How To Stick to a Family Budget
By Amanda of The Naked Ledger who is contributing her financial wisdom to the Guide to Everything weekly
Photo by peasap
1. Set a worthy goal.
There is nothing more boring or painful than saving money simply for the sake of saving money. I know this because I’ve tried to do it myself countless number of times. Sure, I simply SHOULD save money for the future because technically I can (ANYONE can), but that goal is too nebulous to ever force me to put my plan into action. But stop buying fast food for a month and put that savings toward a trip to Italy? I AM SO THERE. The future goal has to be important enough to you and your family that you’re willing to make a sacrifice in the short term to get it. Pick a goal now. Ready, set, goal.
2. Start with ten percent.
Assuming you know where you’re money has been disappearing (if not, read last week’s column!) you might already know exactly where you should be cutting back. But if not, it’s good to start with ten percent. For example, if you added everything up last month and spent $600 on groceries, try spending ten percent less this month and put that $60 in your savings account. If you make small changes like this in multiple budget categories, the savings can really add up and the reduction in spending isn’t as noticeable or painful as you might think.
3. Leave the kids at home.
If you have the opportunity to shop WITHOUT YOUR CHILDREN, do not pass go, do not collect $200, go directly to the store. If you can wait until your spouse can watch the kids or go shopping on your lunch break, you will undoubtedly save money. Not to mention that when you don’t have feisty little ones hanging off you and begging you for every little thing (my kids beg me for candy every time we’re at the store even though I’ve broken down and bought it for them exactly NEVER), you might also find the time to stop and read trashy magazines in the checkout aisle, and therefore save money on that impulse US Weekly buy (score!).
4. Brush yourself off and start again.
Budgeting and dieting share many things in common, the worst of which is how easy it is to fall off the wagon. But just like with a diet, the worst thing you can do is to adopt an all or nothing attitude like, Well, I didn’t stick to my budget this week, so SCREW IT! I’m going to Sephora! We can all agree that attitude doesn’t help. What does help is to admit that sticking to a budget is hard and that your family is a work-in-progress. Brush yourself off and start again the next day. Don’t let bad spending habits snowball out of control, just forgive yourself the indiscretion and get back on track.
5. Shop less often.
I realize you’ve likely heard this before, but the fewer opportunities you take to spend money, the less you’ll spend. I never used to think I had a shopping problem until I noticed that our monthly credit card bill (the one we pay off every month!) varied in direct proportion to how busy I was at home with writing and work. The busier I am, the less we spend. Every day that I put off shopping because I just didn’t have time to get to the store was one less day that I spent money. So now I go out of my way to intentionally shop less often and find it significantly easier to stick to my budget. Simply keeping busy is saving my family over $200 a month. Italy here we come!
I’d love to read your comments about what helps keep your family on a budget.