A Busy Mom’s Guide to Organizing your Family Budget

Filed under: Uncategorized — Colleen at 9:59 am on Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Living within your means can be a challenge, especially when more than one person has access to the bank account.  How do stay on budget when you don’t always know what the other is spending?

I created this handout for a presentation at my Moms Club in September 2013.  I’m happy to report that my husband and I have stuck to this budget and it works!  In that time we have paid off several debts and even got to take a trip to Disney.   The Home  Budget app we use (shared below) has helped us finally get on track.  We love it so much, it frustrates when we think about all those years we weren’t keep a close eye on our daily spending.

Step 1: Determine your expected monthly income. How much income can you expect to make each month? Avoid including bonuses or commissions unless this is a typical form of income for you.

Step 2: Determine your guaranteed monthly expenses. Use a budget worksheet as a guide. Here is an example: http://frugalliving.about.com/library/pdfs/BudgetWorksheet.pdf Usually these expenses are mortgage payments, car payments, average energy costs, cell phone, minimum loan or credit card payments, etc. Don’t forget bills that may only be paid quarterly or annually. Assign those items a monthly amount. Also include a monthly savings goal (a percentage of your income) that you would like to save. If you tithe, this should also be included.

Step 3: Determine the expenses that fluctuate. Which line items from the budget worksheet are in constant flux? For us, it is groceries, gas, kids’ activities, clothing, personal care, co-pays, gifts, etc. Basically “everything else” that you spend money on that isn’t listed on Step 2.

Step 4: Determine how much of your money is already spent! Subtract the $ you get from Step 2 from Step 1. This is how much money you have left on a monthly basis for all your expenses that are in flux (from Step 3) that you have some control over. (Sure, it would be nice to have a budget for each of these line items. And it would be nice to have the time to track all of that. But wouldn’t also be nice to have time to take a shower? Or make a phone call without being interrupted. Or….)

Step 5: Communicate. This is the tough part. Sometimes the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing! This is especially true if you each have access to different “pots” of money. Daily or weekly meetings with your partner are essential to keeping on budget.

Some options:

  • Keep a running tally of your expenses on a wipe off board in home. Deduct expenses as you make them! (We did this for awhile. But sometimes I couldn’t remember if I remembered to deduct an item. And you don’t really get to see where you money is going, just that it is gone! So it does curtail your spending!)
  • Only use cash! Determine how much cash you can spend each week and keep to this budget. (I can’t stand the thought of paying cash for gas, figuring out how much to split up the money between me and the hubby, or not getting my Costco card rewards, so this just doesn’t work for me)
  • Use an app like House Budget (House Budget Lite is free for the first 20 transactions). You can easily record transactions as you spend money. The app works for multiple devices, so you partner can also update the money that is spent in real time! Upgrade to the full app for $4.99. (This is my current addiction. I love that I can quickly categorize my spending and that I now unfortunately know how much we spend on fast food/ restaurants last month! I love that my husband accesses it too!)
  • Have weekly meetings to discuss expenses. Keep tract of expenses using Quicken or a free program Mint.com. Mint.com also has an app that allows multiple devices. However, I have not yet tried this app yet.
  • Discuss limits for gift giving. Just because you always spent a certain amount for birthday gifts, doesn’t mean you need to continue to do so.
  • Include your children in the conversation. Teaching them that you also don’t always get to buy what you want is a lesson in money management. When your money is spent, it is gone, just like theirs.
  • Discuss together what to do if you go over budget for the month. Does the money come out of the next month? Does it come out of savings? Do you need to keep a balance on your credit card?

Step 6: Evaluate your spending. If you are struggling to stay on budget, evaluate your shopping habits. Ask yourself “Do I need it?” “Is there something else I have on hand that I could use instead?” “Do I need this now, or can I wait until next month?”

Also evaluate items that may feel like they are “set in stone”. Visit papowerswitch.com to see if you could save money with a cheaper electric company. This information is always changing, so check often. Contact your cable and phone companies to make sure that you are on the best plan for to meet your needs.

Step 7: Be creative! Figure out ways to stretch your dollar.

  • Use coupons. Couponmom.com is a great resource!
  • Have a date night using a Groupon or a gift certificate from Restaurant.com . Or just put the kids to bed early and plan a date night at home! Sushi take-out and a bottle of wine is a fraction of the price of hiring a babysitter and going out to eat! Or cook a special dinner at home.
  • Shop from your pantry! You’ll be amazed by what you can make with Ramon Noodles and stir fry veggies from Costco. Graham crackers and icing are a hit when we have no desserts in the house. And if you are really having a bad day, you can’t go wrong with chocolate chips and raisins or pretzels.
  • If you are low funds for the month and you run out of shampoo or soap, it’s a great time to use up your travel sized products!
  • Freeze your leftovers! Or double recipes and freeze half for later in the month.
  • Make your own pizza dough!
  • When you stock up on snacks, hide some of them from the kids so you can stretch them out over the month!
  • Collect all the coins in your house and cash them in (for FREE) at the CoinStar at Giant for a Giant gift card at their cash value.
  • Sign up for texting coupons with Redbox at http://www.redbox.com/textclub for cheap family movie nights!

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