“Live like no one else now, so you can live like no one else later.” -Dave Ramsey
Figuring out how to balance family expenses after children can be stressful. There are diapers and daycare and pressure to save for their future, which seems like light-years away. Add that to the weight of student loans that many couples have now, and finances seems like a 6-foot-deep hole. While I’m far from a financial expert (far, far, far) I’m sharing some tips on what works for us in creating, sticking to, and managing a SIMPLE budget for our family!
While we base most of our plans on YNAB and Dave Ramsey‘s ideas of budgeting, some of their rules are a bit extreme. We use their pointers as a base and then tweak them to work for us. The overall theme that we keep in mind each month is that every dollar coming in has a specific purpose, with an overarching goal to save for the future and not spend money that isn’t in our hands.
Are you feeling the pain already? Don’t leave me yet! We’ve certainly made sacrifices, but we still have fun (it’s literally budgeted into each month–LOL) and the stress of looming debt has lessened since we have a plan. And I’m all about the plans…
This is what works for us in creating a family budget that’s realistic and helpful in reaching our goals:
Create a Google Calendar for Bills.
My husband and I have created a separate Google Calendar that only we have access to for our bills. Each bill is entered on the day it comes out of our account, with the amounts listed as well. We can then quickly glance at the calendar on our phone or on the computer to see what’s coming out of our account each week.
Say Good-bye to Credit Cards.
This is probably one of the crazier choices we’ve made among our friends. Being sure we’re not spending money we don’t have means we don’t use a credit card. If we spent our limit on groceries for the week, we get creative with meals. If Target sucks me in, as it often does, we try not to impulse buy. If we have already used our out-to-eat money for the month, we just don’t go out to eat.
Set-up Savings Funds.
We literally have five separate online saving accounts for different parts of our life (My husband works for Goldman Sachs, so that’s what we use! They’re free, have no minimum balance requirements, and auto-transfer/auto-deposits can be set up.) For example, we have one for a Christmas/birthday fund, where $20 is deposited every paycheck. That’s almost $500 by December! We also have a savings account for our daughter with a set amount transferred every month specifically for her future–it really does add up quickly! We also have separate accounts to save each month for potential medical bills, an emergency fund, and vacations.
Budget in FUN.
This might be the most important step! Being too strict in anything can set you up for failure. We budget in date night. A certain amount is set aside every month, so we don’t feel bad about spending that money on fun stuff for US. A certain amount of money should be budgeted for each of you to spend on whatever you want as well.
Check in every month.
Re-evaluate your budget each month. Maybe you’re not spending as much money as you anticipated on groceries and those $30 extra dollars can be moved to a different category. As your lives and priorities change, so should your budget.
Cut the (cable) cord.
We’ve sacrificed some luxuries at this point in our life to focus on paying off student loan debt and to allow me to be a stay-at-home-mom. Cutting out cable saves a lot of money! (Anyone else proud to have nixed this in their home?!) Another example is that we don’t have car payments right now, because we bought our vehicles used from Craigslist. Think about what other extras you can cut out–coffees, fast food, subscriptions, etc. Those costs add up quickly! Making these sacrifices now will leave us in a better place down the road.
These aren’t earth shattering ideas, but they work for us and are relatively painless! Living a little more strictly and a little unlike our friends now is helping our family to live more freely in the future. So don’t ask me if I’ve seen the latest episode of Fixer Upper on cable, because sadly, I haven’t. But I totally have my future dream house planned out, decorated, and budgeted for as we speak! 😉
What tips do you have for family budgeting?