How do you define financial worth? Is it cash in the bank, savings and checking accounts, stocks, investment portfolio or home ownership?

Remember, anything you have that is of value counts. All your assets form part of your financial picture and health. Ask yourself: What is your take-home pay, after deductions? How are you paid? Is it monthly, weekly, fortnightly? Then you need to budget accordingly!

Think about all other sources of income, temporary, seasonal, part-time - extra income, found money and bonuses that you might have.

Try to find ways to do without some small creature comforts and pleasures to reap bigger rewards later.

Starting small, early and now, with discipline and commitment, a steady, consistent pace and an amount every month, tracking and optimizing financial phenomena like ”˜compound interest’ (which we will describe later), will all feed into this process.

We will take this journey into budgeting together to see how it can change lives.

Back to listing assets and thinking about savings: consider all banks, savings and loans, credit union accounts, deposits, other accounts you might have. All liquid assets that can be readily turned into cash need to be included.

Consolidate accounts if you have too many accounts spread out and save on banking fees. Improve tracking actual spending better and more easily. Earn higher interest and have less exposure to identity theft or fraud by getting a good handle on your current situation.

For most individuals and families alike, this step is quite a revelation. It forms the basis and baseline for deeper analysis and scrutiny.

Other assets might include things like: art, precious metals, sculptures, paintings, collections, antiques, jewellery and more.

Most of us are used to having a short-term focus on money and budgeting. A paradigm-shift is required to move us towards a more in-depth, longer-range view and planning.

Set short, mid and long term goals, have a definite structured plan, read up on family budgeting, personal financials and fiscal management strategies. All of this will help us focus on what is important for our needs, requirements and circumstance, while keeping financial discipline and budgeting in the forefront of our busy lives.

This is never an easy task amidst all the hustle and bustle that is our daily lives!

Most of the published literature on family budgeting in general centres around how to get out of debt, stay out of debt and live a full and prosperous life.

Some suggest frugal living is the answer and offer ”˜your money or your life’ perspectives, where you cannot necessarily have both. There are many examples advocating the cheapskate monthly makeover that focuses on shaving costs off expenses and living frugally.

Market providers both online and offline, offer various budget kits which offer worksheets and more, and there is always the handy tip-like guides to living on a budget.

Other sources focus on becoming totally debt free, debt proofing your life, getting a life and choosing simplicity or how to address credit card debt and expenditure.

This ”˜how to’ guide is a little different.

We have chosen to take a very hands-on, practical approach to financial management and get you started, walking through the budgeting steps and set you up, sending you off, well and good, on-course to solid budgeting in your family and household!

This brings us to the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How part of the discussion. These form the dynamic, interacting and inter-dependent elements, systems and processes that form ”family budgeting.” Who? Every family situation is uniquely different and distinctive. There is no one-size-fits-all answer and solution for everyone.

Some of the tips in this guide might apply to your unique means and circumstance, and others may not have any significant impact or practical application at all.

In general terms, you will find handy ideas, hints, process steps, practical savings suggestions and budgeting that might have gone unnoticed before.

The information provided is general and should be evaluated on an individual and contextualized basis. Remember to consult a financial advisor when making financial decisions that could affect the financial health, well-being and future of you and your treasured family.

There are various different families in question here too: single-income, single-parent, blended and/or extended families, double-income households, stay-at-home mothers working part-time from the home to make ends meet, Centrelink and/or subsidised families, families at risk, divorced households with shared parenting and financial responsibilities, debt-ridden / bankrupt families and numerous others. We hope to offer something for everyone.

What? Family budgeting is a structured process and planning activity, dealing with a family’s financial resources and context.

This hands-on approach puts expense items into categories as another helpful strategy. This is done to get a better handle on the current situation and offers somewhat of a reality check to most that choose to undertake this journey.

Some of the categories could be:

    • Obligations — list each item under headings like: home: mortgage or rent; association fees and professional dues; insurance: health, auto, home, renters’ and life; tuition, day care; loans: car loan, student loan, bank fees and interest; taxes, property rates and so on.
    • Necessities — again list each item under headings like: food, groceries, gas, garden maintenance, security, pest control, utilities: gas, water, electric; school lunches, household supplies, car maintenance, household repairs, internet service, dry cleaning, cable TV and more.
    • Misc. expenses — treat this as a whole category, covering: lunch at work, snacks, coffee, drinks, parking, tolls, newspapers, magazines, postage, mail.
    • Family Allowances — another whole category including items like : parties, entertainment, weekend outing, movies, concerts, other entertainment and events, home improvements and decorating, magazine and other subscriptions, dining out and fast food, furniture.
    • Personal allowances - clothing, hobbies, personal recreation, books, CD’s, personal grooming, alterations, personal gifts, luggage, night out with friends, gardening, films, processing, dvds, sports/recreation, family gifts, contributions, donations, computer software and other related items.

When and Where? In the interest of brevity, we combine the next two facets. Our best assessment to answering when and where the best place and time would be to start a family budget would be to answer unequivocally: HERE AND NOW!

It demands attention as it directly affects our daily lives and well-being. Without delay, hesitation or postponement, we need to step up and protect our family interest, financial health and future.

Accounting brings accountability! A wealth management guru is often quoted as saying. This rings so true. It is hard to ignore, if we are confronted with objective cold hard financial facts that tell us that we are in trouble.

Why budget? Families, as mentioned before, have diverse reasons and motivations for budgeting. Briefly summarized, people budget for a few reasons:

    • To gain control of their financial life, monthly bills and spending
    • Be prepared and avoid surprises
    • Save for a major purchase
    • Opt out of a vicious circle of ever-spiraling debt or spend-now-pay-later thinking
    • Expand their lifestyle(s)
    • Retire early
    • Eliminate money as a source of tension and topic for argument
    • Rediscover that the best things in life are FREE!
    • Becoming self-reliant and empowered to know that debt does not rule their lives anymore!

We promise even more on this a little later! Don't hesitate to contact us at Debt Fix.