For families, setting a monthly budget can often mean the difference between meeting obligations, with room to breathe, and constantly scrambling to make ends meet each month. Monthly bills, seasonal spending and emergencies all take their own little slice out of your hard-earned money. Refrain from throwing caution to the wind when it comes to finances. Develop a budget to help keep your family on the road to financial security.
Start by assessing your current situation. Drag out your monthly utility bills, credit card statements, loan statements and pay stubs. Grab a piece of paper and list your expected or minimum monthly payments on all loans, credit cards and monthly utility bills. Conduct some research on how much you truly spend each week on things such as a coffee on the way to the office, dining out and entertainment. Use your bank statements to estimate how much money you withdraw from the ATM, or how much you charge to your debit card, for these types of transactions. Include expenses related to groceries, entertainment and clothing when examining monthly expenses. Now -- examine the amount of income you bring in monthly, and compare that to your total monthly expenses.
Pay Attention to the Details
Pay attention to any extra fees assessed, such as interest or payment protection plan charges on your credit cards. Include bank fees when calculating the cost of withdrawing money at a bank ATM, or via a debit card transaction. While the amounts may seem minuscule, creating an accurate monthly budget requires an accurate and thorough assessment of where all of your money is going. And besides, these small charges may seem insignificant in a monthly budget, but calculate the cost over the course of the year, and the results may astound you.
Eliminating unnecessary expense is a key component of creating a family budget. Cut down on going out, or reduce the expense associated with family entertainment. Opt for alternatives, such as going to the matinee showing of that movie you want to see, or taking the family to free attractions in your area. Start looking for ways to save. Cut coupons to help reduce your monthly grocery expenses. Pay attention to sales, and use the internet and sale circulars to help research the best deals before heading out to the store.
Prepare ahead of time for emergencies and unforeseen expenses by setting aside a portion of your paycheck each pay period. Create a money cushion to help get your family through any rough patches. Ask all family members to contribute ideas for saving money. Talk with a debt counselor if your monthly expenses exceed your income, and you are finding it difficult to meet your obligations. Contact your creditors and take advantage of any reduced payment options they can offer while you get your budget on track.
Nicole Long is a freelance writer based in Cincinnati, Ohio. With experience in management and customer service, business is a primary focus of her writing. Long also has education and experience in the fields of sports medicine, first aid and coaching. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from the University of Cincinnati.