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Lately I have been asked a lot about how I go about planning my family meals, what my grocery list looks like and how much i spend on our weekly food shop. While some of that information is something I like to keep private and also only share with the mothers that are part of my paid and private StayStrongMummy Club – I’d like to make it clear that just because I have over 100,000 social media followers, it doesn’t mean i spend $500 a week on kale and coconuts. We have a set grocery budget each week and that’s part of our overall family budget. One of the reasons that I love being organised and sit down every weekend to plan out the bulk of our meals ahead is not only for our health – but for the health of our family budget.
As most of you know, i’m an avid goal setter. When it comes to health, fitness and wellbeing – i do believe that the first step to success on such a journey comes down to getting out the pen and paper and sitting down to map out your goals. It’s a great way to evaluate and track progress, set yourself a challenge and have something to work towards. When you reach a goal and tick it off the list, it fills you with a sense of pride, confidence and satisfaction. You love the feeling so much, you set another goal and so on and so on. My husband and I sit down on the 31st of December every year and write down our goals for the next 12 months ahead. Some of them are ambitious, but the bulk of them are small, achievable and within timeframes that we know might challenge us, but are within reach. We write them down into categories – our family goals, our personal goals, our health and fitness goals and, our financial goals.
Having three children close in age hasn’t been all smooth sailing. When the twins were born, we were only a year into our first family business, we had three babies in nappies and even though they are tiny little humans – my word, they are expensive little people. We went from a family of 2 to 5 within 19 months, throw a new business in there and well, having twins … let’s just say that we’ve had our work cut out for us. We decided it made sense for me to continue being a stay at home mother as the simple fact was – it was too expensive for us to have three kids in childcare.
Since then, I’ve worked out a few ways to pursue my StayStrongMummy passion and turn it into a business. I work late into the nights planning ahead, there’s plenty of behind the scenes time and effort that goes into my pages and (fingers crossed) – i’m pretty excited to have my first book being published internationally next year. But, i’m not about to retire, i’m far from it. I also work part-time for a Public Relations firm managing the digital communications arm of the business. I’m challenged, i’m motivated and as we all know, as the kids grow…. so too do the expenses.
I often speak about the importance of spending time on your health and fitness as a family – it helps keep the wheels in motion for a healthy, happy family. But, this blog post is about giving some attention to another area of family health – your budgets. I’m definitely no pro in this area, but i know that giving your family budget some regular attention is important and i’ve enlisted the help of one of my long-time friends to write a quick post on the subject and offer some initial guidance. Chris and I went to school together. I’ve known him for almost 20 years, I probably cheated off him in our maths exams in school. (I was more of the English, drama kind of student.. (!).
Chris recently launched his own business called Smart Family Budget. There is so much advice out there for people running businesses, there are high-end accountants, tax consultants and professionals dishing out financial information everywhere. It’s all great – unless you’re like me and really don’t much sense of it all. The reason i’m introducing Chris to you all is because not only is his advice top notch and rewarding – he cuts through the financial jargon and keeps it simple (for people like me). He’s a story teller, maybe that’s why i like him. He doesn’t tell me that i can’t enjoy my almond milk lattes anymore in order to succeed on a budget. He’s a father of two kids under 3 and understands the financial pressures of having a young family in this day and age.
He’s got free videos, he’s got awesome free newsletters, templates, he’s gives out tips on social media and for those really looking to overhaul the family budget, he has a great online course – that yes, i’ve done and so have two of my sisters.
I asked Chris to jot down some points on family budgeting, here he is;
THE EASIEST WAY TO BUDGET FOR BUSY PARENTS
Ever wondered what makes a good household budget?
Is it finding ways to shave $8 from your grocery bill each week?
Is it concocting your own home-made cleaning products to save from buying them?
Nope (unless you want to!)
Well, okay, some of these things can help, but they’re not necessary. Not to mention, often unsustainable, for busy parents of young families who just want simple, effective and easy to implement savings strategies.
Just like maintaining a fit and healthy lifestyle, household budgeting first requires a change in mindset. People often mistake successful household budgeting as the arduous task of wading through bank statements, recording every dollar spent and collecting coupons. This is a huge misconception (phew!).
For starters, forget about your expenses for the moment. The word ‘budgeting’ should not automatically cause your mind to dart to your everyday expenses. Let’s re-train your mind. Let’s begin with something a bit more fun – your goals.
Setting some goals should be the very first step in building your family budget. So have a think of some of your goals.
You might want to go on a family holiday? Finish those renovations? Pay off debt quicker? Buy a new car? Save a deposit for a new home? Or just escape your crazy household for the weekend…..it could be anything. A goal is whatever is important to you and your family.
Next, consider how much money you will need to achieve each goal. Then, figure out how much you need to put aside each week to achieve those goals. You do this by dividing the amount you need to achieve the goal by the number of weeks until you would like to achieve it.
For example, if I wanted to spend $2,500 on a family holiday in 6 months’ time, I would need to put aside about $100 per week. If the amount that you need to put aside each week is too much, you have two options:
1. Push the timeframe of your goal out a tad to give you more time and less to put away each week;
2. Reduce the goal amount. So, in the example above, it may mean spending $2,000 on a family holiday, instead of $2,500.
The bi-product of using goals as the driving force behind your household budget will inevitably result in you finding ways to reduce your everyday expenses (such as shaving $8 from your grocery bill, or concocting your own cleaning products). You won’t be asking for ways to reduce expenses, you will be finding ways. It will be easier to figure out what you are willing to sacrifice ‘today’ in order to put money aside for a more fulfilling experience ‘tomorrow’.
So, what can you do today to get your budget started?
The easiest way is to think of one short-term goal – something you want to achieve within the next 6 months. Then, figure out what you need to put aside each week to achieve it. Once you’ve come up with the weekly savings figure, transfer that same amount from your main bank account into a savings account. Make this transaction as the first thing that happens on the day your wage is paid into your account.This is something you can begin doing today.
Once you’re comfortable that you can maintain this savings pattern for a month or so, try adding another goal – maybe one you want to achieve in, say, 12 months; then repeat for another goal to be achieved in, say, two years, and so on.
The further away goals are, the easier they are to save for. And, we all know how fast time flies, so the satisfaction of achieving that goal will be here before you know it. Don’t let the ‘time it will take you’ be the driving factor to ‘not’ taking action. You need to take the first step.
I guess what I’m saying is that you don’t need to focus on your day-to-day spending habits because, provided you’re putting enough away each week for the things that are important to you, does it even really matter how much you spend on each item?
Let’s face it; we have a gazillion other things we’d prefer to be doing than recording everything we spend.
Ultimately, your household family budget shouldn’t be based on trying to save a dollar here, or two dollars there. The core of a solid household budget is consistency and automation, driven by motivation to achieve your financial goals…. and keeping it simple, of course.