How to manage a household on a budget

Managing a household budget is no easy task. It can be hard to stick to at times due to time constraints and having a busy hectic lifestyle. If only there was more hours in a day! Trying to fit everything in to do in a day is near impossible at times.

Taking care of a family can be hard, but managing the finances can seem stressful. You have the passion to want to give them everything you can. But you want to do it in a way which will not break the bank account! You can also spend so many hard hours jotting things down on paper. By fiddling here and there with numbers, and then trying to figure out the movements in the account. Then the hard work goes to waste when the budget for the month slips the following month.

In my day job, I work as a Chartered Accountant for a large multinational company. One of my main responsibilities is managing a budget and forecasting for a complex area of the business. In addition, reviewing all the actuals costs against projected costs, analyse the variances and reporting back to management. I have gained fantastic knowledge in this area. As well as learning tried and tested techniques for managing a budget. Of which can also be used in the outside working world!

This is where I now draw attention to sharing my tips in managing a household budget effectively. Most importantly to have the passion to stick to it and maintain it!

Here are my 5 top ways to create and manage a budget. One to stick to that will provide you and your family with everything they need.

SET A REALISTIC BUDGET

Setting budgets is a difficult task. It can be tricky to predict future costs and some random ad-hoc costs can also crop up from nowhere! For example, a puncture to the family car can result in an unexpected repair cost. This might disrupt travel arrangements for the rest of the family, especially if there is only one car. In turn resulting in use of public transport resulting in an increase in travel costs. So, it’s important to factor a realistic unexpected costs factor in your monthly budgets. Which will give the peace of mind that the costs will not dwindle your budget for the month.

It’s vital to include some sort of inflation in your variable monthly costs. On the premise, that prices for items you usually pay for on a day to day basis might not maintain, due to the current state of the economy. For example, here in the UK there is a current risk of food prices going up at the end of 2020 due to Brexit. This can really have a huge impact on a household’s food costs, especially if it’s a large family. In summary it’s important that your budget is set on a realistic basis considering unexpected costs, changes in the current economy and changes in lifestyle.

End of the day, if your costs for the month end up less than what you budgeted, then at least you will have a buffer of saving to carry forward the next month should any prices go up! Keep up to date on personal finance news online so you have the knowledge to help you make wise decisions on setting a realistic budget based on current economic conditions.

MONITOR SPENDING

One of the key important things to do when going out shopping is to take a shopping list and stick to it! It can be very easy for example to go food shopping and buy products for items you already have at home, resulting in double buying and the chance of perishable food items having to be thrown away due to the date going off. Sometimes you can also forget what you already have at home and just buy it anyway for the sake of saving another journey to the supermarket, which I have been guilty of doing many times in the past!

I am a person who hates seeing things build up in cupboards especially in the kitchen, as hate having to throw things away which I could have avoided buying in the first place! So, I find it helpful making a shopping list of essential items to be bought and sticking to it. One thing you might find helpful to do is to get one of these magnetic notepads to stick to your fridge, and when any items run out you have used, then you can jot this down so you don’t forget!

In addition its helpful to make a plan of meals you plan to cook in a week and you can buy all the items for it in one go from the supermarket, this will help you in sticking to your meal plans and to stop you spending money eating out!

There are several free programs online for tracking how you currently spend your money. Mint.com offers a great budgeting tool that categorises all the income and expenses coming into and out of your account. This will allow you to see trends and note when you are spending a little more in a category than you would ideally like.

COMMUNICATE BUDGET PLANS WITH THE FAMILY

This is the most important part when it comes to managing and maintaining a budget, as its crucial that everyone is on board and that they understand any changes in spending habits and reasons why if necessary.

It can be quite hard to communicate any budget plans to kids as it can be difficult for them to adapt to change. In addition, they might take not take it lightly and start to think negatively about why costs are being stripped back and worry that things might not be the same anymore. So, its important kids fully understand why budget plans are in place and that they have reassurance that their happiness and fun will not be compromised! Being the enforcer of a budget is therefore a tough job so getting everyone aligned and understood will make the budget managing job a lot easier.

MAXIMIZE INCOME AND SAVINGS

Find ways to stretch your money to make it go far and really maximize on it to its full potential. Got junk? Declutter and sell it, whether outgrown kids’ clothes or that embarrassing old CD… Put a few more pounds in your pocket by finding innovative ways to make money on the side by reflecting on your current skill set, passion or hobbies! There are many opportunities out there to help you pay less for the items you need. Consider couponing or becoming a rewards member to your most frequently visited stores.

I will focus on this topic separately in another article to discuss more ways in detail, but something to consider implementing in your budget plans!

MAKE TIME FOR ‘ME TIME’ AND FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT

Most importantly ensure that you have time for yourself and family entertainment in your budget. Managing your health and wellbeing of you and your family is something which should be the core of all your budget plans.

The hecticness of life in general and the stress and pressure which comes with it, can really influence your mental health which results in it being compromised. End of the day we work to live, and not live to work so it’s important your hard-earned money is used at least for yourself and the family to improve wellbeing and state of mind.

In turn ensure there is an element of family entertainment in budget plans to keep the morale and good spirits of the family going whether its once a week or once a fortnight, so there is always something to look forward to doing together as family!

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