Budgeting for a family is like pulling teeth. Painful and tiring. And for many families, a constant source of stress.
It’s a constant battle to balance everyone’s different needs while buying necessities and saving. It’s impossible to please everyone. And it pushes us to our breaking point.
Do you often feel broken because of the never-ending fight to stretch each dollar as far as it can go?
You are not alone. Most Americans are living paycheck to paycheck right now, estimates are between 59-79%.
If you are tired of living in perpetual stress, I have the answers for you. Start with getting your mind right about money.
What do I mean? You have to understand a few things about how your mind works in order to control your money.
Start by preparing yourself for massive change. You’re gonna need to go to your foundational beliefs about money. Like thinking about budgets like a fence: a place you can have the freedom and be safe as long as you stay within the bounds.
Budgeting for a family: People Before Things
This means that the people always take precedence before wants.
For example, instead of using all the money set aside for my birthday to buy something frivolous, I choose to split it up and buy/do something small for myself and spend the rest celebrating with my family.
This also means that we choose to do fun things as a family for major gifts. Or we buy the equipment we need to have many fun times instead of a toy that will just be forgotten in a few weeks.
Every Penny is an Investment
Money can only be spent once. If we buy things we don’t need or that doesn’t vastly improve our lives at that moment, then we are stealing from ourselves.
Any time I go to buy something, I think hard about it’s value. For instance, I bought an expensive stand mixer recently. Did I want it for enjoyment? Yes, but it will also let me bake larger quantities of muffins and whatnot. This means I can use it to save money on our grocery bill.
Buy Used and Save the Difference
I buy kids’ clothes 2x a year at a local consignment sale. Instead of spending $1,000+ to clothe 5 kids, we end spending less than $200 thanks to half-price day (Yay!).
We buy used appliances. We bought our current refrigerator for $100.
The bottom line is that many items can be bought used, and you can still get the same value out of them.
Know Where Your Money is Going
How do you know where your money is going? Do you ever look at your account and feel that sick feeling knowing you overspent? I have. It’s awful.
Keep a detailed record of your spending. You can do this on a traditional register like you get with a new check book. You can do this by checking your mobile banking, or you can use one of the several apps that will analyze your spending for you.
You may be surprised to find that some of your habits eat up way more money than they are worth. This is because of the denomination effect.
The denomination effect is our tendency to gloss over how much money we spend in small transactions. For example, we may shy away from spending $100 because in our minds, we recognize the significance. Yet, we wouldn’t notice spending that $100 in $5 increments over the course of a month!
Make It, Make Do, or Do Without
My dad basically taught me to grow a garden, my mom taught me to mend clothes, and life has taught me how to wait on things.
I save a lot of money this way, but not time. Luckily for me, I enjoy doing these things and can make these habits fun family activities.
For example, my husband flips pancakes on the weekends. My littles and I weed our garden.
Don’t be afraid to take shortcuts if you need to make it happen. I love to mix pancakes by hand, but my husband doesn’t. So we buy $1 box of complete pancake mix so all he has to do is add water and go.
However, don’t take this tip as an admonition that you must do without essentials. Never do without essentials. If you do, you are likely to fall into the trap of scarcity mindset.
Scarcity mindset is a psychologically recognized way of thinking marked by obsession over absent essentials. While this doesn’t only apply to money, it means that we are more likely to make bad decisions because we were so worried about the absence of things we needed.
A good example is how you will overeat, to the point of making yourself sick, if you go all day without food.
Money is time and effort
A job is selling your time and effort.
A lucky few get to work at home and for themselves, but most have to go away from their families. I would much rather my husband use our time and effort to build up our family than some other’s business.
Economists even have a term for it: labor capital. Without employees or someone willing to work, no business will ever successful.
When budgeting for your family, don’t neglect to account for your labor. When we are making a major purchase, we always consider how many hours we must work to pay for it.
We also consider if working overtime will make us so fatigued that it affects how we interact with our children. Thinking this way keeps us living within our means, inside the fence.
Did you find this helpful for budgeting for a family? Let me know in the comments.