While it’s important to keep track of what you personally earn and spend, it’s also important to set up a budget as a family, since this is generally where most of your income goes after your debit orders have gone off. Here’s the rundown of some of the most important things to keep in mind with a family budget.
The downside of not having one
A household’s spending can quickly escalate because there are so many different expenses. If you don’t track these, you’ll often find yourself wondering where that R1,000 went that you withdrew just yesterday, or how your child’s nursery is suddenly R500 more a week. Keeping a keen eye on your spending can also help you avoid debt, be ready for emergencies and save for family goals.
Know what’s coming in and going out
If you’re not the sole breadwinner of the household, it’s important to speak to every member of the family that also contributes to the household income (in most cases you and your partner). Tracking exactly how much you have to spend will ensure you don’t spend too much. Start with fixed expenses (rent, school fees, insurance, etc.) and work all the way through to pocket money, those Sunday trips to get some McFlurries, and the loose change you give the kids as tuck shop money. Be sure to ask every member of your family to let you know what planned expenses they have for the upcoming month and adapt accordingly.
Be flexible and adjust
Make sure your budget is realistic to start off with, and as you track your spending in the upcoming months, adapt your spending rather than your budget. Spending categories can help pinpoint where you’re spending too much and where most of the budget is going.
Have a second look at your bills
Fixed expenses are often not given a lot of thought since they’re usually paid via debit orders and you know “those are the things I have to pay.” However, pay some attention to exactly how much this is costing you. Call your car insurer or compare quotes every year to make sure you’re still getting the best deal and make sure you’re not still paying a random bill for a service you’re not using anymore (like that gym membership you forgot about).
Don’t set it and forget it! Constantly check in on how you’re doing with the budget and feel free to discuss it with your family members. Although parents should stray away from putting financial pressure on children, it’s not a bad idea to involve them in the budgeting process and keep them in the loop about your spending goals.
Consider the 50–20–30 budgeting rule, where 50% of your after-tax income goes towards necessities and obligations (school fees, food, clothes, rent), 20% goes towards paying off debt and savings and the remaining 30% goes towards things you and your family want such as a trip to Sun City or seeing a movie twice a month.