When you're raising a family, it can be hard to make ends meet. Even when mum and dad both work, you still have to pay for daycare and/or after school care until you can pick up the kids. However, with planning and discipline, you can employ these budgeting tips to make every dollar count:
Follow a Budget Every Month
Planned spending is smart spending. Just before a new month begins, list all of your bottom-line expenses for the upcoming month. This would include items like mortgage payment/rent, utilities, petrol, child care, car payment, food/toiletries/dinners out and everything else you must pay just to keep life going. Budget what's left over into specific amounts for savings, recreation, personal care, routine medical care, clothing and paying down credit card balances.
Plan Meals and Shop Only With a List
You already have an idea of how much you spend on food and toiletries every month. This is the amount you have set aside in the food/dinners out part of your monthly budget. Divide the total amount by the number of weeks in the month, and when you shop for groceries once a week, stay within the limit and leave a cushion for unexpected food purchases later in the week. Plan your meals according to your food budget and buy only what you need for that week.
Save Every Month Even if it's Not Much
Making ends meet includes a savings plan. Set up a savings account that automatically receives a set amount from your checking account every month. Some people like to have a few of these accounts for different purposes, such as a new car fund, kids' college fund, vacation fund and so on. Even if it's only $25 per month, it adds up over time.
Create an Emergency Fund
Many of us get into financial trouble when emergency expenses come along that we didn't plan or budget for. Car repairs, having to replace an old appliance or an unexpected visit to the vet for a sick pet won't affect your budget if you set aside a predetermined nest egg that's only used for emergencies. If you have to go into this fund, be sure to include the amount you used in next month's spending plan to bring the emergency fund back up to its designated amount.
Get Help With Your Finances
Sometimes we have to ask for help. If your financial situation is unmanageable and you don't know how to make it better, talk to an expert for financial advice. Look online for free tools on how to save more.
Avoid Credit Card Debt
Credit cards are a convenient way to pay for everyday purchases and a great financial tool if used judiciously. A good rule of thumb is to use credit cards only for purchases that are already in your spending plan. Pay all credit card balances in full before the due date, and you'll never be charged interest. If you don't already have one, get a cash back credit card and you'll earn a bit of money on all your purchases.
Shop For Better Deals On Essential Services
Call around to see whether other Internet, cell phone and cable companies will offer you a better deal than what you have now. List the offers and ask the companies you do business with if they will match those deals in order to keep you as a customer.
Turn Down Your Heating and Cooling Systems
Turn your thermostat up or down according to your schedule. For example, if it's winter time and everyone is gone all day, turn the heat way down until you get home. You can also double up on the blankets and turn down the heat while everyone is asleep. This can make a big difference in your monthly utility bills.