There’s no denying that the littlest ones in our lives can come with some of the biggest expenses. Before you had kids you probably enjoyed expensive dinners out and regular overseas holidays. Then you find yourself living on one income and it feels like you’re struggling to get ahead.
Many parents struggle with the transition from the lifestyle they once enjoyed. Like anything to do with having kids, this is a major adjustment and it will take time.
But with a few simple budget planning tips, you can still enjoy the things you love even as your family grows.
Why you should have a family budget?
As parents, we constantly worry about our children. Wanting to be able to care for them and protect them as best we can. Being financially secure is a huge part of this.
Creating (and sticking with) a budget will ensure you have enough money to cover basic needs. Things such as a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs and food in their bellies.
As they grow and their needs change it can often seem neverending. Just when you relax they go and have a growth spurt and need new clothes and shoes.
And then there are the big-ticket items, such as a new bed when they transition from their cot.
These are all expenses that can take us by surprise if we’re not organised.
We also want to be able to give our children joy and experiences such as travel and adventure. So by creating a family budget you can work towards having enough to give them these things as well.
9 tips for managing your family finance
1. Track your spending
Create a list or spreadsheet which will help you outline all your outgoing costs across a month. You can also use a family budget planner (there are loads of free ones online).
Typically, you will have two expense categories. Fixed expenses that occur every month (or quarter) and variable expenses that may not occur every month.
Fixed expenses might include (but not limited to) things such as:
- Mortgages or rent
- School fees
- Credit cards and personal loans
- Petrol and/or public transport
- Food and general living expenses
Some examples of variable expenses may include:
- Medical expenses
- Clothing and grooming expenses
- Gym memberships/sport registration or equipment
2. Review your spending
Once you have a clear idea of your family’s financial outgoings it’s time to review it. Look for any red flags or any areas where you are spending too much.
Compare your total outgoings against total income and see where you land? Are you spending more than you are making? If so, it’s time to make some changes.
3. Set a financial goal
With children and families, unexpected expenses are all too common. Ensuring you have a savings buffer to cover anything that comes up is important. Once you have a clear idea of what state your finances are in you can make plans and set some goals.
If you are in debt your first goal should be focused on reducing that debt as quickly as you can. You may not be able to pay off that debt immediately but putting a plan in place to work towards that is important.
Once you have worked that debt down you can then think about setting other goals. Things like saving for a new house, new car, holiday or for a rainy day.
4. Set a family budget – and stick to it
Once you have all your incomings and outgoings accounted for it’s time to lock in a family budget – and stick with it.
You can find free budget templates online or use a spreadsheet you create yourself – or even good old pen and paper. Whatever works best for you.
Remember, the most important part of a budget is sticking to it.
5. Be honest with yourself
When it comes to doing a budget the only way it works is if you stick with it and are truly honest with yourself. If you’re letting little expenses here or there go by, they all add up.
Account for every expense no matter how small.
Try and keep receipts for things paid for with cash so you can enter them into your budget later. Even your daily coffee adds up – $4 a day is $28 a week and around $120 a month.
6. Add ‘contingency expenses’ as their own category
Create a separate category in your budget for those unexpected costs and expenses that arise. This will ensure you don’t have to dip into your savings when something comes up.
Contribute to this each month, even if it’s only a small amount. That way you can still see your savings grow and know that it will be spent on things you enjoy or want.
7. Look at ways to reduce costs
One of the biggest expenses for families can be the weekly grocery bill. With lots of hungry mouths to feed this expense can get out of hand very quick. Spend some time each week planning meals and snacks and making a shopping list before you go. Batch cooking meals, taking leftovers for lunches and buying things on special can all add up.
Look at any other areas where your spending could be tightened up.
8. Set aside a time each week/month to review it
Make time to sit down and go over how you are tracking with your spending. Are you still overspending or not where you hoped you would be? Have a look at ways you can get back on track or where you can further reduce costs.
Also, address how you’re managing to stick to your family budget? If you’ve only given yourself $100 for groceries each week and this isn’t possible you might need to rework it.
9. Brainstorm ways to generate more income
If you’re sticking to the family budget each month and still feeling the pinch you may think about ways to bring in extra income.
Working more hours isn’t always possible with kids (because that usually leads to more daycare costs). But these days there are other ways to make money.
Can you sell that old bike that never gets used, or perhaps turn a hobby into a side-hustle? Could you work on something at home at night after the kids go to bed?
Sometimes you might not earn extra money but you may get household products to review or discounts.
For a few years, your hip pocket might take a hit while you are living on a reduced income and getting used to your new life with little ones.
But with a family budget, careful planning and a little conscious spending, you will be able to save for the things you enjoy.
Remember that babies and young children need very little in those early years. They don’t need designer brands or the latest products posted all over social media. Kids have a wonderful way of finding joy in the simplest of things. Beach days and camping trips are the things they’ll remember not the shoes they wore or the car you drive.
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