With the start of the New Year, we’ve decided to overhaul our budget (if you could even call it that) so I thought I’d provide my top budget tips for families. To be honest, the past two years we’ve lived pretty frugal-less-ly. If we felt like eating out, we ate out. If I wanted a new shirt, I bought it. When I look back at my spending the past few years, I’m honestly ashamed. I spent thousands and thousands of dollars without a real awareness of where it all went.
This year, we’re getting back to our frugal roots and focusing on saving money. Here are my top 20 budget tips for families.
Top 20 Budget Tips for Families
Decide what’s important to you
If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll know I love my Starbucks coffee. I’ve been like this for over a decade…and I’m not ashamed to admit it! Getting my $4 cup of coffee per day may be excessive to some, but to me it’s important, so we include it in the budget!
Now, not to say you can include every splurge in your budget, but make a list of things you like and decide what you’re willing to sacrifice.
Cut out things that aren’t important
For us, this meant cable TV, excessive clothes and shoes, dining out (we eat at Chick Fil A every Friday and continue to put that in the budget…but every other meal is eaten at home), manicures, trips to the hair salon, and more. I’d much rather not get a manicure and instead get my Starbucks 🙂 It’s all about priorities.
Make a meal plan
I didn’t used to do this and would overspend on food every single month. It’s just too easy to go grocery shopping when nothing in your pantry “looks good” and you aren’t keeping track. Now, I write down all of our meals on Sunday and stick to it, even though I don’t always want to. I also make sure we have easy things on hand to make in case we run low on food (which does happen with five people).
Cheap things to make include: bacon and eggs/omelettes, pancakes from scratch, sandwiches, pb&j on toast with a side of fruit, spaghetti, frozen pizza, etc. None of these meals will win any awards, but eating cheap never killed anyone!
Give yourself an allowance
My husband and I each get $20 per week of fun money. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but we are making it work for now. My husband usually gets a lunch out and maybe a coffee or two. This is my Starbucks money and maybe a soda 🙂
We used nothing but credit cards for the past two years and while we didn’t go into debt, we sure as heck spent a ton more than had we used cash. It’s just too easy to be impulsive with a credit card, even if you’re pretty financially savvy. I challenge you to give the cash method a try.
We take out our weekly cash for food and household items on Sunday. This includes our allowances and money the kids may need. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.
Include your kids in your budget conversations
When talking about budget tips for families, you have to include your kids. My daughters (ages 7, 6 and 3) understand that we’re on a budget and love being involved. Last week, we had an extra $20 so we decided to go to Trader Joe’s to get some yummy treats for movie night! It was fantastic involving the girls in this and they realized that by avoiding unnecessary purchases during the week, we were able to “splurge” as a family for a fun night! I’m also really hoping these habits stick with them as they grow older. What better way to teach your kids to budget than to include them in the family budget?!
I love using rewards programs to get money back when I shop! My favorite is Ibotta. All you do is scan your receipt from your favorite stores (Target, grocery stores, Walmart, etc) and get cash back! I typically earn $5-$10 per weekly grocery trip back. Then, just transfer to your bank account.
Find your “Why” for budgeting
What prompted us to start a cash budget system was two things: First, we both knew that even though we weren’t going into debt, we were definitely not aware of our spending. We felt out of control in this area and needed to reign things in. And second, we heavily debated moving and knew that if we were to do that, we’d need to really start saving money. While we’re still on the fence about the move, we are SO HAPPY to finally feel like we have our finances back under control.
What’s your “Why?” Perhaps you want to save more, put more money into retirement, send your kids to private school, or simply eliminate stress regarding finances. Find your “Why” and remind yourself of it daily!
Use the 24 hour rule
You want to buy something either online or in a store. If it’s not truly a necessity, wait 24 hours before purchasing. If you still want it (and it fits within your budget parameters) after the wait, then buy it guilt-free! I’ll be honest – I do this a lot and every single time I end up passing on the item.
Get rid of temptations
I’ve recently had to unfollow people on Instagram because I’m just too tempted to want to buy whatever it is they’re promoting. Ladies, I promise you: The clothes you have are fine!! It’s ok to wear the same jeans or leggings multiple times per week. I challenge you to put on a halt on clothing purchases for at least one month. I promise you’ll realize you missed out on …. nothing.
