New adventures, new us, new travels, new memories, a new approach to budgeting tips for families!
Working out a military family finance plan may turn out to be a hassle (as everything in our lives tends to get a tad bit more complicated), and we’ve been doing a good job so far.
You see how I said “a good job”? Well, I wanted to work on getting it great for more than one reason.
The biggest reason is that I wanted to have more control of the funds in our budget is:
- Investing in better quality food,
- Having more family travels (you can make them less expensive, but they put a burden on a budget of a family of four),
- Teaching my kids how to be smart with money.
Read about my even bigger project as of lately – making the biggest list of military discounts!
So, here are some kickstarter tips that my family is planning on implementing over the coming weeks and making the most out of our financial situation:
1. Pay off debt.
If you’re reeling from the weight of credit card bills, student loans or other debt, a budget can help you see how to dig your way out. Always allot enough money to pay more than the minimum payment due.
Depending on the seriousness of your debt problem, you may want to get help from a credit counseling agency. Some credit counselors are unscrupulous, though, and you’ve got to be careful not to sink even deeper into debt after seeking such help.
You can check counselors’ credentials and be connected to agencies that have made a commitment to certain professional and ethical standards.
Read also: 6 Ways To Get Out Of Debt
2. Give yourself a buffer.
What’s the most you ever spent on your utility bill? Build that highest number into your monthly budget. Also, build in set amounts for emergencies and for “mad money” you can spend any way you want.
With those contingencies covered, you’ll feel more comfortable investing a designated amount monthly – something everybody should do in some way, shape or form on a regular basis, even if the investment allotment is small.
3. Have a goal.
Whatever your goal may be – a home purchase, a remodeling project, an exotic vacation – it can help you find the discipline you need to squirrel away money by a certain deadline. Reflect on a goal you truly want to meet and resolve to do it.
Read also: Tips For Inexpensive Family Travel
4. Document and Track Your Expenses
This is often an eye-opening task. Many of us have no idea how much of our money is being burnt upon frivolous expenses. For this reason, it is extremely important to consistently monitor and put on record how and where your money is being spent.
Without knowing this, you’ll never be able to recognize where you’re overspending and where you can afford to cut back. It’s important to be very diligent with this, down to the dollar if possible.
Many times we will overlook the smaller expenses, like that morning coffee and donut, and these various small purchases are often the unnoticed culprit. So at least for the first few months of trying to establish a budget, document every expense.
Try getting an old notebook that you don’t use anymore or use one of the many smartphone apps available if you prefer. This way, you can systematically identify and cut unnecessary expenses if you see that, for example, a 3rd of your income goes to eating out or forgotten snacking.
Read also: The Lending Mag
5. Gift giving
Set realistic budgets for each of the gift-giving occasions you have over the year (Valentine’s Day, Easter, anniversaries, birthdays, baby showers, Christmas, etc.) and add them up. Don’t forget to add in expenses for gift tags, wrap, postage (both for orders and for shipping to the recipient).
Then add up the total and divide it by twelve. This is the amount you will need to put into your savings account each month to cover these expenses. Track the savings and expenses on a spreadsheet to ensure you don’t overspend. This may result in a little less money in your wallet each month, but it means you will have the cash when you need it and you won’t be paying off your gifts with interest for months to come.
Read more about gift giving tips on castleviewacademy.com.
6. Discount Does Not Equal Saving
A fellow blogger, Alli, shared a smart one – don’t be fooled into thinking you’ve saved money just because it’s on sale! You can check out her equally great piece on saving money here.
7. Change Where You Shop
Read more about thrift store shopping at familycentsability.com.
8. Use Unconventional Methods
From fee Walmart Gift cards to actual ways to getting free money, you can actually find so many (somewhat weird) methods to make and save. My friend Todd at MoneyHax.com is all about how you can save more through unconventional methods. They’ve published ways on how to save on groceries, online shopping, and much more!
9. Be Decisive
Successful people (and debt-free people) act fast and decisively. They do not waver in their decisions because they truly believe that what they are saying is right, shares Edwin from SaveTheBill.com.
