Given the weakness of the current world economy, it has become more important than ever for families to adopt a workable family budget. Without such a plan in place, it can be too easy to mindlessly spend all of your income without any clear sense of where the money went, thereby preventing yourself from saving for important goals for your family.
The first step that you need to take to develop a family budget is to determine your monthly income. If you have your recent pay stubs available, this should be an easy step to take. The more difficult step, one than many people don’t like to take, is to track your spending habits so that you can get an accurate picture of your expenditures. For families that do not have a budget in place, this practice can be very revealing. For one month, document everything you buy, no matter how trivial it may seem. For every purchase, mark the item in an appropriate category, such as food, transportation or entertainment.
At the end of the month, add everything up in order to get a broad view of your family’s spending patterns. In addition, break up that spending into discretionary and non-discretionary spending. It will be far easier to reduce your costs in discretionary spending since, by definition, they are not necessary expenditures.
Once you determine your spending patters, you can now develop a new strategy to allocate your money. To perform this step, it is important to consider your plans for the future. There are many goals that may require a considerable amount of money, including the purchase of a new house, a college education for your children or a comfortable retirement.
Whatever your ultimate goals may be, it is important to start saving for them now. Once you have saved for these goals, set aside money for your important non-discretionary expenditures. These are things that are necessary for your everyday life like your mortgage payment or your grocery bills. Since you have been tracking your spending, you should have a good idea of what these things cost.
Finally, you can move to your discretionary expenditures, such as the cost of vacations or eating out. Since these expenditures can often bring you the most amount of enjoyment, there is no reason to eliminate them entirely. However, you should think carefully about how you spend money in this category so that you don’t mindless blow through your money without any clear since of what it gave you.
Family budgeting may seem like an overwhelming task, but its basics are really quite simple. Ultimately, all you are doing is tracking your income and expenditures in such a way that you are able to live a comfortable life while saving for the future. Since you have worked hard for money, it is important to spend it as intelligently as possible.