Tips to Get Your Family Living on a Budget

Adhering to a budget takes discipline, especially when it involves the whole family. But it can help you reach your financial goals.

To maintain a family budget successfully, you must develop a specific financial goal, work together as a team, and sometimes splurge a little, says Brian J. O’Connor, author of The $1,000 Challenge: How One Family Slashed Its Budget Without Moving Under a Bridge or Living on Government Cheese.

Consider O’Connor’s best practices to streamline your family’s expenses and savings.

Devise a Strategy

To keep your family’s budget on track, O’Connor suggests creating a very specific savings goal and deadline because it can hold you accountable. He and his family set a goal to save $100 a week for ten weeks. Other objectives might include:

  • Increasing your emergency fund to $10,000 over the course of 18 months
  • Putting $50 a month into a college savings account for your children
  • Saving $4,000 for a family vacation

Determine how much money you need to put aside to reach your goal. If you want to start small, begin by saving 2 percent of your monthly income, O’Connor says.

Involve the Whole Family

Once you’ve developed a budget plan, divvy up the responsibilities including how to deal with expenses or find costs you can trim.

If you enjoy grocery shopping, take charge in reducing food costs. Plan grocery lists and meals around sales and coupons, buy pantry items in bulk, and buy fresh produce when it’s in season. Additionally, use leftovers for family lunches during the week. “It can be a huge savings, and you don’t miss it,” says O’Connor.

If your spouse is a strong negotiator, task him or her with comparison-shopping subscription services and optional utilities by inquiring about current deals with your service providers and their competitors. “Sometimes the tactic is, ‘Look I’m planning to cancel,’” O’Connor says. “Then the retention people are extremely motivated to keep you there.”

Don’t forget to include the kids. Discuss your budget goals with your children, and encourage them to take responsibility for costs. For example, you can consider forgoing a premium cable package to help save for a family vacation. “You might be surprised to find out what is really important to your kids or what they are willing to do,” O’Connor says.

Make Room for Splurges

While you’re working toward your family budget goals, plan for small splurges when meeting milestones within your larger financial goals. “You’ll go nuts without splurging once in a while,” O’Connor says. Within a reasonable expense, members of your family can trade off choosing a splurge each month or quarter to stay motivated over the long haul. Give your children a fun birthday splurge or celebrate the holidays in a special way to teach your family that living on a budget doesn’t mean complete elimination of spending. Instead, let them know that moderation is the key to budgeting and saving.


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