Have you tried to make a budget for your family time and again, but you never seem to be able to make it work?
Does it feel like your family is working against your every effort to dig out of debt?
Well, that is because there is one key ingredient to making your family budget work, and I’m going to let you in on it.
How to Make a Family Budget Work
First, not only am I going to share the key ingredient with you, but I’m also going to tell you how to make this secret work in your family, and also how to apply it to your daily life.
Here is the secret to keeping a family budget:
First things first, you need to know the secret to keeping a family budget. That secret is none other than….teamwork.
Yes, teamwork is how you are going to dig out of debt when you have a family. No matter how big or small your family is, when you have more than one person to consider, it requires teamwork to have success.
So I realize at this point you might be slightly rolling your eyes and thinking, “Great! Now she’s going to tell me I have to be a team player or I’m going to be stuck in debt forever.”
Well, not exactly. I’m actually going to tell you how you can get your spouse and/or children on board with this dream of yours and then what to do once everyone is on the same page. Ready? Great! Let’s move on.
How to Get Everyone on the Same Page
So you know that you can’t do this debt-free thing alone. You can try, but you are going to constantly be angry because someone is going to be working against you and then feeling stressed because you are trying to carry this huge burden all on your own.
Well, let me tell you, that is not what family is about. It is about working together, loving one another, and supporting each other. If your family doesn’t operate like this most of the time (we all have a bad day), then it is time to get to work on building team spirit within your walls.
Now, before I go any further let me say, I am not blind to the fact that some people just have really unhealthy home lives. This is not the setting I’m talking about now. I’m discussing a typical, healthy home life where people clash from time to time because let’s face it, you have different personalities living under one roof.
However, if you are someone that is living in an unhealthy home situation, seek help! I’m not an expert on family or marital issues. I’m just a woman sharing what I’ve learned through a few life lessons.
So back to the team building exercises. I have three children and a husband. We struggled with debt for a long time and never could get out because we were never on the same page, and we were all always working against the other. Here is what worked for us to get us on the same page:
1. We Talked More
I’m going to let you in on a personal secret of min; when my husband and I first were married I was a financial whiz. I was a single woman with a cat before married life, so it was just me in my tiny apartment hanging out with my cat most days.
So when I got married, I panicked when I couldn’t account for every dime spent. When I made a budget, I would stick to it. So when I was married and sharing a checking account with someone who was making unplanned stops at gas stations for snacks and drinks I would be furious. I knew those were the types of choices that would waste a ton of our hard earned money.
But I didn’t go about it in the right way at all. Instead of sitting my husband down and discussing my viewpoint, I’d call him right after he left the gas station and give him my two cents on how he was wasting our money on overpriced Diet Mountain Dew.
To say I was a little overbearing would be the understatement of the century. I made a wedge between us called ‘money'. My husband would spend more just because I irritated him by treating him like a child, and I’d fuss more because let’s face it, he was spending $2 multiple times a day on a carbonated drink!
Then I realized one day that fussing at him was not going to solve him spending $30 a week at gas stations. It was just going to kill our finances and our marriage in the process.
So I finally sat down and communicated with him like a grown man. I showed him how much money he was actually spending a month on those gas station trips and what it was doing to our budget.
Then I let the situation go. I never said another word about his gas station habits, but instead did my part to help him have what he needed while he was traveling around for work. I remained pleasant and spoke with him often about my financial dreams and goals.
Before I knew it, he and I were on the same page.
So I encourage you, sit down and discuss with your spouse, partner, or family what your financial situation looks like. Discuss (calmly) what you can see as being pitfalls for your family financially. In our home, it was gas station stops and at the time, I worked outside of the home so we ate out more than we should. We both had to own our part of our financial picture and do our part to fix it too.
Basically, open the lines of communication in a healthy way and share a dream together instead of letting the dream rip your family apart by financial stress or hardship.
2. Spent More Time Together
After my husband and I communicated about our financial issues and learned to work together, years went by and we were still digging out of debt. We had children by this point and had to figure out how to keep moving forward with our financial goals though it felt like the world was crashing in around us with more bills.
So we learned to spend more time together as a family. This didn’t mean we were out running around doing expensive things for entertainment.
But we did learn to be content with just hanging out as a family. This could’ve been a trip to the park, a family movie night, or just playing outside in our yard.
Either way, we had to find ways to make time as a family to still feel like we were a unit fighting this beast called debt.
But we also had to let our kids know that life could be good by simply being content with having a family to have fun with. It worked really well because it always boosted our spirits to see our kids be happy with throwing a football in the front yard. We knew, though we couldn’t afford fun trips to amusement parks or other activities, we were making the best choice for our family to live simply, pay off debt, and find contentment in the simple things.
3. We Learned to be Frugal Together
Through the process of overcoming our debt, my husband and I used this as a learning opportunity for our children. We didn’t want our kids to grow up feeling like they needed money to make themselves happy or successful.
