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It’s a never-ending battle trying to keep track of your household budget. There’s always something coming up that we need to budget for. And it can be stressful getting everything in order and staying on top of things. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day expenses and not see the bigger picture, but this is where having a budget, and a budget journal can make a huge difference.
And when you have a good handle on your finances, you’re going to feel so much better about your situation as well as have more confidence moving forward. Having a household budget will help you see where your money is going, where there might be some leaks, and whether or not you have enough saved for emergencies and other upcoming expenses.
Whether that’s car maintenance, property taxes, or school tuition – those are just some examples of the many different things that will cost money at some point in your life.
So let’s take a look at some beneficial categories to include in your family’s monthly budget.
First, let’s talk about housing. This includes your mortgage payment, property taxes, home insurance, and any repairs or renovations that may need to be done. When you first start a budget, one of the most important factors to consider is how much you spend on housing. This is usually the largest chunk of your budget, so it’s important to be realistic and try to stay within your means.
Try to keep your housing payment as low as possible without jeopardizing your safety or the quality of your home. Keep in mind that a mortgage payment is not the same thing as a rent payment. A mortgage is a loan that you are paying back over time; whereas, rent is simply an amount paid in exchange for use of someone else’s property.
Next on our list is debt repayment. This includes any outstanding loans or credit card bills you might have in order to purchase a vehicle or home, medical expenses, or even your grocery bill.
It can be tempting to focus on paying back high-interest credit cards or getting a car loan paid off quickly. But if you have any sizeable student loans, it’s recommended to focus on paying that off first. Student loans have very low interest rates, and you can get the payments deferred if you’re still in school.
That said, it’s important to keep your budget in mind and make sure you’re not paying any loans off too quickly. Otherwise, you risk incurring interest and having it take even longer to pay off.
Education and Careers
You may already have a budget category solely devoted to education, but it’s worth mentioning here as well. Education is something that can benefit you throughout your life. It can be a short seminar, a degree program, or even lifelong learning.
Depending on your financial situation, you may be eligible for government grants or other incentives to help you cover the cost of education. There are also many scholarships that are awarded based on specific criteria, such as your major, where you live, or even your financial situation.
If you have kids and want to encourage them to pursue their passions, it’s a good idea to start an education fund for them. This is a separate savings account that you can use to pay for your child’s education. It’s a great way to help them achieve their goals without putting too much of a burden on your family budget.
Food and Dining Out
Okay, so we all have to eat, but how we budget for that can make a big difference. Eating out too often can really add up in the long run. You can help prevent this by having a food budget. The recommended amount to spend on food is based on the number of people in your household.
For example, if you have a family of four, you’re going to need to budget roughly $120 per week on groceries. There are also other ways you can save while grocery shopping, such as buying in bulk, growing your own veggies, and buying generic brands whenever possible.
Another way to save money on food is to meal plan. When you plan out your meals for the week, you have a better chance of eating at home and not spending too much money. You can also do bulk cooking and freezing meals. This is a great way to save money and eat healthier at the same time.
Transportation and Travel
This is a good category to put any expenses related to your vehicle, such as car maintenance and gas. It’s also a good place to put any money you spend on public transportation like taxis or Ubers. This can also include any travel expenses.
If you have a family vacation or other travel plans coming up, you may want to separate this out from your monthly budget. This way you can track exactly how much you’ve spent on travel and how much is left in your travel fund.
If you have any long-term travel plans, such as studying abroad or visiting relatives in another country, you should also include this in your budget. It’s easy to forget about these costs, but they can add up quickly.
An emergency fund is intended to help you deal with unexpected costs. These could be anything from a car repair to a roof leak or medical expenses not covered by your health insurance.
Some people argue that it’s better to have a health savings account (HSA) instead of an emergency fund. The main difference between these two is that you can only use the money in an HSA for healthcare-related expenses. With an emergency fund, you can use the money for anything.
Still, an emergency fund is a great way to help you prepare for the unexpected. You can set a goal to save a certain amount each month, and when you hit that mark, put it in your emergency fund. Having money saved in this account is a great way to keep stress down during unexpected situations.
Now that you know what important categories to include on your family’s budget, it’s time to get to work. Start by listing out all of your current expenses, along with any future expenses you know are coming up. From there, you can begin to organize those expenses into categories.
This is the best way to start budgeting and will help you gain a better understanding of your overall spending. And with proper budgeting, you can rest easy knowing that you have a plan in place for all of the expenses in your life.