How to Start Your Family on a Budget

When you have a family, you need to start budgeting for things you may not have had to when you were single, or when it was just you and your sweetie. If you’re starting a family, then you really need to start building a family budget because things are going to change, fast. Luckily for you, we’re going to break it down into several steps to make it easy to get started.

Keep it Simple

You don’t need a bunch of fancy programs and technology to figure out a budget. Get a pen and paper, open up Microsoft Excel, or get started with an extensive budget calculator.

Set up a Goal for the Month

What’s your goal each month? Yes, each month, because it can be anything. Do you just want some extra cash by the end of the month? That’s your goal. Are you saving for a home improvement project, want to start a college fund? That’s your goal. Whatever you choose, be sure to have a goal set.

Categorize the Expenses

By now you’ve probably already done this if you’re using the budget calculator up above, but to reiterate the point, categorize your expenses. Not just by things like “groceries, insurance, mortgage,” also separate them by their importance. What do you need to pay, what can you cut out?

Have some Breathing Room

Once you’ve factored in all of your expenses, necessary and unnecessary, don’t think you have all that left over money to spend. What if there’s an emergency, or your utility bill is higher than normal? Think of your highest electricity bill or the worst medical bill you had to pay, and factor that into the budget. Not necessarily to cripple your spending, but you should have some room to move around in case you need to make a sudden adjustment before the end of the month.

Cash vs Credit

Use cash whenever possible, and as you categorized your expenses, categorize your money. Make a few envelopes and label them “groceries,” “movies,” etc. This way not only do you have a monthly budget for managing money, but you set yourself a limit so you won’t accidentally go over your budget.

Get out of your Debt

Having a family can put you into debt if you’re not prepared. Plenty of families have debt at one point or another, and they usually manage to get out of it. Some do it with budgeting, some consolidate. Whatever choice you’re going to make to fix your debt problems and regain control over your personal finances, it’s a smart idea to go get some credit counseling from an agency that knows what they’re talking about.

Learn to Adapt

As mentioned above, you’re going to want to have some breathing room for unexpected expenses. You’re going to also learn how to adapt to factor in these new expenses. Plan ahead for expenses that may be unforeseen, build an emergency fund (more on this below), or just adjust your budget when things come to pass. For instance, your kid might need braces and you find out about this halfway through the month. If you can adapt, no problem—just factor it into next month’s or this month’s budget, crunch some numbers, and figure out a way to make it work.

Emergency Fund

It’s been mentioned a few times in this article, emergencies happen. Instead of being caught off guard, build an emergency fund. Remember that goal we discussed above? Maybe this can be one of your goals; put a little money aside every month to help pay for expenses incurred in case of an emergency. Let’s not get into the details of an emergency involving your family, just know life is unpredictable and it’s better to be prepared than to go into debt.

Teach Your Kids about Money Early

The earlier you teach your kids about money, the earlier they’ll learn to appreciate the value of a dollar. If they’re too young, it’s understandable, but once they’re of age, start talking to your kids about money and how money works. This will help you with keeping expenses under control and will benefit them in the future.

Now that wasn’t painful was it? In 9 easy steps, you’ve learned how to build a family budget.

Image thanks to Tax Credits on Flickr.

This is a guest post by Elaine McPartland.

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