Start Budgeting and Get Your Family’s Finances on Track

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Before kids, your idea of budgeting was making sure you didn’t completely run out of money before your next payday. Keep that money mindset after starting a family, and it won’t be long before your carefree spending gets you in trouble.

 

That’s because kids are expensive, and not just in a can-you-believe-the-cost-of-diapers kind of way. When you have kids, there’s no more skipping doctor’s visits or taking the bus when your car breaks down. With little ones in your care, you need to be prepared to pay for the Urgent Care visit when your toddler cracks their head on the coffee table (yes, it will happen), that minivan you said you’d never drive, and a laundry list of other expenses that never seems to stop growing. And that means making a budget and sticking to it.

 

Ready to get started? This step-by-step guide will help you get your family’s finances on track.

1. Calculate your income and expenses

These two numbers are at the center of any household budget. But although subtracting expenses from income sounds simple enough, a lot of people miss expenses and end up overextending their money. To make sure you get everything, use a budget template. Remember to enter your net income — AKA take-home pay — not gross income.

2. Set savings goals

Everyone knows they should save, but it’s hard to do without a concrete goal. So give yourself one! If your savings account is currently at $0 or close to it, your first goal should be saving an emergency fund that could cover 3-6 months of living expenses. You’ll also want to set goals for retirement savings, college funds, and any other financial goals like that vacation you’ve been fantasizing about. For each financial goal, set a deadline and count backward to calculate how much you need to save per month.

3. Find ways to save

Does your budget leave enough money to meet your savings goals? If not, it’s time to reconfigure. While some expenses are non-negotiable, most families have a few places where they could cut back. Examine your spending on memberships and subscriptions, entertainment, household utilities, and cell phone, internet, and cable service to identify places to save.

 

Are you stuck with debt that makes it impossible to save? Getting out of the cycle of debt is one of the smartest things you can do for your family’s finances, but it’s not easy. Instead of making minimum payments and nothing more, start putting any extra money you have toward your highest-interest debt. This may require lifestyle sacrifices in the short-term, but getting rid of debt always pays off.

4. Start estate planning

If you think estate planning is something only the wealthy need, think again. When you have kids, you can’t afford not to have an estate plan. Your estate plan is how you leave money to your children in case something happens to one or both parents and name guardians to care for your kids if you’re not around.

 

You’ll lay out these details in a will, but you’ll also need to update beneficiaries on banking, investment, and life insurance accounts. Don’t have a life insurance policy? Now is the time to buy one, because life insurance is the best way to provide for your kids if the worst happens. It doesn’t have to be expensive either. If you want an idea of policy rates before you start shopping, use an online estimator. Keep in mind that you’ll likely have to submit to a health screening with a blood test. To help determine your premiums, insurance providers use this test to assess your overall health. The healthier you are, the lower your premiums.

 

When you’re young and single, budgeting seems like a drag. But once you get started, you’ll come to realize that budgeting is the key to achieving your family’s financial goals. Instead of living paycheck to paycheck and worrying about how you’ll stay afloat, you can build financial security and create a better life for your family.

 

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