As a mother, it can be quite difficult to manage a family budget. Quite often, the handling of the family budget does fall to moms. Why? Well, for one thing, it’s somewhat traditional for mothers to take care of family budgets, and many families are simply following a pattern set by generations before them. In a lot of families, however, mothers tend to be somewhat more involved in the raising of the children than fathers. Either way — while the mother does not have to the one managing the family budget, it’s usually easier for one parent to take care of it, versus both. But how should you approach budgeting? It’s often easier said than done to keep a family on track with a consistent budget. It becomes more difficult as families go from one to multiple children — and the budget has to be expanded in some ways, and compensated for through compression in other ways.
It can be difficult to create a budget in the first place. Before making a budget, you should discuss different priorities with your spouse. Try to come to a common ground about what is a must in the family budget, and what can be done without. You would be amazed by how many things you can cut out of your budget entirely when you put your mind to it, and are trying to save money at the same time. With that being said, you don’t necessarily have to cut things out of your budget entirely in order to save money. You can do so by choosing less expensive options, versus going for the thing your mind might go to first — think of it as similar to buying a generic product rather than a name brand product. This doesn’t just apply to buying margarine rather than high quality, real butter. This doesn’t merely apply to buying your clothes from a discount store. You can save money in ways both big and small. But first, you need to create a chart, compare prices, and budget with the goal of saving money first and foremost. Below, we’re going to look into some of the best ways that you can save money while creating your family budget — some of which you might not have thought of!
Your impulse, when creating a family budget, may be to avoid home improvements altogether — is that really something you should be spending money on when you’re trying to manage your budget properly? It may be tempting to let necessary home improvements fall to the wayside, though this in itself can be difficult to accept. Nobody feels good about their home when they can’t take pride in their furniture, interior design, and the overall aesthetic of their house. Is your pride worth breaking your budget over? No, not necessarily. But you don’t have to break your budget over improving your home.
The fact is that you can still save money while making home improvements if you look for good deals. This may take more effort than buying the first thing you like, or going for a contractor who is inside of your budget. Now, there are contractors who will help you accomplish home improvements for competitive pricing. Rather than having your remodeling job done by the most expensive contractor on the market, you could seek out someone who is just as talented, but perhaps less experienced and therefore more likely to offer competitive pricing. You may also want to look into making price comparisons between multiple contractors, and letting them know that you’re doing so. Many contractors will cut their prices somewhat once they get into a bidding war — don’t be afraid to ask outright if they offer price matching.
With that being said, not all home improvement projects involve remodeling or renovations. Lots of people find that simply applying a fresh coat of paint can go a long way towards making a home feel good as new. You can also give your home a makeover through buying new furniture. Of course, new doesn’t have to mean brand new — gently used, new-to-you furniture can make just as great an impact on your home’s overall appearance. Furniture can be found at consignment stores for a much lower price than what you would find it for new. Of course, you can often stick to your budget while at the same time getting new, unused furniture. Discount furniture can be found at overstock furniture stores — and in fact, most furniture stores offer discounted furniture in general. Now, this may somewhat limit your choice of furniture. But the end goal will be that you’ll end up with furniture that you can be happy with and proud of. However, you won’t have to worry about losing money over something that could be classified as a want instead of a need.
Now — no mom needs to feel guilty about factoring her family’s healthcare into the budget. Family health is something that you need to stay on top of. The last thing you want is to skip a doctor’s appointment because you can’t afford a co-pay. Now, much of what you may spend on basic healthcare out of pocket can depend on your particular health insurance plan. But at the same time, there are certain choices that you can make as a mother, which will lead to you spending less money on your healthcare than you would otherwise. While you may not always be able to control the amount of money you spend on healthcare, taking note of your options in your family budget plan may help you keep more inexpensive options in mind.
