Budgeting for an entire family can be a challenge. Aside from the regular bills like mortgage, utilities and groceries, families often scramble to come up with funds for school expenses, sports and birthday parties.

Call a Family Meeting

When it comes to discussing family expenditures and finances everyone needs to be involved. That includes the children. It’s important to discuss things like birthday parties and special school lunches to set reasonable expectations. The more involved your children are in the family financial plan, the easier it will be for them to take responsibility as they grow older.

Set Limits on Spending

Does your 6-year old get invited to a birthday party every weekend? Is it your turn to buy snacks for the baseball team? Is your child’s school selling popcorn as a fundraiser?

Set limits on your spending and stick to it. Keeping your children involved in the decisionmaking process helps them understand boundaries when it comes to spending. It’s a good learning opportunity and helps kids feel empowered by their choices.

Set limits on how much will be paid out for birthday party gifts. A per gift limit makes it fair for everyone. Plan a weekly budget to cover outside activities, such as snacks and fundraisers.

It’s Okay to Say No

It’s not just okay to say no to your children, it’s highly recommended. Children don’t learn to value things by always having the world at their fingertips.

If it’s your family’s turn to buy snacks, tell your children there won’t be money left over for popcorn this week. If the school offers 3 hot lunch days, have your kids choose one, and say no to the other two.

As far as “I want” and “Can I have” in the supermarket, department stores or even television, just learn to say no. Save new toys and games for special events like birthdays and holidays.

Keep Ahead of the Debt

It’s easy to pull out the credit card and spend without thinking. However, interest adds up quickly and can turn minor expenses into a debt burden.

Keeping ahead of the debt includes taming the use of credit cards, and of-course, coming up with a plan to pay off the balances. Adding even $10 per month to your minimum payment will start to reduce the principal. The key to paying off credit cards and other debts is to avoid becoming cash poor. Using every spare penny you have to pay down debt, leaves nothing in the bank for unexpected expenses.

When it comes to paying down debts, work on the highest interest rates first. The more principal you can pay, the more manageable high interest rates become.

Plan Ahead

Find out what the school has planned for the year including field trips, fundraisers, hot lunch programs and student expenses. Estimate how much your family will spend on entertainment, sports, birthday parties and special events.

Start separate accounts or even piggy banks to put funds aside for school and outside activities. Print a year in a glance calendar and circle important dates so that you and your family are always aware that something else is coming up. Plan where your funds will go and stick with it.

Have an Emergency Fund

The average person will fall behind on their bills if they miss just one paycheck. Just one. That leaves little room to handle big problems, such as new furnace in your home or a transmission in your car.

Experts indicate that any kind of emergency savings fund should match 6 months in wages. That’s a pretty big goal if you’re starting at zero. It can be intimidating to even think of that amount.

Conclusion

The best way to build your emergency fund is to pay yourself first. Talk to your payroll department about payroll splitting (putting a portion of your paycheck into a different account). If not, go to your bank and set up automatic transfers into a savings account every pay day.

You don’t need to put huge chunks aside that will encumber your daily living. Start with 5% per paycheck if you are paying down other debts. If your debts are under control, aim for 10%.

It will take you a while to build your savings, but if you pay yourself first, and make it automatic, you’ll be prepared for whatever financial bumps you encounter along the road.

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