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Family Budgeting: How to keep on top of your spending

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Out of all the truly horrible household tasks, dealing with the family budgeting must surely be the worst. But also the most necessary. Here is some help on how to approach it, with the minimum of stress and anguish. So arm yourself with a notebook and pen and get down to business. Don’t forget the tea and biscuits too…

What’s coming in?

First of all, list all of your income. This includes all your earnings after deductions plus any benefit payments, child support maintenance payments from former partners, and rent or contributions from lodgers or adult children.


If you occasionally have income from other sources, but it can’t be relied upon, it is best to leave this out, unless it’s a really significant amount. What you are after in this section is regular income. Those extra few pounds that you earn now and again from playing in a band or making jam is best kept for special treats.

What’s going out?

Grit your teeth, because it’s bound to be more than you think!

Your outgoings has to include all of your expenses, yes all of them including the cute cardigan you picked up and hid from your partner! Joking aside, it is only going to help you if you are completely honest with yourself.

Start with the obvious outgoings like mortgage payments, utility bills, car expenses and loan repayments. Make sure you get all your direct debits or standing orders down on the list.

Then move on to day to day spending. Petrol may be a big one. And how much do you really spend on food in a month? You may know what you spend on the big weekly shop, but don’t forget to include your lunch every day, and what about all those bits and pieces that you pick up in the corner shop after work every evening?

Include amounts for family days out,entertainment, clothes, make up, hairdressing and beauty treatments. And don’t forget any hobbies or leisure activities that you do on a regular basis such as meals out, the cinema, fitness classes, or swimming.

If you are regularly giving your children money, that needs to go on the list too. If they are teenagers or pre-teens, you may be better off giving them a regular allowance rather than just handing over money whenever they demand it. It will help you to manage the budget and teach them some important lessons about handling money at the same time.

Finally, work out how much you spend on family holidays each year, and on big events such as birthdays, anniversaries, and Christmas. Divide these amounts by twelve and add the result to your list. Add an amount each month for unexpected expenses (such as the car breaking down). Then, add it all up.

Do your sums

Family budgeting is fairly easy to do, making a list is extremely helpful and you may even being to enjoy completing the lists. You will feel more in control of your finances and that can only really be a good thing for you and your family.

Hopefully, the amount you have coming in is greater than the amount you have going out, in which case – congratulations, all you need to do is to decide what you want to spend the extra on!

Family budgeting their outgoingsBut if this is not the case, or if the budget is very tight and doesn’t allow anything for emergencies, savings or unexpected expenses, then you are going to have to look at ways to cut back.

Simple things like reducing the number of takeaways in a month can help, as can cutting back on buying new clothes or the cost of holidays. You may also want to look into how much you could save each month with a cheaper mortgage rate, a better credit card deal or a cheaper deal on your gas and electricity. These things can really add up, and by trimming a small amount in a few different places, you might be able to gain some leeway in your budget.

If things are really bad

If working out your family budgeting has made you realise that you really are in financial trouble, then it may be time to get some help. The same goes if your budget reveals that you can’t cover the basics from your income, such as housing costs and food, in which case you are probably racking up debts.

Family budgeting help and advice

If you can’t see a way out of this, then you can contact the Citizen’s Advice Bureau in your area for help. It may feel embarrassing to admit that you can’t manage, but they are experts in this area and they can advise you on your budget and can also help with debts. If you think there is a possibility that you could be entitled to any family benefits then you can check this too with Citizens Advice, or with the calculation tool at Gov.UK benefits adviser

The right advice at this difficult time may be just enough to tide you over until things get better.



About Paula Hendry

About Paula Hendry

Paula Hendry is a freelance consultant in the field of social work. She has been a social worker for twenty five years, and specialises in mental health. Paula has two children and writes in her spare time (which is virtually non-existent.)

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