10. 401k loan is Still a Loan!
Gary from The Dollar Stretcher shares that many people think that a 401k loan is like borrowing money without cost. After all aren’t you just paying the interest to yourself? While there are advantages to borrowing from your 401k there are costs as well. The first cost is that the lower interest rate that you like as a borrower means that your 401k account is growing at a slower rate. And that effect is multiplied by the time you retire. So the $1000 you save in interest costs today could cost you $2k or more when you retire.
A more immediate risk occurs if you can’t pay back the loan. Any money that you don’t pay back is subject to an early withdrawal penalty (10% if you’re not 59 1/2) and will be added to your taxable income.
One final risk is that if you should leave your job (quit, be fired or laid-off) the entire loan is due at once!
11. Do You Really Need That New Thing?
Before you buy anything, ask yourself if you really need it. If you determine that you do need it, can you buy it used? If so, then buy it. If you don’t really need it, wait a while before making the purchase as you may forget about it after a while and realize you can live without it, as shared by Pam from Pennysaverblog.com
12. Make it fun!
When my wife and I were getting out of debt, we were on a super tight budget. We would have date nights where the goal was to see how little we could spend. It was actually a lot of fun. We missed those dates so much that we’ve done it since we became debt-free. Budgeting can be fun if you know your end goal, Kalen of MoneyMiniBlog.com shares.
13. Planning is the key!
Glenda from Expatpetitemom shares that the best thing about planning especially with the month-long groceries, packed lunch or snack for your kids to school is that you have the great chance of scoring lower prices or promotions. Not to mention great discounts when buying in bulk. You will be focused only what you really need or buy as you already come up with a plan or a list. Honestly, and I know you will agree to this, last minute trips to the groceries or just buying the thing when you need them can be more expensive when you factor in the unexpected elements such as gas, time, or other mishaps when unplanned.
14. NEVER pay full price!
Always look to see if there is a discount code online (my fav website to find them is Retail Me Not)
or an offer like 10% off or free shipping, if you sign up for the company newsletter – shares Nicole from Bless their Hearts Mom. For example, I recently used a 30% off coupon at Kohls, on top of their sale price, AND had a free shipping code, which brought the price down from $16 plus $6 shipping for a dance skirt for my daughter down to $6. But don’t use a coupon or sale code as a REASON to shop if you’re on a budget- use it to SAVE you money on what you ALREADY
were buying, otherwise, you’re killing your budget!
15. Stop Dining Out
Just cutting back on Starbucks trips alone can save a bundle of money, and meal planning or always having your family’s favorite staple food items on hand to make homemade dinners will save you from having to stop off for fast food or Jamba Juice after soccer practice. Speaking of Jamba Juice, if you always have frozen fruit on hand, there are countless delicious smoothie recipes online and you will save money whipping up your own smoothies at home (and it’s fun)! Another tip: when I make dinners I typically stretch the meal into the next day’s school lunch. So if I make pasta, I get out to lunch containers at the same time and fill those to pop into the kids’ Planetbox the next morning. In a way, it’s like getting two meals for one. Also, cutting back on sweets and juice can save some dough. If your family must have juice, consider filling 1/4 of the glass with juice and the rest with water––diluting it is healthier and makes it last longer.
– Beth from Petite Planet.
16. Don’t Be Afraid Of A Budget Plan
When I first set out on my journey to get healthy and lose over 100 lbs and the recently diagnosed Type 2 Diabetes, I knew that whatever weight loss method I chose – it would have to be for life. For me, that meant no exercise, as I knew I wouldn’t keep it up for life. That’s how I was able to lose over 100 lbs, Type 2 Diabetes, and keep it off for over 7 years.
It’s the same thing with a family budget. Don’t shoot to save $50k in 6 months. Make sure you make realistic, easy to hit goals, that you can maintain. Budgeting doesn’t have to be scary and there are a variety of ways to do it. Choose the best method for you and dig in. You can do it!
