If you’re the breadwinner, you’re likely very well aware of the financial challenges of raising a family.
From staying on top of bills to keeping your kids healthy and happy, there’s a constant push-and-pull of financial responsibilities that requires constant analysis on your part to resolve.
In some cases, it can feel all too easy to just buckle down and fall behind financially.
However, formulating a foolproof family budgeting strategy is indeed a possibility, regardless of how your finances currently stand at present.
This can come in various forms, from cutting down on unnecessary costs to using tools to help break down your household’s cash flow.
Here are some tools and tips to help you manage your household finances more effectively.
1. Track your budget
If you don’t have a budget tracker for your household, prioritize creating one as soon as you can.
A financial tracker is one of the easiest ways to get a good look at your finances, whether it’s your income or bills. This is not only useful in a corporate-level setting, but it’s also helpful for households in monitoring their cash movements.
Some trackers even enable users to create financial ratios to help provide them with a clearer picture of their financial standing.
For instance, some trackers have an emergency fund ratio, a ratio that measures how easy it is for liquid assets to be converted to cash in a pinch.
There’s also a savings rate, which is a percentage of how much money you saved over how much you spent on a given period, typically a month.
More often than not, budget trackers are used for the simple stuff, namely, inputting your income and expenses. Forming a habit of updating your budget helps keep you mindful of your spending patterns, which can help you make more informed decisions for future spending.
2. Utilise digital tools
Technology has seeped its way into every corner of daily life, and in the realm of financial tracking, this is no different.
In fact, many software tools and applications today can streamline the budgeting and tracking process, turning what may be minutes or hours of mind-numbing work into mere seconds of computerized processing.
This calculator from Westpac is one such tool, among many other budget calculators, that can help you crunch data and project how much money you’ll need before you reach a financial benchmark.
Furthermore, some tools can help keep you informed and notified about any issues related to your finances. For instance, some apps can remind you when your latest bills are due. Other apps can also provide an easy-to-read graph of your expense breakdown.
Budgeting is a comprehensive activity that involves a lot of moving parts. There’s bound to be a digital app or extension that helps make that one budgeting process much easier and more approachable. Some good budgeting apps to help start you off include Mint, YNAB, and Quicken.
3. Set budget goals
Every family has different budget goals that set them apart. Some families may be saving up for a new car, while other families are saving up to buy a new house. A few households may not have such grand purchases in mind and would rather climb out of a hole of debt.
Having a goal is important because it gives you a target to aim for. The presence of this goal allows you to reverse engineer your decisions and strategize your financial behavior to actualize that goal.
If the financial goal seems like a far-off fantasy, you can start breaking it down into smaller and more achievable chunks. You can establish figure-related milestones, like saving a certain amount each month or lowering your weekly expenditures.
By having these short-term goals, you can find it easier to track your progress and adjust your purchase behaviour accordingly.
4. Pay off your debts immediately
Financial management isn’t only about saving money and boosting your income—it also requires proper debt management.
Debt, on its own, isn’t inherently bad. If you can guarantee that you can pay it on time, then having this infusion of funds in your hands can be used to pay off bills and other critical expenses.
That said, having unpaid debt can be disastrous for your financial health. For instance, unpaid credit card and loan dues can incur high interest rates over time. Some loan types may also require borrowers to pay late fees for delayed payments.
These can all add up, especially if you let the debt run for multiple months. So as soon as you earn income or receive money, be sure to pay off these debts immediately, starting with the debts that have been around the longest.
5. Uphold family financial values
Family financial management is a team effort. You don’t want to be the only one restricting your spending while your spouse and/or children splurge for whatever they want, especially if they’re dependent on your income.
As such, you should teach your kid key financial values as early as possible. Teach them the scarcity of money, the value of money, the importance of saving, the importance of holding off from wants, and other healthy money habits.
You should also communicate finances with your spouse honestly and openly. Being on the same page is important for not just your financial health, but also your relationship at large.
This can promote harmony and stability within the family unit, as well as foster the right foundation for proper money management.
6. Minimise unnecessary spending
It’s crucial for all members of the family to commit to lowering their spending. Living below your means can seem tough, but it can be approached in several ways.
For instance, instead of buying lunch in the cafeteria or at restaurants, just prepare a packed lunch from home. Also, avoid buying random snacks and drinks throughout the day.
You should also look into your monthly subscriptions and see if there are any monthly payments you’re making that aren’t being used. Cancel these unused subscriptions, and urge your family to do the same.
Furthermore, find ways you can lower your expenditure by buying things at lower rates. You can use discounts, coupons, and vouchers to lower the cost of products and services that you and your family need.
Being proactive and scouring for these discounts through email newsletters or partnered websites can be a good way to score a good deal.
7. Be flexible
Here’s a cold, hard truth: things will never always go as planned. Emergencies can and often will happen, and many of these emergencies are capable of wiping a significant portion of your savings away.
As such, it’s important to develop contingency plans in your budget in case these events do occur.
For starters, you can try to make an emergency fund as a financial cushion in case a sudden bad event happens.
Besides that, always be mindful of your and your family’s lifestyle habits and make the necessary financial adjustments.
If you find that your savings rate is decreasing month-on-month because of added expenses, for instance, you may have to think hard and reevaluate your budget’s goals.
Being flexible is an important value to possess to be able to navigate financial difficulties effectively. Sticking with one goal stubbornly when the situation around you changes can spell your downfall, so be receptive to change and be prepared to call new shots.