Your household budget sorted in 5 simple steps
By Jo Violeta
When I was pregnant with our second child and on maternity leave, my husband and I launched a new business. For anyone who has ever started a business, you would know that during the first few years you’re not making much money. So, almost overnight our household income dramatically decreased and our expenses increased with the addition of a newborn.
Those first couple of years were financially tough. But what got us through was careful planning and budgeting. Following a household budget was key to keeping us afloat. Even now that our business has grown, we still stick to a budget. Budgeting has enabled us to build our savings, put money away for a holiday and plan to buy a new investment property.
Budgeting might not seem like your idea of fun. The perception is that it’s restrictive; that you’ll have to do without, and that they’re hard to stick to. However, when done right sticking to a household budget can help you achieve the type of lifestyle you want for you and your family. A household budget reduces money worries, so you can focus your energies on enjoying your family rather than stressing about the family finances.
So, grab a cuppa, settle in, and let’s get your budget sorted.
STEP 1 – KNOW YOUR EXPENSES
You must have a clear picture of your expenses. Write down all your bills and living expenses such as rent/mortgage repayments, car repayments, insurances, groceries, school fees, after-school activities and utilities.
Next list all of your discretionary expenses such as eating out and entertainment. Remember to also include irregular expenses like haircuts and birthday presents/parties.
To get a true picture of your expenses, track your spending for a week to see where your money goes. I recommend collecting receipts or carrying around a notebook and pen for a week to write down EVERYTHING you spend money on.
STEP 2 – WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN
Enter all your expenses into a budget planner by week or by month (it’s best to choose the same cycle as your income e.g. paid monthly, then show expenses by month). We use a basic excel spreadsheet for our family budget, which you can download here www.bit.ly/FamilyBudgetPlanner. There are also some great online budgeting tools such as the ASIC MoneySmart Budget Planner.
Enter your income into the planner. We get paid monthly, so we break our expenses and income down into monthly amounts. For example, on average we spend $120 per week on groceries, so that’s about $480 per month. If car registration is $800 per year we allocate $67 per month in the budget for that.
STEP 3 – REDUCE EXPENSES
Ideally, you should be earning more than you spend, so you can use the surplus to build your savings or to pay down debt. If you need to reduce expenses:
- Review all your subscriptions and memberships (i.e. magazines, streaming services, gym memberships) and cancel any that you don’t use regularly
- Plan and bulk-cook meals ahead of time
- Make lunch instead of buying it
- Consider whether an expense is a “need” versus a “want”
- Contact your service providers such as insurance and utilities, and negotiate a better deal
- If you have a home loan, investigate whether refinancing your mortgage could save you money
STEP 4 – STICKING TO THE BUDGET
Sticking to a budget can be tricky at first but there are some simple ways to make it more achievable.
Be realistic in your savings or debt-pay-down goal; don’t expect to save $10,000 a year if you can comfortably only save $200 per fortnight. If the goals are unattainable, you’ll give up more easily.
Ensure you get a reward for the little wins along the way. Don’t deny yourself every pleasure of life or you’ll only resent your budget!
Automate your budgeting. Even though I love numbers and finance, I don’t want to spend all my time thinking about my budget. I automate my budget plan as much as possible with automatic transfers into our savings account every payday. I also have an automatic transfer set up for accounts for big-ticket expenses such as car registration. If the process is happening (mostly) automatically, you are more inclined to stick with it.
STEP 5 – REVIEW
It’s important to review and adjust your budget regularly. From my experience your first attempt at creating a budget is rarely the right fit. It takes a couple of months of adjustments to get it right. Once you’ve set your budget up, it’s important to review it regularly to ensure it’s working for you. I review my budget every 3 months or whenever there is a significant change in my income or expenses.
Creating a budget that you can stick to can be a financial game changer. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but it will quickly become a hawbit, and the rewards will help keep you motivated.
Jo and Carl Violeta are self-confessed numbers nerds, parents of an energetic toddler and a super switched-on teenager, and co-founders of the award-winning business, Violeta Finance. They are a husband and wife team who are passionate about empowering their community with financial education, love the odd glass of wine, and get a kick out of helping families achieve their homeownership and financial dreams.