Trying to cut corners on your household spending? Trimming your finances should be a full-family affair. Desiree Fawn, owner of SoFawned.com, shares her top tips for family-wide savings in this special guest post.
How To Make Your Family Budget Work!
We’ve all sat down at one time or another to draft out some sort of a budget for our family, right? We always have fantastic intentions as we put together lists of our expenses and income, and at the end of it we feel triumphant, eager, and absolutely certain that we’re going to make it work. However, life gets in the way: you forget to document a few expenses, you overspend, your spouse isn’t 100 per cent sure how to work within the budget and pretty soon you’re back to square one – frustrated with your family finances and wondering what went wrong.
A budget is a lot like a diet. You can have the best intentions to follow it and stick it out, but it only works if you ACTUALLY do it. Seems simple, but it can be tricky! Today I’m going to share a few tips on making your family budget work for you… and your family, of course!
Keep It Simple
Honestly. You don’t have to invest in heavy duty budgeting or financial management software to create an effective budget. A Google Drive spreadsheet or a pen-and-paper document you keep in a binder where the family can access it works perfectly! Make it easy to read, simple to follow, and as uncomplicated as possible. No one should have to struggle to make sense (or cents!) of it all!
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Don’t Leave Anything Out
While your budget should be simple, it should be inclusive. Be sure to have categories for not only your income and regular expenses (mortgage, rent, car payment, monthly bills, etc.) but also your irregular expenses such as gifts, holiday spending, and medical. I am of the school of thought that EVERY bit of your income should fit into a category – from bills, to daily expenses, and beyond. If there’s any income left over after all of your expenses have been accounted for, that money goes into your savings category, which can be further subcategorized if desired. For example, I have a savings category set aside just for Christmas so that I’m saving all year long. Same goes for car repairs!
Your Budget Isn’t Written In Stone
This doesn’t mean you don’t have to follow it, of course, just that it will change – often by the month! Maybe you’ve started a new job, moved to a new home, or paid off a small debt – your expenses and incomes may be constantly changing and so your budget should account for this fluidity. Adapt your budget each month to reflect the changes and shift your spending accordingly. No family has a budget that stays static every single month, so don’t expect yours to. You just have to work with the changes and embrace them!
Define Your Goals
What is your family hoping to save for? Perhaps you dream of buying a house, taking your family on an overseas adventure, helping your kids graduate from university debt-free, or maybe you want to pay off that credit card debt! If you write out your goals, you’ll find it much easier to muster the discipline to make it happen.
Try this: Write out each family saving goal AND the reasons why it would be wonderful to achieve it! Picture how your life will look when you’ve reached each goal – how’s that for motivation?
All Together Now!
The family that plans together, saves together. Find a time to sit down with your family to go over each aspect of your budget, from creation and implementation. Let everyone get
involved! You can’t expect anyone to follow a budget they don’t understand, so don’t let the process be completely from start to finish by only one member of the family. If you’re all on the same page when it comes to spending and saving, you’re already one step closer to your goals!
There’s no sense in creating a budget if no one is going to track their spending! Making sure that the budget is accessible to your family (parents can share a document via Google Drive or in Dropbox very easily!) means that you can update it anytime and keep an eye on where you need to make changes. If you want to get more automated, try a budgeting software that won’t break the bank. I use You Need A Budget to track my budget and spending each month.
You can also use your Google Drive spreadsheet to input your spending in each category to track it over time, or keep pages in a budget binder at home that you can add to as you perfect your budgeting strategy.
The Adjustment Phase
To begin, your budget may not work out the way you’d hoped. Give it time. You might find you’ve been unrealistic about how much you spend eating at restaurants, visiting coffee shops (this is an entire category in my budget!) or entertainment. Your first few months are your adjustment phase and you can rest easy knowing that it’s perfectly fine to do a lot of budget tweaking during this time.
This is a great opportunity to trim the fat from your budgeting. For instance, if you KNOW your family is eating out too much, make your budget smaller in this area and let your budget force you to cook meals together at home. Dig through your spending habits and find the places where you can trim away needless spending.
Talk to your family about the things you can all give up in order to save your hard earned money. Try library memberships instead of magazine subscriptions, walking instead of driving, or hosting a clothing swap instead of buying brand new clothes!
You Don’t Have To Go It Alone!
There will be hiccoughs and whoopsies as you work on your family budget, but your ultimate goal here is to never give up. Money and budgeting doesn’t have to be such a taboo topic, so get chatting with neighbours or friends about how they make their family budgets work! You may just be surprised at what they tell you. Get help, help each other, and work together to reach your goals. You can do it!
I hope some of these ideas will help you on your way to reaching your family’s financial
goals! Just remember, budgeting doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sounds – get the family involved and be confident that you can make it work!
About the Author: Desiree Fawn
Desiree Fawn is a freelance writer and blogger who lives in Ontario with her partner, her daughter, and a Boston Terrier named Winston. She writes about family life, travel, and more at SoFawned.com and is the founder of sheblogsforyou.com, a website offering small business blogging and social media solutions. Follow @sofawned.