Unless your last name is Rockefeller, Trump, Gates, or Winfrey then you probably sometimes worry about your family’s financial situation. We all know that a family budget is the smart way to stay on top of your finances unless you are independently wealthy. Even if you make lots of money, following a family budget will let you save more money and possibly retire sooner or travel more.
My wife and I discussed a budget during our pre-marital counseling and we began developing a plan then. Now, we don’t always stick exactly to it but we do make the effort. There have been lean times in our marriage which we were able to get through by sticking closely to our budget tactics. So here are three things we do that we feel are essential when it comes to sticking to a family budget.
1. No Credit Cards Allowed
The first financial decision my wife and I made was to never have credit cards. I got in trouble with credit cards when I was in college and mid twenties. Once I finally got out from under them I decided to never have another one. My wife had a similar situation and we were completely on board with this one.
Some people have no problem with credit cards. They pay their bill in full each month and get points or cash back. Good for them…I’m not them. I know myself. Let’s say it’s the end of the month and we’re running low on funds…we’re tired after work and don’t want to cook. So let’s just order a pizza and put it on the credit card. That’s the way it starts. So we just forgo all of that and refuse to have a credit card. It hasn’t caused us any problems except that when we want to rent a car. But that’s a rare occurrence.
2. Envelope Budget System
If you’ve ever read any Dave Ramsey then you know about the envelope budget system. The envelope system is designed for a family budget and we love it. The basics are this, you get several envelopes and you write each budget item on them. So you’d have a groceries envelope, and “eating out” envelope, a gas envelope, etc.
Then when you get paid you go to the bank and take out the cash to cover those budget items. Let’s say you have budgeted $200 for the month for groceries. You place $200 in cash in the groceries envelope. This works for us in so many ways. We have found that having physical cash instead of using a debit card makes us more aware of how much we have left for the month. Also, we rarely have to touch our bank account after we fill our envelopes.
There are many envelope systems available to purchase but we actually use bank envelopes that we get for free from the bank. When you go in and get cash, you can ask them for extra envelopes. There are even some electronic envelope systems out there. You electronically categorize your money and then using online or mobile tools you deduct from the appropriate category when you spend money. We have found that the simplest method works best for us when dealing with a family budget.
3. Plan Your Meals
One of the biggest problems for us has been wasting money dining out. So we have made a special effort to plan our meals. The main reason we end up eating out instead of cooking is that we didn’t have anything for dinner when we got home from work. After working all day, we don’t want to go back to the grocery store. So it’s easier to just go out or order in.
To prevent this, we plan our meals. My wife and I sit down every pay day (well, we TRY to do it every time). We plan the kids lunches for school, everyone’s breakfast and our lunches for work. Then we plan dinners. We try not to go crazy with variety. We pick 4 or 5 dinners and then plan on having them 2 or 3 times during the next 2 weeks. We then go to the grocery store and get what we need. My wife takes it a step further by cooking some things ahead of time. We buy several pounds of ground beef. She browns it all then separates it into various size containers for each dish we plan on having. This saves tons of time during the week when cooking dinner.
There are two benefits here. You don’t eat out as much and you don’t have to keep going to the store. Let’s face it, every time we go to the grocery store we end up picking up things we don’t need. So minimizing trips to the grocery store saves money also. There also the stress factor. You reduce the amount of stress in your life if you don’t have to constantly come up with something and it’s all planned out.
So there you have it. That’s 3 ways we stick to our family budget. What are some of the ways you stick to your budget? I’d love to hear them.