There are times in which you may not be able to avoid going to see a doctor — but what happens when you or your loved one needs medical attention outside of your regular doctor’s hours? If you’re in a high pressure situation, the impulse may be to go to the emergency room. In case of a true emergency, you may not have a choice and will end up in the closest medical center, with the resources necessary to treat the case. However, if you’re dealing with a high fever or perhaps a sprained ankle — something that needs medical attention but isn’t immediately life-threatening — you should avoid the emergency room. Emergency room fees can be exorbitantly high, and for that matter a lot of people find that they’re paying for services that they ultimately didn’t need. You may want to visit an urgent care clinic first. Urgent care clinics can often see patients faster than emergency rooms, and at much lower rates than emergency rooms. A lot of people find that they can sometimes visit urgent care clinics over their regular doctor’s offices, should they need faster care in general. This means that the benefits are twofold.
Of course, there are more specialized types of healthcare that families need to consider. Dental appointments fall under parts of the family budget that are basically unavoidable. But what happens if your child needs more than a regular cleaning? Many kids in this day and age need braces. However, orthodontics work can be quite expensive. The key is to choose the type of orthodontics care that best fits into your budget. Lots of people find that choosing newer types of braces, like Invisalign braces can ultimately lead to more expenses in the long term. Traditional braces will give you the same results, while often being less expensive. Don’t feel as if you have to go with the latest forms of treatment — often, tried and true methods are just as if not more effective.
In this day and age, many parents begin saving up for their child’s college education soon after they’re born. And with good reason! College tuition can be quite costly, even if your child chooses to go to a public university one day. But college is not the only type of education that costs a good deal of money. Today, a private school for kindergarteners can require as much tuition as a university. There are certainly benefits of private education. But with that being said, a private school education is not necessary for your child to have a great future.
Lots of people find that private schools do not always guarantee a great education. While some private schools are academically focused, others may be formed to accommodate certain religious preferences. A public school does not cost any money; while it doesn’t have the same exclusivity as private schools, you can make it work for your child. Research public schools, and seek out a district that will provide your child with the best possible education. For that matter, work with your child’s school in order to get them access to gifted programs and academically rigorous classes. You would be amazed by how accessible this can be for you through a public school. So — before you change your family budget in order to apply to a private school, consider what is freely available to you already.
Vacation and Recreation
A vacation may not seem consistent with the idea of sticking to a strict family budget. However, you can go on a family vacation and enjoy the same recreational activities as anyone else — as long as you look for budget-friendly options. Rather than spending a ton of money on visiting a theme park, you may want to look into going to the beach or camping. That way, you won’t have to worry about a hotel or resort, and can enjoy the great outdoors at an affordable rate. Try to go to a state park, where you and your family will invariably see the natural beauty of your surroundings — creating memories that will last for the rest of your life, as well as your children’s lives. In fact, you may find that these types of vacations are ultimately more rewarding than visiting Disney World. There’s a reason why American families spent a collective 534.9 million days camping together in 2011.
Of course, if you’d rather stick to a more metropolitan area when vacationing, you can do so while saving money. Try to use sites like Airbnb and HomeAway to seek out vocational rental homes, which could very well end up being less expensive than a hotel room, while offering more space. You can also look into driving rather than flying. Of course, depending on how far you’re traveling this may or may not be an attainable option. You should look into investing in low cost cars, if you haven’t already, which are both reliable and fuel-efficient. Furthermore, make sure that you’re taking advantage of any and all vacation deals that you can find online!
Ultimately, you can adjust your family budget in many ways. You don’t just have to stick to home cooked meals, and it’s often not enough to cut your clothing budget. But with that being said, the big cuts you make don’t have to result in you and your family enjoying your life less. Yes, your budget needs to take priority. However, you can’t forget to enjoy life and have fun. Luckily, the points we’ve made above prove that you can have the life you want to live, while also conforming to a healthy budget. Sticking to your budget in a way that is healthy will lead to your family having not only an enjoyable present, but a happy future to look forward to.
AUTHOR: CAROLINE SIBLEY
Caroline is a freelance content creator and creative writer. VCUArts alum with a focus on the arts, travel, and culture.