When you’re single and need to make a budget, it’s easy. You can write down your income, figure out your expenses and then tweak your future spending in order to aggressively pay off debt and increase savings—see? Simple!
But when you have a spouse and kids, you have other people’s priorities, expenses and needs to consider. This makes budgeting a bit harder. Here are seven tips that won’t just make your budgeting process more family friendly, it’ll make it more successful.
7 Family Budgeting Tips
- Make each member part of the process. Families are units and for a budget to work, the whole unit needs to be on board. This is also a great time to teach your kids about the value of money—and its limits.
- Have a mutual goal. Your kids may not understand the value of having a retirement fund or emergency savings, so figure out another goal that you can all embrace. Maybe it’s a short trip that you want to save for, a new toy, new school clothes or a new pet. Make sure they understand that the only way to realize that goal is to follow the budget.
- Be careful with your subcategories. The more people in your family, the more potentially unseen spending categories to consider. Call the kids in and discuss things like the possibility of school field trips, expenses for their after-school hobbies and so on.
- Make sure everyone understands what it means to be on a budget. You can easily start to overspend “a little bit” here and there, but as soon as you do, you are no longer on budget. Everyone in the family needs to understand that a budget is about setting limits, and the success of the budget is about respecting these limits.
- Discuss where to cut back. If your kids agree with you on specific areas to cut spending, it’ll be much easier to actually make the reductions happen.
- Make charts for goals. Create colorful charts on large poster boards that show how close you are each week to meeting savings and debt reduction goals. Make sure the whole family is there when you update the boards so they can see the progress you’re making and learn how incremental advancement adds up to make great change.
- Be firm. Ultimately, no matter how excited your kids are about the prospect of budgeting in order to save for something special, they could eventually lose interest. It’s up to you to keep them focused and on target.
Ultimately, the success of your budget will positively affect your family. It may be hard to get everyone on board and to be the disciplinarian who holds the budget line, but in the end, your family will thank you.