How to Start a Family Budget

Piggy BankStarting a family budget can be a bit overwhelming.  You might not know where to start, what to include, or how to stick to it.  Here’s how to get started:

Why start a family budget?

Each family has their own reasons for starting a monthly budget.  Maybe you want to pay off some debt.  Maybe you want to save for a new car or a vacation.  Maybe you’re thinking of becoming a one-income family.  Or maybe you just want to gain a better understanding of where your money is going each month.  Whatever the reason, a simple monthly budget can be a wonderful tool.

Start by establishing a goal for your budget as a family.  This helps get the whole family involved and invested in making the budget work.  When my family started our budget, the goal was to pay off some debt and build our savings.  Having a tangible goal in mind can really help keep you focused when staying on the budget becomes hard in the months to come.

How do I start?

After you determined what your family’s goal will be, it’s time to sit down and create the budget.  Start by identifying your monthly income and expenses.  Don’t forget to include spending money for eating out, clothes, and entertainment.  Be sure to be realistic with the amounts you allocate for each expense.  Setting realistic goals for your family will help you succeed.

Put it in writing.

Visualizing the amount of money coming in and going out each month can be very helpful.  My family uses a modified version of the Dave Ramsey budgeting form.  You can make your budget as simple or advanced as you like.  Chose a form that best suits your family’s style and budgeting needs.

Be flexible.

A budget is simply a guideline for how you want your money to work for you; it should be flexible.  If you know you have extra expenses coming up one month, add those to the budget for that month.  You can offset those extra expenses by reducing the amount of money you had allocated to something else.  If you don’t spend all of your budgeted money one month, move that extra money into another category like spending or savings.

Don’t let set-backs discourage you.  Family Budget

Be mindful that the budget won’t be an overnight success and that you won’t stick to it every month.  We all know that things happen when we least expect them.  A car breaks down.  The electric bill is unusually high.  You’re not going be able to prepare for every expense.  But the more you control your regular expenses, the better equipped you will be to handle the unexpected ones.

Revisit the budget often. 

Once you start your budget, check in on it from time to time.  You might realize that each month you over or under-budgeted in a category.  Make whatever changes fit your needs throughout the year.  When your family meets its original budgeting goal, set a new one!  It’s your budget; make it work for you.

Budgeting doesn’t have to be scary or overwhelming.  In fact, once you get started you will realize how nice it is to see where your money is going.  The first few months can be a challenge but stay focused on your goal.  It will be worth it!

Happy budgeting!

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