When you're trying to maintain your busy household, it can be easy to let little things fall through the cracks. You're so focused on making sure the car loan is paid, you completely forget about the automatic withdrawal that Netflix will make from your account. You stop for a quick coffee while out running errands because hey, it's only $3, but at the end of the month you realize lots of small purchases have left you with only $50 (or less) until the next payday.
Budgeting can be stressful to think about, but it doesn't have to be a complicated process. By finding easy little ways to track spending and put more funds into your savings, you can help set yourself up for better financial success in the future. Learn all about how to balance your budget and stick to it:
"Start by knowing exactly where your biggest financial responsibilities lie"
Create a list or spreadsheet of all of your due dates
Make sure you never forget what you have due when by organizing that information in a way that makes the most sense to you. Some people may like to use a calendar and to list amounts owed and to whom on the due dates. For some, a chronological list is easier, while others may want to build a spreadsheet that helps do calculations for them. Whatever method works best for you, be it in a paper notebook or on your smartphone, start by knowing exactly where your biggest financial responsibilities lie.
Track your spending
Once you have your documentation in place, it's important to track the things you are actually spending your money on. It can be easy to let small purchases add up if you aren't paying attention. By recording everything you buy every day, you can more easily see where your money is going. This will also help you set appropriate limits for you spending needs – if you find that you have to spend $100 a month on gas to get everywhere you need to go, you can't make a guess and only allot yourself $50 as a budget item.
Pay down debt
According to Military.com, military families are more likely to have high credit card debts than civilian families, due in large part to frequent necessary expenditures like moving costs. Credit card debt can be a major drain on your resources – minimum payments are usually not much higher than the interest you're charged each month. That means that each time you make a payment, you aren't getting that much closer to brining your bill back down, sticking you in a never-ending loop of monthly payments.
Once all of your essential utilities are paid, figure out how much you can spare and try to pay more than the minimum for each payment. The lower the balance on your card, the lower your interest charges will be, so that in a few months you can start paying less. Try to only use credit cards in a true emergency and never use them to make those tiny purchases you make from time to time. The key to bringing down your debt is to not add to it unless you truly need to.
Build up your savings
It's important to your family that you have a savings account. If an emergency pops up or you decide to upgrade a big-ticket item for your home, it's good to know that you won't have to scramble to find the money to cover it.
"Treat building your emergency fund as another essential bill."
Treat building your emergency fund as another essential bill. Figure out an amount you can afford to part with each month, and put it in your savings account. Don't touch it unless you really have to. This will also help you keep that pesky credit card debt down, because you'll be able to afford surprise costs up front instead of relying on credit. Remember that it takes money to make money, too – the more you have in your savings account, the more you'll get back with your savings interest.
Find out what military benefits are available to you
There are many financial breaks that you can receive for being a military family. From travel discounts to better insurance rates to education through the GI Bill, be sure to look for ways your family's military status can help you save money. Take those savings to the next level by dedicating them to your emergency fund. If a hotel stay was supposed to cost $100 but only costs $80 with your discounts, take the $20 you would have had to spend and put it in your savings account instead.
Don't forget to have fun
It's important to budget for fun things, too. Being responsible doesn't mean depriving your family of any special occasions. Decide how much you can afford to spend on a nice day trip one month, or for dinner at your family's favorite restaurant the next. The key is to be responsible and take care of the necessities first, but try to find small ways to have fun that won't break the bank. Many areas will also have free activities that you can take your family to enjoy, like community concerts and public parks. Check with your local library for passes to local museums and zoos. You'll find that there are many ways for your family to get your budget on track without having to make too many sacrifices.