Financial success doesn’t just happen; you have to plan for it. A spending plan can help you allocate your money resources to the financial goals that will provide you with a secure future, as well as help you enjoy your life right now. When your family creates a spending plan, you take control of your financial destiny and play an active role in what happens to your family next.
Deciding on your values, priorities, and goals
The first thing to determine is what your shared values, priorities, and goals are, as a family. Your spending plan should help you to live the life you want, not to be a carbon copy of some other family’s life and priorities.
Talk about what you value as a family. This could be spending time together at home, going on the occasional vacation, giving to charity, performing service, supporting extracurricular activities, or buying a new big-screen TV. Realize that there are no wrong answers.
Decide what defines you as a family, and set goals together. Then, decide which goals should take priority. If your family wants to become obligation-free, then a plan to pay off debt should be the number-one priority. If you want to save up for a down payment on a house, set a timeframe and put your savings toward that goal.
Allocating your financial resources
Once you understand your family’s goals, it’s time to figure out how to allocate your resources. Of course, you will first need to cover expenses like housing payments, groceries, clothing, utilities, and insurance. Then, look at how much each month can realistically go toward helping your family accomplish its goals.
Prioritize your savings so you will be able to achieve your short-term and long-term goals. While you might want to start saving for retirement, your bigger priority might be paying down debt. Put more of your resources toward debt reduction for now, but don’t neglect the long-term goal of retirement savings. As you get rid of debt, you can shift your money toward funding retirement.
Prioritize your spending so that the most important items are paid for first. Knowing your priorities ahead of time makes it less painful to make budget cuts because you can start by cutting the items off the bottom of your list.
For example, your family might be saving money for a vacation. You determine that $150 a month needs to be set aside for the next 10 months, but you might not have enough money to do everything else you want. You might need to drop off some of the less important expenses, such as going to the movies or buying a new iPad.
Your spending plan doesn’t just have to be about figuring out where to cut back on spending. Involve every member of the family in discussing what can be done to contribute to the accomplishment of family goals, whether it’s cutting back on less-important spending or doing odd jobs to help boost the family income.
Mark your progress toward your goals, and find ways to celebrate as you accomplish your objectives. And, as you achieve your current goals, remember to adjust your spending plan so that your newly freed financial resources can shift to fund the next adventure.
Miranda Marquit is a freelance writer and professional blogger specializing in personal finance, family finance and business topics. She writes for several online and offline publications. Miranda is the co-author of Community 101: How to Grow an Online Community, and the writer behind PlantingMoneySeeds.com.