Managing an entire household is no simple task, especially if you’re not used to keeping tabs on your finances. Fortunately, you can reduce your stress and draw a roadmap to financial security with a family budget.
With a plan in hand, you can take charge of your money, reduce your stress, and secure your family’s future.
What is a family budget?
“Budget” is just a fancy word for tracking your finances and trying to earn – and save! – more than you spend. A family budget is simply a roadmap that considers the income, expenses, and goals of your whole household.
Typically, the budgeting and decision-making starts with yourself and your partner. If you have older kids or teenagers, you might include them in (some of) your money discussions, too.
Your family budget can be a powerful tool in paying off debts, slashing unnecessary expenses, and even breaking the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle. Plus, you’ll get to enjoy the sweet, sweet satisfaction of crushing your savings goals one month at a time.
The basic budgeting process
Building your first budget can take time, but it’s not as difficult as it sounds. That’s especially true when Cleo has your back – we even walk you through the budgeting process step-by-step.
Since we’ve already covered how to build a budget, we won’t repeat ourselves too much. The quick-and-dirty budget process involves:
- Calculating and comparing your income and expenses
- Trimming unnecessary expenses
- Setting short- and long-term spending and savings goals
- Buffing your income (if needed)
- Tracking your finances and progress with every paycheck
You’ll also want to revisit your budget at least monthly to keep yourself pumped up and on track.
How to build a family budget
Family budgets aren’t all that different: you calculate your incoming and outgoing cash flow and cut the crap. But budgeting for a household requires a little extra maneuvering.
It’s essential to start with all relevant parties on the same page, whether that’s just your partner or your kid(s)s too. Take a conversation or three to share individual and family goals and contribution potential. This is also a chance to set long-term savings goals like buying a house or retiring early.
Bear in mind that wanting something doesn’t guarantee you’ll get it – someone may have to compromise. Working within a shared framework means that even if you have mostly separate finances, your decisions will impact someone else.
Once you’ve hashed out the fine details, you can build a budget to fund your dreams.
Tips for making your family budget
Family budgets require open communication and clear expectations. These quick tips can take your family finances to the next level.
Choose a budget method
Budgeting is easier when you can track your progress. Personally, we’re big fans of Cleo (duh) for obvious reasons. But if Cleo isn’t your thing – and you’re willing to be wrong about that – you can waste time doing math with a pencil and paper or an Excel spreadsheet instead.
Prioritize paying off debt
Paying off debt is one of the best ways to hop off the paycheck-to-paycheck train. Debt borrows against your future: the more you owe now, the less you can spend and save later. Shedding old debt frees up those funds for more worthwhile expenses.
Of course, some debts – like mortgages – may make sense. But if you’re regularly diving into credit card debt because you overspend on groceries that you ultimately throw out, you’re really just trashing your paycheck.
Make room for savings
The purpose of budgeting is to free your financial future by keeping your debts low and savings high. After covering the essentials, prioritize paying your family first with regular savings. Build your joint emergency fund, supercharge your retirement, set aside money for vehicle maintenance and health insurance – the works.
Keep communication open
One of the hardest part of handling family finances is just talking about them. For generations, talking about money has been viewed as crass – but no more. Now, not talking about finances just means you’re getting in your own way. Normalize talking about your income, priorities, and goals with your family.
Adjust as needed
In line with regular communication, make monthly “check-up” budget meetings part of your routine. Take a few minutes to examine your progress, identify any missed trends, and readjust based on new information and circumstances.
How to budget even tighter in a tightening economy
One place that post-Covid inflation hit households hard was their grocery bill. Food is inescapable, delicious…and so. Damn. Expensive. As food bills have surged, it’s harder than ever to feed anyone – let alone a family – on a budget.
In fact, Cleo’s own research discovered that more people than ever are using “Buy Now, Pay Later” services just to afford their groceries. (And that’s a sad trend that’s only projected to get worse.)
If you need some quick tips to stretch your grocery dollars further than they’ve gone before – well, here we are.
Eat at home
Between transportation costs, food markups, and tips, dining out massively inflates your food bill. But with some fresh groceries, time, and an online recipe, you can master restaurant-quality cuisine in your own kitchen at a fraction of the cost. (And yes, that includes home brewing your morning coffee.)
Wandering the grocery store literally listless is a great way to blow your budget. Instead, take a few minutes to jot down some menu ideas for the week, examine your pantry supplies, and only shop to fill in the gaps. Unfortunately, you’ll probably find your meal plan doesn’t include ten boxes of Capri Sun on sale. (But your wallet will thank you)
Avoid prepared and pre-packaged foods
Ready-made meals and boxes stuffed with prebaked calories are often enticing, but they’re not cheap. Even if you aren’t a gourmet-level chef, throwing together a quick salad and box of macaroni is far cheaper than indulging in premade salad kits and frozen pasta meals.
Clipping actual coupons is so 2010 – now, you can “clip” savings from your phone. Download your local grocers’ apps to watch for sales and match up coupons and rebates. Savings apps like Rakuten and Ibotta can increase your savings potential further with retailer-specific coupons and digital deals.
Buy in bulk
Sure, buying in larger quantities may cost a little more upfront. But pairing bulk purchases with lower prices per unit (e.g., per pound or ounce) produces long-term savings to enjoy for weeks or months.
Don’t be afraid to scour savings opportunities at big-box retailers like Sam’s Club or Costco, or to bulk up when your favorite goodies go on sale.
Switch to more economical brands
Many store-brand products share a similar or identical ingredient list as the name-brand stuff. In fact, some grocery industry insiders have suggested that some products are made at the same factory and simply packaged differently.
That’s particularly true of fresh or natural products – think dairy, flour, sugar, nuts, and tightly-regulated products like formula and OTC medications.
While it’s not always true that store-brand tastes the same, it often does. And when it doesn’t, the average 30-50% savings is worth adding a dash of spices to freshen up the flavor.
Watch out for “shrinkflation”
Customers typically notice when their grocery bill goes up. But some brands “sneak” in price hikes by keeping the sticker value the same while shrinking container sizes. The result is the same: you get less for the price. Pay close attention to the per-unit value on your groceries to ensure you’re not being “shrinkflated” out of a good deal.
Eat more veggies
Animal-based food sources often cost more per calorie than plant-based sources. And in the coming year, they’re likely to get more expensive, faster.
The USDA predicts that in 2023:
- Meat prices will rise by 3.4-4.5%
- Dairy prices will increase 6.4%
- And egg prices will soar nearly 30%.
Meanwhile, fresh fruit prices are projected to rise around 0.6%, while fresh veggies might increase up to 1.3%.
While sad, the math is simple: eating more fresh produce and less meat won’t just lower your cholesterol – it will shrink your grocery bill, too.
Cleo makes family budgeting easier
At Cleo, we strive to demystify and destress your finances. We can’t give you a raise or lower the inflation rate – but we can provide the tools you need to get your budget under control. Whether you’re saving for one or five, Cleo can guide your budgeting, and provide quick cash in a bind.
All of that in a judgment-free package (unless you ask to be roasted, of course).
Enjoy this post? Give it a share or send it along to a friend. You never know, it could make a big difference. Big love. Cleo 💙