they should be allowed to run rampant.
For example, if you can see that car insurance is monopolizing a large chunk of your income, it’s a good idea to use a site like Cheapinsurnace.com to compare quotes from reputable providers and get a better deal.
The same strategy will work for other bills, including utilities. You could even consider switching to a more affordable grocery outlet if your household food costs are demolishing a decent slice of your budget.
Set up an automated rainy day fund
There’s nothing worse than finding you need to pay for something in an emergency, only to realize that you don’t have enough cash in your account to cover the cost.
That’s where automating your savings makes sense. It means you won’t need to remember to transfer money from your main account after payday arrives, and it will leave you with a pot of money that you can dip into when disaster strikes, whether that’s an unexpected auto repair or property maintenance.
Speak with other members of the household about your budget
If only one person in the family is taking charge of the money matters, then it’s easy for conflicts to arise, and for nasty surprises to emerge further down the line.
It’s much better to involve your partner, and even your children, in the budgeting process, so that everyone’s on the same page about your income, your expenses and what this means for the amount you’ve got left over for leisure activities.
Even if you’re the main breadwinner, you shouldn’t feel like it’s your duty to shoulder the burden of balancing the budget, or sticking to it, alone. Give everyone a stake in this, make it part of family bonding, and it will pay dividends in the long run.
Regularly review your budget
Budget-building is not a one-time thing, but rather a process you need to repeat regularly. Quarterly or annual checkups can be instrumental in letting you know how your household finances are holding up.
Prioritize saving over borrowing
For those big purchases, there’s always a temptation to take advantage of a loan or use a credit card to accelerate your access to that item you’ve been thinking about.
The issue with this is that it’s not necessarily the most flexible approach to take. If you instead choose to save towards a particular goal, you’ll then have a pot of cash that’s ready to use as you see fit whenever you need it, rather than being beholden to the same repayments month after month. When it comes to your household finances, having a little patience will go a long way.
Uncouple yourself from sources of spending temptation
Another way to make sure that you actually stick to the budget you set out is to remove as much temptation from the equation as possible.
For example, something as simple as going to the grocery store when hungry can lead to you over-spending on food items, whereas if you took the trip with a full stomach you wouldn’t be swayed by unnecessary purchases.
You could even think about the impact that advertising has on your spending habits. Sticking to subscription streaming services that are ad-free is arguably better than watching broadcast TV for this reason.
Creating and maintaining a family budget is not always a walk in the park, but it’s better than the alternative. You can avoid sleepless nights worrying about money if you take the reins and wrangle it yourself, rather than letting it run wild.