Creating an effective budget that lasts can be a challenge. Let's face it. Budgets can be exhausting and intimidating and they require a lot of attention. Much like our kids.
The big difference? Budgets won't tell you they're hungry, tired or need to go the bathroom. They won't poke at you while you're trying to have a conversation on the phone. Budgets don't ask for attention.
But that doesn't mean a budget isn't an important part of the family. In fact, a budget is an essential component of a family's healthy financial plan.
Don't give up on your budget. Reap the rewards:
- Achieve your goals
- Improve financial communication in your marriage
- Get control of your finances and tell your money where to go
You can find contentment on any income and you will be well served to live on a budget. Your budget is the rock upon which your financial life is built. Think of it as your foundation. It's your plan for spontaneity. Your plan for the unplanned financial roller coaster life hands you. It will help you cope with financial problems.
And, an effective and efficient budget will take you only one to two hours a month to manage.
Here are the initial steps to create a budget. It's a process, but the good news is there's no such thing as a failed budget. This is your pathway to financial success, so never give up:
Step 1: Write down your financial goals.
Having goals is essential to tracking your progress.
Maybe your goals include debt freedom, building savings, or giving extravagantly. Whatever they are, take the time to think about your short term and long term goals. Write them down. These are your financial motivators.
Step 2: Record every single purchase you make, without exception.
Think of this as your budget prep.
No dollar should escape accountability. Record every dollar that leaves your pocket. Underestimating your spending is one of the greatest budgeting blunders. Knowing your spending habits will put you on the right track.
Step 3: Create your spending categories.
Here is where you will give your dollars purpose.
In addition to the obvious categories, list all larger non-monthly expenses (life insurance, birthdays, car repairs). Think of those big things that happen that you can plan for financially (property taxes, holidays, car insurance).
Don't forget a "fun money" category or miscellaneous. You need to give yourself some breathing room.
Step 4: Hold a budget meeting (yes, with your spouse).
Budgeting is a meeting of the minds. It's about healthy negotiation, compromise and respect. Here is where you will agree on how many dollars should be allocated to each of the spending categories.
This meeting should be short (and friendly).
Step 5: Schedule time to create your budget.
Determine the budget method and tools you will use and start your budget.
Think about your personality.You can use pencil and paper, software, envelopes, dry erase board, whatever. Just make it user friendly and, preferably, cheap.
Step 6: Tweak your budget at the beginning of every month.
Be adaptable and flexible. Budgeting should be a life long habit. Don't quit.
Live within your means with the help of your budget. You're sure to find financial peace of mind.
Family Budget Checklist
Save this to do list and check off the items as you go. For items 3-6, schedule time on your calendar (right now!) to stay on task.
- Write down your financial goals
- Record every purchase you make
- Create your spending categories
- Hold a budget meeting with your spouse
- Schedule time to create your budget
- Tweak your budget at the beginning of every month
See more shopping and to do lists in the Cozi List Library.