Whether you are just starting your family or have plenty of experience as the head of the household, budgeting can be extremely challenging. It's worth the effort, though, when you see how much money you can save by putting together a simple budget.
Figure Out Your Spending
Your first step is to see how much you're spending right now. Add up all your housing and utility expenses, credit card debts, and everything else that you're spending money on regularly. Putting all those expenditures into categories can help you see exactly where all your money is going and where you can cut back. Maybe you'll discover you have been spending $500 a month going out to eat or remember you're wasting $50 a month on that gym membership you don't really use.
Once you have listed your spending, you can figure out your goals. Are there any saving or investing goals that you have? Would you like to save for your children's college education? Is there a trip that you would love to take with your spouse? Now that you've got a good look at where your money is going, you can reallocate some of it to savings, your emergency fund, or your 401(k). No matter what your goals are, experts recommend writing them down so you can keep them in mind while you're putting together your budget plan.
Put Together Your Budget
Now comes the time to actually build that budget. Start with fixed expenses like rent and insurance and then move to variable expenses. Figure out what is a realistic amount for each category. You may want to spend $25 a month on gas, but a realistic amount might be $100. After you come up with amounts and know where every dollar is going, compare your budget to your normal spending. That's where you can figure out where to move your current spending around in order to meet those goals you set.
Check Up on Yourself
You've got your budget, so now it's time to make sure you're sticking to it. Check up on yourself every so often to be sure you're not spending more than you planned (try using a site like Mint to make things easier to track). If you find yourself spending a lot more or less in one category you can consider adjusting it, but don't give up too easy. If you're still spending a lot on luxury items, for example, see if there's a more creative way to hit that budget goal before just changing the number to match.