As many Circle of Moms conversations about money and relationships reveal, creating and keeping track of the family budget can be a major source of tension between spouses. Stay-at-home mom Shanon F.'s situation is a case in point: her husband has been leaning on her to rein in their household spending, and as she shares, "It's getting stressful and I'm freaking out."
1. The Big Picture
A systematic approach — using a spreadsheet to track income and spending — is the best way to get started. As a Circle of Moms member named Julia explains, " I track every penny that is spent by our family and it helps us identify where the money is going and where we can cut back. . . . after you've done it over a period of time you can look back and see how much you've spent historically in different time periods."
Di is another mom who suggests tracking your spending closely as a way to get the big picture: "When you see it in black and white you are more aware of what you are spending and will see what you need to cut back on. It works."
Another way to gain that perspective is to review old bank statements. As Mandi W. advises, "Get a copy of your banking transactions for the past 12 months. Go through and take a look at what you were spending and total everything up. This is a great way to see how much you're spending and where you can also cut back. It's a tool we use to not only get a better grip on our budget, but also to motivate us."
2. Recommended Tools and Resources
Several moms swear by money-management software programs and online budgeting tools that track income and expenses. Renae and Brandy J. both use online tools to plan monthly and future spending and to keep themselves from becoming overwhelmed. As Renae explains, the software has given her a handle on her priorities and enabler her to start working on the remainder of her goals. Brandy recommends Kiplinger.com for household budgeting and Kidsbank.com for managing child-related expenses and savings.
Patricia B.'s software solution is free. She relies on an online spreadsheet tool (like Google's), which she faithfully updates every time she spends money. Her spreadsheet tells her exactly how much money she can spend in each category: bills, spending, and on her car and gas. "I track it all individually with totals at the bottom so I see exactly what is going out and what is left." And for some moms, including Good Day, an Excel spreadsheet does the trick. "The program does all the math for you," she shares.
Finally, many moms, including Melissa E. and Nancy, suggest establishing spending priorities. "My best tip [for] budgeting would have to be to know the difference between wants and needs," says Melissa. "Needs always come first in a budget. Needs are things you need to survive. Food, house, water, and clothes are needs, nothing else. Everything else is a luxury or things that are nice to have. Some things, like a car, are not a need but are high on our want list, so [they are] usually next in line on our list for our budget. But when you really remember [that] your needs are [those] four basic things, the budget is much easier to stick to."
Nancy also recommends reining in your spending as you work on getting your finances in order. "Avoid impulse buying," she says. "Before making a purchase for a big ticket item ask yourself if you really need it, and wait 24 hours before making the purchase."
And Shannon D. points out that sticking to a family budget takes hard work and commitment. She prepared a spreadsheet of her family's outgoing bills and income, established a fixed budget for food, and every two weeks, creates a shopping list of everything needed for 14 days of meals, which she is careful not to exceed. "I'm anal with my fortnightly (two-week) budget," she says.
How do you manage your family budget?
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.