How to “Set up a Family Budget”

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Now, Identify Waste in a Family Budget

When living expenses rise at a faster pace than income, families find it more and more difficult to meet their monthly household budgets. It is precisely during times of economic anxiety that the budget needs to be closely examined for any waste. Taking the time to comb through your budget, identifying the waste and restructuring your family's expenses can save you money and reduce stress over money matters.

Create three columns for categorizing your monthly expenses: Absolutes, Cost-Cutters, and Waste. Absolutes are those areas that cannot be readily altered, such as a mortgage, car payment, prescriptions, and other monthly loan agreements. It is the remainder of your income after absolutes that is maleable. Cost-cutters include groceries, gas, school supplies, and other expenses that must be included but have the potential of being reduced. Waste is the obvious monthly expenses that are choice rather than necessity.

Begin with the area you have identified as the cost-cutter. Give an honest evaluation of the items in this category and make sure there aren't any that should truly be considered a choice or more accurately, a luxury. The unvarnished truth is, you do not have to dine out weekly or have your nails done professionally each month. Certainly, everyone feels a certain amount of righteous justification for these items. You've worked hard and there should be some pay off. But if you are working against a budget that is stretched beyond your income's means, then you have these hard choices to make and in a short period of time, you will see the benefits of the sacrifice.

Brainstorm your revised cost-cutter category. How can you lower these expenses that cannot be eliminated altogether? Groceries is the one area where almost all family budgets can recognize clear and immediate savings. Take that extra half-hour each week to clip and organize coupons. Use only those that are for items you truly need and customarily purchase. Do a little research to find out if there are grocery stores in your area that double coupons. Find a bulk store in your area, such as Costco or Sam's. Again, be careful not to purchase items that you don't regularly use just because you can buy it in bulk or with a coupon. Continue to cut your grocery budget by cooking cost-saving meals. Cook in quantity and freeze meals for later in the week. Instead of ground beef, check the price of ground turkey. Often, using substitutes can save money and are healthier than your regular recipe. Go generic when possible. You're paying a lot extra for those name brands.

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