4 Easy Tips to Help Manage Your Family’s Budget
February 12, 2019 | By Mason Roberts
Talking about money and how to save it is one of the most boring, most depressing topics you could possibly attempt to discuss—and yet here we are, and we’re going to discuss it because it’s important. But let’s try to talk about this in a fun, and more importantly, realistic way.
There are a lot of resources out there that can help you budget and save your money, but having more than just yourself to take care of can put those options through a cheese grater.
So let’s talk some real talk. How can you manage your family’s budget and save money at the same time?
1. Evaluate Your Spending
Where is your family budget hemorrhaging money, and can you apply the metaphorical tourniquet there? Before we move onto anything else, it would be a good idea to address the most obvious issues. What are you spending money on that you can either cut down on or avoid altogether on your family’s budget?
I would suggest making a list if you do not already have an app like Mint or Clarity, both of which are apps that track spending and categorize them. There’s also this nifty process called “kakebo”, also known as the Japanese art of mindful spending.
If you prefer the old paper method of jotting down your money movement, then the kakebo book published by Harper Design is very, very helpful in clearly breaking down your spending and savings—it also helps promote smart spending so you can save more.
Manage Subscriptions in Your Family Budget
One of the nice things about apps like Clarity is that it can help you evaluate the subscriptions you have. It’s funny how a few small subscriptions can really drain your income without you even realizing it, so maybe it’s time to decide what it is you really need in your family’s monthly budget, and if those subscriptions are really worth the money you’re spending on them.
For example, I spend $10 a month on Netflix, Spotify, Dropbox, and Twitch each—that right there is $40 I’m losing monthly, and over a year I lose $480. Do I really need to spend money on all these online services?
I could buy an external hard drive rather than use Dropbox and save money in the long term, and I don’t necessarily use Spotify enough on a daily basis to justify my continued use of it, which can similarly be said about Twitch. If I cancel those three, I already save $30 a month that can be put towards either savings or more important purchases. If you utilize this minimalizing thought process, it’s amazing how much you can potentially save right off the bat.
2. Refinance Your Student Loans
Now this next step is just a tad bit trickier. Debt is the biggest drain on our finances these days, it seems, especially student loans. The worst part about it, although I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir, is the interest on these loans, because they wind up costing almost as the loan itself. So, in the name of saving that money for your family and your savings, why don’t we consider refinancing?
When you refinance a loan, that means you’re taking out a new loan but with better prospects; at least, that’s what you want when you refinance, so make sure to do some research before you commit to one. Student loans are notorious for huge interest rates, so why not find a new installment loan with better rates and a better time table that suits your needs? That way you can pay off that old loan and not lose so much money in the long term on your interest.
Credit Card Debt
Similarly, credit cards also have a tendency to have a large interest rate after the first 6-12 months of opening a new one. You can get pretty crafty with credit cards if you play your cards right.
If you want to make a big purchase or want to refinance a loan, such as a student loan, you can open a new credit card with no interest financing for the first 12 months and simultaneously build credit, avoid interest, and accumulate points on your card; however, if you do not have the capability of paying off that sum during the no interest period, then you’ve made a mistake, because the interest on that credit card will most likely pack a punch.
So whether you’ve made that tactical error or you just have charged too much and can’t quite pay it off, you can also utilize a new installment loan with better terms to consolidate your debt from your card. The thought to keep in mind throughout this debt juggling is your credit and what you’re doing to it, so be sure to understand how your score will be influenced.
3. Ditch the Junk
So while you might not be able to make your fortune off of this, you can certainly make a little side money for your family budget and clean up your home of unnecessary clutter. Do you really need that stack of board games your kids haven’t touched in a year?
You have two old phones in your drawer, are both totally necessary as a backup? What about all those clothes your kids have grown out of? I’m going to lay out some food for thought to help you generate some ideas on how to make the most from your unused items.
Selling Your Clothes
What do you really wear these days? Some people have the unique sense to wear everything they have, but not all of us cycle through the whole wardrobe. It might not be a bad idea to clean out your closet, because if you haven’t worn that dress in the past year, then how useful is it really?
Here in Kentucky, you can bring your clothes to stores like Plato’s Closet and Clothes Mentor, and might make more than just a few bucks if it’s designer threads. You can also use online resources like Instagram or Facebook—it’s really a win-win when you make money off things you don’t need.
Pawnshop and Second Hand Stores
Your spring cleaning (or summer, winter, fall cleaning) doesn’t have to stop at clothes. If you have extra cellphones lying around or other electronics you no longer find yourself using, you can sell them at a pawn shop or even a little thing called an ecoATM. You can also take any books collecting dust, furniture, or tools to second-hand stores. You might not make back what you originally spent, but it’s better than just throwing whatever it is out.
Sell or Re-Gift Gifts
Holiday debt packs quite the punch. If you find that the holidays have passed and you’re in a bit of the budget blues, you can take the gifts you’ve received and re-gift them to others for birthdays or future holidays and save your future-self money. You can also sell those gifts to make some quick cash.
If the idea of traversing into an antique shop or second-hand stores gives you hives, then maybe try selling your items online. There are online markets such as eBay, Craigslist, Amazon, etc. where you can sell and even have bidding wars for your items. You, of course, would need to do a little research to see what you’re selling is actually worth, but that way you can simply ship or have the new owners pick up the junk you no longer want.
The best part about any of these options is that you get cash fast, as soon as you exchange your old stuff. Even at the places that evaluate the worth of your items, it takes no longer than a few hours to receive cash back, and while it might not pay your rent, it could certainly help you towards a larger goal.
4. Plan Your Future Family Budget
Now what is that huge expense all parents seem to dream when they look to the future of their children? Ah, yes—college. Well, fear not, if you’ve just given birth to the wee tot or still have quite the number of years before they have to start taking their ACT/SAT, then you have programs such as KY Saves 529.
KY Saves 529 is a Kentucky-specific saving service provided by the Commonwealth of Kentucky. This program allows you to plan and save for your children’s’ future education, which can help you save money in the future. The problem with saving money is that it is often a future-oriented process, especially when concerning big purchases.