Budgeting is like following a rigid dieting plan: It seems you cannot escape the unbearable feelings of restriction and deprivation, but you manage to do it anyway as you know you are doing a right thing. In either case, finding a perfect formula that fits your unique situation and financial circumstances is somehow a tough job and proves tougher still to stick with it.
In addition, with all of the needs and requirements of running a house, young families often find it hard to spare some time for household budget preparation – especially when the funds left at the end of the month are less than their needs. You must take budgeting seriously as it is the only way to control your finances; or, they will control you.
6 Smart Budgeting Steps for Young Families
1. Know how you spend
Knowing where your earnings are going is one of the most important budgeting steps, without which you cannot even figure out from where to start. Although you may be conscious of your larger transactions like utilities and mortgage payments, you need to estimate what you spend on variable items like clothing and groceries.
To understand your spending patterns, track each of your purchases for the next thirty days. There are plenty of online tools like Mint that can help young families record even their smallest purchases, such as candies or filling the parking meter and, over time, give them a comprehensive idea in the form of charts and graphs.
2. Understand your needs
Analyze how much money you require to live on. Your basic needs include utilities, groceries, rent or mortgage payment, and gas for your vehicle. For most young families, it can also include such things as diapers for a new baby and medicine for their mother. Jot down your needs simply by looking at your past three months’ expenses. Then, add all of these up and figure out where you stand every month. The total amount (which considers your needs only instead of comforts and luxuries as well) may be smaller than what you might have thought, which will help you come up with a more flexible budget. This also ensures that you are living within your means that eventually implies that there are no unnecessary spending habits.
3. Treat your savings as a necessary expense
This is one of the most essential budgeting steps that recommends savings as a vital element of your budget creation. Young families must initiate building an emergency fund (if they do not have one already) and contribute a certain portion of their earnings (typically 10% of their income) into it. Although it seems tough to be consistent with it as you have a social life, it pays off a lot when something unexpected happens like when your toddler breaks your laptop. Also, it tends to ensure that you are always able to afford your basic necessities.
4. Set goals
Setting goals is one of the most important budgeting steps that inspires an individual to work towards achieving them. Young families should consider their financial goals like owning a new car, buying a big home, and their children’s education when preparing their budget. The bigger and more personal the goals you have, the more motivated you are to stick to your budget-map.
5. Create the budget
As budget making takes time and due diligence, you need to set aside a minimum of a few hours. In fact, it is better to wait for the weekend or a day when there are no pressing obligations than to haphazardly scribble a plan that does not work. Once you are aware of your spending habits, have identified your needs and have clarity in your financial goals, then creating your spending, saving, and investment categories for your budgeting will be a relatively simple task. Remember, prioritize all of the categories from most important to least important and allocate your budget accordingly.
6. Monitor your progress
Last but not least, review your budget every month to figure out how well it is working. Whenever you revise or make any changes in your budget plan, go through all other budgeting steps to come up with a precise plan. Making adjustments is a normal aspect of a young family’s budgeting process. Thus, stay motivated by your small successes and persevere towards your goal accomplishments.
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