You’ve already done the hard work of creating a family budget by determining how much you have to spend on both essentials and non-essentials and how much you need to save. You know how to budget, but you just aren’t able to stick with it. Maybe you’re enthusiastic about getting your finances under control, but others in your family aren’t quite as stoked about the household budget. Or perhaps you aren’t as committed to your budget as you thought you would be when you first sat down to make a budget. Your problem isn’t uncommon. Here are the top tips to help you and your family stay on track with your family budget.
Start With One Budget Category
Habits can take a long time to build. If you try to tackle your entire budget all at once, especially if your family hasn’t ever been on a budget, you’re bound to fail. Instead, try picking a main category in your budget each month until you’ve conquered the entire thing. For example, if eating out at restaurants is wreaking havoc with your expenses, this would be a good category to work on first. Don’t worry about the other budgetary items right now and just focus on sticking to your budget for eating out.
If you’re successful at sticking to this first budget category after a month, then add another category to your household budget focus. You may not be successful the first month and have to keep your eating out goal for a second month until you get it right. But, by adding a category at a time, you will be building good habits that carry over to new challenges and getting stronger all the time.
Eat Before You Shop
When you go to the grocery store hungry, everything looks and sounds good to eat. You end up buying items that aren’t on your list and blowing your grocery budget. There is a simple solution to this problem: always eat before you go to the grocery store. This means that you shouldn’t stop off at the grocery store on your way home from work before dinner, even if you’re just getting one thing. If you’re hungry, that one item could turn into three or four and might bust your budget.
Instead, make a careful list of everything you need to buy at the grocery store and intentionally plan a trip after you’ve had a good meal. This will help you stick to your budget by only purchasing the items on your list and make it less likely that you’ll make impulse buys due to hunger. If your spouse or kids are going to the store with you, make sure they’ve also eaten and that they understand you’re not going to buy anything that isn’t on the list.
Read One-Star Reviews Before Making a Purchase
If you only read the five-star reviews for a product you’re thinking about buying, you’ll probably end up buying it, creating a dent in your budget that you might not be able to fill. But, if you spend some time looking at the one-star reviews, at the very least, you’ll reconsider purchasing the item. Reading about other people’s dissatisfaction with a product you thought you wanted can actually talk you out of spending your hard-earned money on it.
Of course, if you have the money in your household budget for this product and everyone in the family with decision-making permissions agrees it is a valid expense, you should go ahead and buy it. Having a budget doesn’t mean depriving yourself of things you really need or want. It just means making decisions about your purchases within the constraints of your finances. Just know that by buying one product, you are essentially making a decision not to buy another product you might also need.
Give Yourself Time to Consider Purchases
Have you ever put something in your shopping cart only to remove it before you get to the cashier? That’s a great strategy for deciding whether you really need to spend money on an item or not. Before you check out, go through your cart and reassess everything in it. You might just find that in the time between when you put something in the basket and now you don’t really need or want the item. Double checking your cart can actually save you a lot of money every time you shop.
If you’re shopping online, give yourself a day before actually making the purchase. Go ahead and put the items in your virtual shopping cart, but don’t click the “Pay Now” button until a day later. This will serve the same purpose as reassessing the items in your physical cart during an in-person shopping trip. After thinking about it for a few hours, you may decide you don’t really want to buy these items after all.
Getting an entire family to stick to a household estimate of income is a daunting task, but if you make certain rules about when to buy items and what to do before you pay, you can help yourself and your family members really be intentional about their spending.