A lot of young families have it tough. Newlyweds are learning how to live together, starting careers, buying houses, paying bills, having kids: it’s exhausting and it’s expensive.
New parents get a crash course in budgeting as soon as kiddo #1 comes along, be it for weekly things like food and bills, big items like a college fund, or necessary extras like paying for nursery school or a babysitter. It’s about pinching pennies, finding shortcuts, and spending and saving the smartest way possible.
Some families live that way forever; others look back years down the road and wonder how they ever managed on such a small income.
Finances are stressful: there’s no way around it. Your job is to not let the demons of debt and paper cuts from coupons take away from any of the wonderful parts of starting a family.
Find Your Way to Budget and Save
Sorry – there is no secret method to perfect finances. Every family will do things a little bit differently. However, every budget plan has a similar format: taking a total income, subtracting the necessary expenses (for bills, food, mortgage, et cetera), then setting aside funds for important events (like heath care and college), and finally putting the rest toward family savings or fun extras (like a night out or a family vacation).
The key is to make sure you aren’t cutting into the money for necessary expenses and savings by spending too much on the fun extras: that’s when debt rolls in.
There are a few tried and true methods of stretching a small income over a growing number of family members.
- Having trouble monitoring your spending? Take out a set amount of cash for one week, and only use that cash to purchase items. Can you make it through all seven days? What items do you buy that aren’t necessary purchases?
- Plan a stay-cation. Spend time bonding with your family without busting your budget: consider going camping within driving distance from home, or going on day trips to local attractions.
- Spearhead a local carpool system with other parents to daycare, to work – even to the grocery store. Not only will you cultivate relationships with other families, you’ll save on gas money!
- Pack a lunch for yourself, your partner, and your kids instead of buying one. Even cheap fast food menus will cut into your budget more than homemade food.
- Speaking of food, embrace the power of the coupon! Turn coupon cutting into a fun family game: whoever finds the best deal gets the biggest slice of dessert.
- Learn new skills, like changing your own oil or giving haircuts. The extra dollars saved can go toward savings or a luxurious splurge.
Give Yourself a Break
You’ll rarely find a young family with perfect expenses. Learning how to budget, spend, and save is something you develop and grow into. Set goals for yourself and your family. When you reach those goals, treat your family to something special. Small rewards make budgeting less of a drag and more of a challenging game.
Emma T. is writer for Creditnet.com, whose credit card guide has helped all types of families with choosing a credit card and staying out of debt.