Kristi McCain is a senior auditor based in Virginia. Here, she shares her family budgeting tips with us.
Typing “how to start a budget” into an internet search bar will yield an impressive number of results. It can be a little overwhelming to figure out where to begin, but it is well worth the effort. For my husband and me, budgeting has been a way to become true stewards over our finances. When we married a year and a half ago, we had to figure out how to blend our individual finances in a way that worked best for us. Now with our first baby on the way, we’re learning that every major life event will have some kind of impact on our family’s finances.
My husband and I are still learning the best way to budget for our growing family. Though our financial habits have evolved as our circumstances have changed, here are five things that have remained constant for us. We know they will help you as you start a budget for your family.
1. Remember Your #1 Financial Adviser
In Malachi 3:10, the Lord promises to open up the windows of heaven for those who pay a full tithe. Remember your heavenly financial adviser; pay Him first and see how He fulfills this promise for your family.
2. Make Budgeting a Team Effort and Communicate—All the Time
It doesn’t matter if just one spouse brings in income, you both earn roughly the same amount, or one earns significantly more than the other; work on your budget together. Decide together how much to set aside in savings, how much is realistic to spend on groceries, what is considered “essential,” and so on. Take turns checking the balance in your bank account. Let each other know when you need to make an unexpected purchase. Being on the same page with your budgeting goals and having open communication will help avoid frustration, confusion, and disagreement down the road.
3. Put Everything on Paper
As a couple, ask yourselves: What is our total monthly income? What are our monthly expenses (for example, tithing, rent or mortgage, utilities, insurance)? What do we spend on essentials every week (for example, gas, groceries, toiletries)? When you figure out your remaining balance after tithing and other obligations, decide on a set amount to put in savings every month. Make this a required “expense” in your budget. Outline everything on a notepad or your computer, then stick to it! It may take a little discipline at first, but understanding where your money goes helps rein in unnecessary spending. You will also be amazed at how quickly your savings will grow!
4. Expect the Unexpected
Tires go flat, pipes burst, bones break—life happens. Proactive planning, instead of reactive scrambling, will give you peace of mind. If you are prepared financially, life’s little setbacks will be less stressful and upsetting. Consider setting up a savings account designated for unexpected expenses. As mentioned above, decide how much to contribute to this savings account and make it a required part of your budget.
5. Plan for the Future
Don’t wait to start planning for the future; it will be here before you know it. Attend a retirement seminar as a date! Look into college savings plans for yourselves or your children. Learn about investing and how to maximize wealth. Make your future a priority today. You’ll start to see how exciting budgeting can be as you meet your short- and long-term goals and build a safe, happy financial life.