– Dian from Grocery Shop For Free.
17. Stop using credit and debit cards for small purchases!
18. Try out a spending fast
19. What Do You Need?
20. Don’t buy, make it!
21. Be You (aka Ignore the Joneses)
22. Have an Emergency Fund.
23. Budgeting Is A Lot Like Dieting
24. Use Deal Sites For Christmas Shopping!
25. Always research your purchases
We have this nifty, accessible resource called the internet – use it! Before making any purchases, do your research. Are you able to find it at a more affordable rate? Perhaps a lucky sale? An internet search can take a few minutes and save you a lot of money.
I never make a purchase until I follow these steps:
- Read reviews – make sure the item is worth the cost
- Compare prices
- Find coupons or discounts
- Look into second-hand sales – you never know what you could find
– Ronnie from Home Life Abroad.
26. Use LEDs
Replacing old incandescent light bulbs with energy-saving LEDs is an immediate way to start saving money. That’s because LEDs are more than 10 times as efficient as incandescents, so they’ll start cutting how much energy you use as soon as you flip the switch. Another great reason to use is LEDs is because they last so long – up to 10 years, depending on the light fixture. Sure LEDs cost a little more money up front, but you’ll make it back in lower utility bills in no time at all.
– Diane from Big Green Purse.
27. Cut Your Electric Bill In Half
By simply shopping around you can reduce your electric bill in one phone call. Thus cutting down on your monthly expenses. But there are also some incredibly easy ways to cut down on your electric bill buy just doing a few things around your home. You can read more about it here.
– Amy from Mainly Homemade
28. Balancing The Kids’ Allowances
29. Shop around
30. Get the kids involved!
31. Buy a Deep Freezer
32. Plan your meals based on foods that are on sale
33. Don’t eat out all the time
34. Have Your Kids Pitch In!
35. Save Your Change
36. Time is money!
… and if you want to SAVE some, you might have to spend it first. Once I started planning my budget I realized that the time I spend cleaning my house and doing various chores would be much better spent If I started writing my blogs and doing freelance work instead, cause I would actually earn more.
37. Try a zero-based budget!
There are more than a few budgeting philosophies out there, but quite honestly most people I’ve had the chance to discuss budgeting with treat budgeting as if it’s really just about restricting how much you spend. While discipline is an essential ingredient, budgeting money you “hope” you’ll have never works for the long run. When you budget your actual spendable money only, you’ll immediately see where you stand.
38. Consider Downsizing
There are many benefits to downsizing. There’s less work to do, an opportunity to finally get organized, less maintenance, and less stress. On top of that, you will ultimately save money and often make some in the process.
39. Check Your Accounts Regularly
40. Save by Selling!
41. Entertain the kids with nature
42. Barter. Partner. Trade.
43. Start Growing Food!
My family saves money by growing as much food as we can in our garden and sourcing what we can’t grow from local farmers, whenever possible. For instance, this fall, I was able to purchase large quantities of storage crops (potatoes, winter squash, turnips, carrots, beets, parsnips) at wholesale prices, and fill the trunk of my car with apples from a nearby orchard for $50. We store the food in our basement or root cellar and it lasts for most of the winter, forming the foundation of many hearty stews and soups.
44. Use coupons and cash back on every purchase
45. Spend less money than you make
If you don’t spend what you have wisely, you won’t be able to control a large amount of money wisely. Why is spending less money so important? Spending less money is important because money truly doesn’t last long when we get a hold of it, then when we get older and need to buy something we won’t be able to buy the things that we need, because we didn’t spend our money wisely when we were younger. And if you’re asking yourself, ”how do I save more money?” There always is a way to save money, just look at your budget and see what you can cut back on and see if you can buy the things you need cheaper. Another way to save money is to wait for what you want. You don’t need something instantly to make you feel ecstatic, and what you can do is put money to the side and buy the things you want at a later time.
– Casey from CaseyStubbs.com
Want to add a great family finance tip to this list? Feel free to reach out!