Budgeting as a family can be a daunting task—all those different accounts and expenses and surprises! But the payoff for getting your financial house in order is worth it.
“When we have a plan for where we want our money to go, our lives work so much better,” says Miata Edoga, Founder and President of the Los Angeles-based financial education company Abundance Bound. She tells Parentology that, “A healthy relationship to our finances leads to a healthier happier family overall.”
Here, then, are five tips for how to create a family budget and stay on it.
1) Track What You Spend
You can’t create a budget in a vacuum so the first step is to track what you’re spending now. For at least 30 days, make a commitment as a family to keep track of every penny you spend. To do this, you’ll need some kind of tracking system.
The most efficient mother is using a financial app like Mint, which is free. You connect your bank accounts and credit cards to the app so that every penny is tracked without you having to think about it or write anything down. And most apps allow you to create categories for your expenses like “Groceries” or “Gas” which you’ll see is key.
If you want something less technical, you can get a notebook where every family member agrees to write down what they spend and on what. Another option could be a computer spreadsheet where you enter your spending manually. (But, again, an App like Mint will do all of that automatically.) The important thing is to be vigilant in gathering the information—even if it’s uncomfortable.
“When we’re tracking, we have to put on our detective hats and take off our judge hats,” advises Edoga. “This is the phase where you’re going to [think], ‘Oh my gosh, I spend this much on manicures? I’m a terrible person!’ Or if you’re in a couple, you’ll [say], ‘What have you been doing at Target, honey?’” Again, think like a detective, not a judge. Knowledge is power and you’re in the gathering information phase.
CONTINUE READING: How to Create a Family Budget