Work out at home
An easy budget tips for families is working out at home instead of a gym. There are two gyms within relatively close proximity of my house: The YMCA and Lifetime Fitness. I’ve been a member off and on at the Y for a few years, but just recently cancelled my membership (again). We were spending $115/month as a family of five but my kids didn’t love going there and we never went enough to justify the expense. Lifetime Fitness looks incredible, but we were quoted $270/month for our family of five and that just doesn’t align with our goals right now.
For fitness, I spend $15/month on Beach Body videos. There are so many options and the workouts are great! I also enjoy running and walking when the weather is warm.
Set some impossible goals
I would absolutely love if we could live off of rental income and dividends, for example. In order to do this, though, we need enough cash to be able to purchase said rental properties and dividend-paying stocks. If we achieve this “impossible” goal, our lives would be completely different. Can you imagine not “having” to work??! When you’re in your 30s and 40s?? Ah – the dream!
Setting big goals can help keep you motivated!
Earn more money
Some people truly do not have a spending problem, but an income problem. If this is you, I really encourage you to pick up a side hustle so you can pay off debt, save, and honestly change your life.
Really think about your travel plans
I know, I know. Traveling is fun and a great way to create family memories. But, it’s also really expensive, even if you do it “cheap.” And I promise you your kids will remember fun times with you even if it’s in your own home.
Have fun at home
We basically have a $0 entertainment budget right now. Even taking our kids to the local jump place is at least a $50 outing! But, we have plenty of fun here at home. We go on walks and to the park (in the warmer months), we play tons of family games (Uno, Trouble, Monopoly and Bingo are our current favorites), we bake treats together, and we have movie nights. I hope more than anything that these things are what my girls will remember 🙂
Realize that budgets aren’t limiting
Budgets give you freedom, I promise!! It feels SO GOOD to know where our money is going each and every day. It doesn’t mean I don’t spend, it just means I’m aware and in control of my spending. This has rolled over into other areas of my life, too. I’m more disciplined with my workouts and eating, I’m spending more quality time with my kids and husband, and I’m focusing more on making money from home (something that’s been on the back burner for a while now!).
Watch your utilities
This is an easy way to save money and take control of your budget. Set your thermostat a little higher (or lower in the cooler months) than you’d prefer. Your body will adjust and you will easily save $3-$5 per day. We keep our thermostat at 68 in the winter (which is freezing for me; though I’m sure it’s too warm for some!) and 76 in the summer. And – similar to a budget – there is no “right” temperature setting. I simply challenge you to turn it up (or down) a degree or so from what you find the most comfortable.
Determine how much money you need
I recommend looking back at previous months’ spending to see where you currently stand. Then, start setting your budget with the ultimate goal of spending less money each week/month. Once you’ve come up with an amount, take that out in cash for the week. You can reassess once the week is over but I encourage you to give this a try. It has been very eye-opening for us!!
Ask for gift cards as presents
My dad gets me a Starbucks gift card every single year for Christmas and my birthday. While he may score low on creativity points, this is actually my favorite gift most years 🙂 I love saving money and I love my coffee, so this is truly the best gift for me.
My mom usually gets my daughters a gift card to Dunkin Donuts for their birthdays. This is also a super great gift as it gives us something to do (for free!) that my kids love! I know some people don’t like giving gift cards as gifts, but don’t be shy about expressing what you want! If you’re on a budget, asking for gift cards to your favorite restaurants is the way to go! And I bet the person buying the gift will be happy it’s an “easy” gift.
Take a close look at your health insurance
What are you spending each month on health insurance? We are self-employed and use Liberty HealthShare. If you’re interested in using this, please let me know as I can refer you! We spend $500/month for the family plan with a family “deductible” of $2,250 each year. Well-child visits are refunded, as are certain other visits/procedures. Once you meet your family deductible, 100% of your expenses are covered. There is also no “network,” so you can see any doctor. If you are spending significantly more on health care each year, I highly recommend you consider a health care sharing ministry.
Overall, creating a budget doesn’t have to suffocating. In fact, it’s extremely freeing once you get used to it. By budgeting, you are in complete control of your finances. Money no longer “disappears” out of your account with no recollection of where it went.
And remember, you can include things that are important to you in your budget! If going out to eat is something you enjoy, include it! Again, the purpose of a budget is to be aware and be in control, not to limit you excessively. I hope these budget tips for families helped!
What budget tips for families would you add to this list? Is your family on a budget?