Even if you have had no change in income in the past year now is a great time to take stock of the family finances.
Being prepared is never a bad thing and it is nice to know come what may could you live on less?
The first thing you want to do is create a family budget. Maybe you’re a family of one and maybe a family of five.
For singles, creating a budget is relatively easy. You tend to have a good handle on how much money is coming, and when tracking expenses, since you only have yourself to think about it’s a breeze.
But creating a family budget is a bit different.
As a family you may have multiple sources of income. And when there are multiple spenders, that makes things much more confusing. Even two people can create a mishmash of budget uh-ohs. This is one of the main reasons that families lack a formal budget. But having a budget and sticking to it can greatly improve a family's financial outlook.
- Take inventory of all incoming funds. If a certain source of income fluctuates from month to month, use the lowest amount or average it out.
- Keep track of all expenses for a month or so. Write down everything you spend. You may be surprised. Keep all of your receipts, and ask all family members to turn theirs in to you each day. Log them in.
- Add up your monthly expenses. Be sure to include bills, debt payments, groceries, and everyday expenses such as lunch money and transportation costs.
- Get the family together and discuss ways you can trim the budget. Getting input from other family members will help you determine which expenses are necessary and which ones could be cut down or eliminated. Maybe you or your spouse could start taking lunch to work instead of eating out, or maybe the kids can drop an extracurricular activity.
- In addition to individual expenses, discuss how you can cut down on the electric bill, groceries and other necessary family expenses. Consider such things as carpooling or taking public transportation, buying more generic foods and adjusting the thermostat.
- Estimate how much you can save on regular expenses, and cut the completely unnecessary items out of the budget. Then refigure it and see where you stand.
- If you end up with a surplus, allocate a portion of it to savings. If you're in the red, go back and rework the budget until you have more income than expenses.
Managing Your Household Finances – More information on putting together a family budget including a link to a Complete Budget Organizing program.