It’s always interesting to talk with other families about how they manage finances. Obviously, there is a layer of privacy and most people don’t want to discuss actual numbers. However, even surface level conversations generally reveal the basic information: which families use a budget, who the “spender” of a household is, and which expenses seem to throw the whole budget off balance.
Budgets, like marriage and parenting, fall into the whole it’s-that-easy-and-that-hard category. Starting a budget is exciting because you feel a sense of control over your financial state. It’s also overwhelming and difficult to stick to the discipline required to keep a solid budget in place. Certainly, there are a number of resources online to get a budget started (like these forms), but how about some more basic advice for those just getting going?
Here are our best tips for a budget beginner:
1. Be kind but honest
As a budget beginner, it doesn’t matter if you are creating one for just yourself or an entire family: be kind but honest. In other words, look to see where you are spending your money. If you notice all of it goes to eating out, don’t beat yourself up over it. Just try to determine how much should really be spent on eating out each month. This is where you also have to be honest because if you can’t be honest you will have to…
2. Be willing to adjust expectations
Ooops, did you accidentally spend double the amount you allocated on entertainment? Or perhaps you didn’t realize that you can’t actually put ALL of your extra income into savings every month. It’s going to be okay. The first few months are more of an experiment anyway so treat them as such. Accept that every month won’t be ideal and that as you get used to budgeting, you will start to see even more patterns that you can learn from to create a more accurate budget.
3. Remember your priorities
Inevitably, there will be temptations to stray from your budget. It’s important to give yourself a little freedom here. Weigh out the options in your head and then remember your priorities for starting the budget and see how it would be impacted. For example, if the goal is to become debt free then it won’t make sense to charge another vacation. Even if it’s a great deal. Even if you’ve always wanted to go to Aruba and ride horses on the beach. Ah, but don’t want to miss out on everything….
4. Get creative and resourceful
Okay, so it doesn’t make sense to take that trip to Aruba…yet. That doesn’t mean you can’t make a plan to get there. Start finding even more ways to save money without huge sacrifice (like these suggestions) and set those specific savings aside for your goal. Don’t forget to maximize coupons, deals, and discounts for shopping and creative options for expenses like teacher gifts and Christmas presents.
5. Don’t give up
Even if you completely fail at the first, second, or even 53rd attempt at a budget – don’t give up! It may be tough as a budget beginner, but frugal families all over the world will confirm that the advantages of following a budget are worth it.
Have any other special tips for a budget beginner? We’d love to hear them! Share your ideas and suggestions with us here!