Actually, the older I get the more I realize that people who make a ton of money don’t have it easy. Businesses don’t pay them that kind of money for nothing. They expect them to work for every dime they earn and then some. I actually feel sorry for some of the wealthiest people in our nation and world because they work constantly!
I don’t want that life for my kids. I want them to have a balance where they work hard for what they have, but they have time to enjoy it too.
So we taught our kids many lessons about being frugal, saving the money you work hard for, and also how to do as much as you can with what you have. This was actually really fun because my husband and I were learning some of these lessons as we went.
But it created a lot of memories that I cherish now that my children are older. We may not have tons of memories about big vacations to Hawaii or Disney World, but we do have lots of great memories of making homemade pizzas together. We have lots of memories of building forts in the living rooms. We also have lots of memories about growing fodder in our dining room to stretch every last penny we had when raising our own chickens.
4. We Held Each Other Accountable
Finally, my family embraced teamwork by actually holding each other accountable. I told you my husband’s biggest budget buster was running by the gas station. See, he works a job where he travels from home to home every day. He spends most of his day out on the road.
So when he stops for gas, he usually goes to the gas station for a restroom break and a snack. When you do this multiple times a day, it adds up quickly. He learned over time that there were ways to go about this without breaking the bank. He now purchases the big fountain drinks that cost less than $1, and he packs a lot of his own snacks and drinks while he’s on the road.
Actually, our kids do a great job at holding him accountable because they’ll check him when he comes home to make sure that he isn’t carrying anything else besides one of his fountain cups because they are his “accountability partners.” They think it’s fun because they get to “tell on daddy” if he went outside of the budget. They’ve turned it into a game.
However, my husband has to be my accountability partner as far as eating out. Truthfully, now that I work from home and stay home with our children, I have a harder time not wanting to go out now than when I worked outside of the home. The reason is even when we go out for dinner, I’ve still already cooked at least two other times that day. It gets rather exhausting.
And I can’t really depend on my kids to help with accountability in this area if I go outside of the budget with eating out because they love to eat out.
So my husband has to usually talk me out of going out for dinner to save our budget on those days where cooking one more meal just seems to require more energy than I have at the moment.
As you can tell, you can get the whole family involved in making a budget work (even little kids) by working together.
Also, making accountability feel like a game for the little ones is a fun way to give them a task in the family budget. When my husband told our boys that they could tell on him if he came in with more than a large fountain drink, they got so excited. I think it’s because it made them feel important to have an active role in something like budgeting, which is great for them to learn those feelings of accomplishment at a young age.
Plus, they see responsibility in action. They see their dad being a responsible parent by not breaking his word to uphold the family budget. They see what they should do when they get older, and making them “accountability partners” is a great way to ensure that you have their attention during this process.
How We Applied Teamwork to Our Budget
So I’ve told you all about how we actually made teamwork happen in our family, but now I want to tell you how we applied it to our budgeting skills. It is rather easy to sit back and examine your family to see how you can unite and come together as a team. Attitudes are usually the biggest hurdle, but with time people break down and come around because let’s face it, we all want to belong and be loved in our families.
However, once you have those barriers broken down and you are on the same page, you need to know what to do next.
Well, here is what we did to make the family budget a group effort:
1. Pay the Bills Together
I’ll tell you upfront, most of these steps are going to be between you and your significant other because I don’t think many people actually allow their kids to be responsible to sit down and pay the bills, but you could adapt some of these to embrace the entire family if you wish.
To start, my husband and I began paying the bills together. I used to be the one that paid all of the bills. This was a problem because I was the only one seeing the full financial picture. He just saw how much money was being brought into the house and couldn’t figure out why we weren’t living better than we were.
Yet, I was the one seeing how much debt we really had and how bad it was hurting us. This goes back to our early days of marriage where he couldn’t see how even $30 a week in gas station stops could be that big of a deal in comparison to his paycheck.
Well, it is when you have a ton of expenses. So we solved a lot of this by sitting down and paying bills together.
Now, we will sit down the day before payday and go over how much his paycheck is going to be (it varies) and look at the calendar to see which bills need to be paid that pay period. I hope to eventually be one of those people that can pay my bills a month at a time, but I’m not there yet, so, for now, we pay our bills one pay period at a time.
So this allows us to see what is being paid, how much is left, and if we have any debts that arise that we need to pay off, then we can see the progress being made on those too. This just keeps us all on the same page all the way around.
2. Meal Plan
This could be an idea that you could bring the kids into. Meal planning is a must if you are planning on sticking to a budget. You can’t just go to the store and grab a bunch of random food and think that will fly. You must be intentional with every dollar you have.
So creating a meal plan is a great start. Then you can create a grocery list, add up what you think your meal plan will cost, and then adjust accordingly to make sure that it fits your budget.
Also, this lets everyone be on the same page about what you will be eating. It should shut down the temptation to eat out, and if one of you has a night that you are too drained to cook, you have a menu where the other one can step in or even an older child could help create a simple dinner.
So this just really incorporates teamwork all the way around, in my opinion.
3. Head to the Store
Next, my husband and I have started grocery shopping together. We don’t grocery shop much because we raise most of our own food, but when we head to the store we always go together. The reason is to hold the other accountable for the grocery budget.
Plus, you can help each other make sure that you find the best deals while you are at the grocery. This is one step where I actually don’t incorporate our kids. Our oldest child is now 18, so he agrees to stay home with the younger boys while his dad and I head into town to do the small grocery trips.
Basically, we choose to make these trips for parents only so we don’t get distracted by our younger children’s wants. It can often throw your train of thought off and end up being a budget buster.
4. Raise Money
This is a great family activity. The idea of living on a budget is often to get out of debt. You should continue to budget after being debt-free, but the budget is a little tighter when you are in debt for sure.
So you’ll want to find ways to make extra money in order to pay off debts faster. That is something we do as a family. Yes, my husband and I both work, but there are many ways to make extra money on the side and your kids can be a part of it.
For instance, we’ve recently gone through our home and garage and decided to sell items that we simply aren’t using anymore. Our kids were a huge help in helping to sort through items, and they helped to purge some of their own items to declutter our home.
Now, you should compensate your children for their help. What I mean is, don’t take their help and then not reward them. In our case, whatever we sold that was theirs they got the profit, but we advised them on spending it wisely. Meaning, we didn’t just let them blow it on junk food or trinkets. This is another financial teaching opportunity.
So when you decide to do something to raise money to create more wiggle room in your budget or to pay off debts faster, then try to do it as a family. It is a great team building exercise.
5. Shop Together
Clothes shopping is a budget buster in my household all the way around. No matter how much I try to create room in the budget for clothing, it is always a struggle. I mean, when you clothe 5 people with today’s pricing, it is enough to send anyone to the poor house.
But we are working on this as a family to try to avoid going into debt over clothing. When we do this, we go shopping as a family. That way we can hunt deals together, and my husband and I use the ‘divide and conquer’ method.
Basically, if I go shopping by myself with three children, I’m going to be a crazy lady by the time I get out of the store. By the time I find clothing for each child while making sure the child I’m not working with doesn’t roam off, I’m lucky if I have enough clothing. Let alone if I have the best deals on the clothing.
So my husband and I go together. We each take one of the younger children with us, and we hunt for what they need and also the best deals. I shop online as well, but that is still an overwhelming task, so we’ve found just going to the mall and making a day of it together is an easier way to go about it.
And it is all because of teamwork.
6. Food Prep
I’ve already mentioned to you that my budget-buster is eating out. When I worked outside of the home, I was always the later one to get home, so I’d often grab dinner on my way in which killed any budget I had ever created.
Then when I became a work-at-home mom, I feel like I cook all of the time. And I don’t just mean convenience foods. I literally cook…from scratch…because it’s cheaper. You can see where that could get tiring.
So in order to make dinnertime easier, my husband and I will get our kids in the kitchen, and we try to cook as a family. It takes all of the pressure off of one person, which is the way it should be. Saving money has got to be a family effort for a family budget. You can’t put all of the responsibility on one person and expect it to hold up because it won’t. They are human and will grow tired very quickly.
Also, another option is to prep freezer meals. That way on nights I’m really not up for cooking and my husband has had a long day at work, I can just pull a homemade meal from the freezer without killing our budget.
Again, it’s all about teamwork and working together to make meals that will be available when they are needed.
7. Teamwork Really Does Make the Dream Work
My final thought is if you want to apply teamwork to your daily life realize that teamwork really does make the dream work. My family and I have a small farm where we raise most of our food, but we couldn’t do half of what we do without our family.
Basically, our kids will get out in the garden and help to plant and weed it. My parents will come to our home and help us work in the garden.
Granted, we all eat from our homestead, but we couldn’t manage to grow and raise as much food as we do without teamwork. It is a necessity if you are going to achieve your goals as a family.
So talk to your spouse, partner, kids, etc. and get on the same page. Make budgeting a family event. Create ways to save money and be each other’s accountability partners. Help each other out with the tasks which saving money often requires.
But most of all, create a dream as a family. Our homestead was a dream that was birthed through our family. We have built it as a family, and I’m so proud of it because when I look at it, I see our family.
Well, you now know our family’s secret to maintaining a family budget. I’ve shared with you how you can make that secret a reality for your family and also how to apply it to your life to make it benefit your budget. I hope it helps you too!
But I’d like to hear your thoughts. What do you feel is your family’s biggest budgeting success ‘secret?’ How do you apply it to your daily lives? And how does it help our family stay on budget?
We love hearing your thoughts, so drop us a line in the comment section.