I see it time and time again with my friends, extended family, and even my own family in the past. As parents, sometimes we fail to plan for certain expenses and then, when those things sneak up on us, we scramble to find the money to pay or we end up moving money around to make it work. The whole cycle creates chaos and can cause conflict between spouses. But, it doesn’t have to be this way!
My goal is to help parents live a more prepared life. When we think of being prepared, you might immediately think of things like safety, but being financially prepared for situations is so important, too! Being prepared for unexpected expenses is just one way that parents can make sure they manage their household and raise independent kids that grow up to do great things!
When you prepare for the unexpected by adding some extra wiggle room in your budget, you avoid unnecessary stress, arguments, and you set a great example for your kids! The first step in being prepared for unexpected expenses is to recognize them.
From my observations, here are the top 3 expenses that I see most families fail to plan for:
#1 Birthday Gifts
Now I’m not talking about birthday gifts for our own kids or partner. I’m talking about all of the other birthday parties that pop up throughout the year. We all have kids and those kids get invited to birthday parties ALL. THE. TIME!
But, most parents rarely plan ahead, financially, for purchasing all of these birthday gifts. I have two kids and between the two of them it feels like we are getting invited to 2 or more kid’s birthday parties a month. That’s a lot of gifts to buy and all of those gifts add up to a pretty good chunk of change we’re putting out every single month.
# 2 Back-to-School Supplies
This comes around every year, yet every year we’re surprised by how it all adds up.
We buy our kids supplies like pens and pencils, crayons, markers, binders, and other physical school supplies, but that’s not where it ends. There’s also new backpacks and lunchboxes, new clothes, and more. Our kids grow every year, so every year they need new clothes!
When the time comes, every single year, back-to-school shopping hits hard. And, the more kids you have, the bigger the expense can get.
#3 Holidays and Parties
BBQ’s, potlucks, dinner parties – plus holiday parties and gatherings, oh my! They happen every year but we don’t always think to plan for them.
But why do they create such a large, unforeseen expense? If you host, you need to buy all of the food plus decorations. For me, I have a separate fund for our family food and groceries. But if I’m hosting a holiday or a party, I don’t want that to come out of our regular weekly grocery budget. It has to come from somewhere and if you don’t plan for where, it can easily end up going on a credit card.
Bonus: Christmas Shopping
I know I said I had 3 expenses that parents fail to plan for but I’m throwing in a bonus for you and it’s Christmas! So many parents don’t budget for Christmas gifts. Or, they budget for Christmas gifts but forget about ALL of the other expenses that come along with the Christmas parties, like food, decorations, and outfits! There is so much to spend on at Christmas time it can get overwhelming.
The Super Simple Solution
All of these things happen every single year, yet we always find ourselves caught off guard. Well, you don’t have to continue with that cycle! I have a super simple solution to share with you.
For each occasion, take the amount you think you normally spend on those things. For example, back-to-school clothes. Decide how much you think you normally spend each year to buy your kids new outfits, then divide that by 12 and put that smaller amount aside each month. Now, when back-to-school shopping rolls around, you actually have money dedicated for that that you can pull from. You don’t have to worry about where the money is going to come from or pull out your credit card!
When you start thinking of things early, you know it’s coming so you can plan for it and be more prepared.
If you’d like to learn more about budgeting for all of your yearly expenses, I’ll be hosting a Happy Family Budgeting Workshop in just a few weeks. Head here for all of the details and to get signed up!
The new year is the perfect time for goal setting and dreaming big. For us, one thing that goes hand-in-hand with those two things is updating our monthly budget. My husband and I decided a while ago that talking openly and honestly about our finances is a must for our family. Sometimes this involves talking about how we can cut expenses or find creative ways to bring in more income.
I think it’s safe to say, we’d all love to have a little extra spending money in our pockets. And for some of us, we need more money each month just to make ends meet. No matter which category you fall into, there are some truly genius tips and tricks out there to cut back on your monthly expenses and increase your income.
Here are our top creative ways to cut expenses and increase your monthly income:
Ideas to cut expenses
Bundle or eliminate monthly bills:
Cancel cable and opt for a few, cheaper streaming services. Hulu offers a lot of network programs the day after they air on cable. Disney+ will keep the kids happy for less than $6 a month. This combined with Hulu comes out to $12 a month as opposed to the average American cable bill which is $107 per month.
Bundle your cable, internet, and phone bill. If you’re not ready to cancel your cable, consider combining it with your phone and internet into a single “Triple Play”. This type of offering can drop your combined costs to as low as $79.99. Another pro tip – if you purchase your own router and wireless modem you will eliminate some of the additional monthly fees you see on your cable bill.
Cancel your gym membership. If you aren’t using it, let it go. If you do use it, but only occasionally, think of creative ways to get in a workout without shelling out a monthly fee – like jogging, hiking, or cycling.
Bundle your home and car insurance. Many insurance companies offer significant discounts for bundling your car and homeowners insurance. Shop around for the best offer you can find with maximum coverage for your protection.
I know you’ve heard of couponing, but have you actually tried it? On average, shoppers using coupons can save $30-$50 a week. Additionally, make sure that you are signed up for the rewards and discount cards at whatever store you grocery shop at.
Buy in bulk – Costco, BJs, Sam’s Club – they all offer bulk groceries at great prices. If your shopping for a small family, ask a friend to split the cost and the products.
Shop at discount stores like Aldi. Just because you are looking to cut your expenses, doesn’t mean the quality of your groceries has to suffer. Aldi offers organic and local produce at an incredibly discounted rate. They sell the Simply Nature brand which is both high quality and organic.
Buy store brand groceries. Often times, the quality and taste are virtually the same as their name brand counterparts.
Spend Less on Food and Drinks
Don’t stop for coffee. Make it at home. Depending on if you get your morning brew at the gas station, Dunkin, or Starbucks, you could be saving yourself anywhere from $1 to $5 a day.
Pack your lunch. This option will always be cheaper than eating out or ordering in. Just consider how different the cost would be to prepare and pack a salad from home vs. buying a pricey salad from a local lunch spot.
Limit dinners out. Review your budget and decide exactly how much you can spend each month on eating out or ordering in. You’ll find this helpful in budgeting for your dining out expenses.
Ditch your car (when you can)
Whenever you are able to opt to cycle, carpool, or walk instead of driving your car. The benefits here are huge. First, you’ll save on gas. You lower your likelihood of being involved in a costly automobile accident. You’ll lower the amount of pricey maintenance and wear and tear on your vehicle. And, remember that gym membership you cancelled? Well, use this as an opportunity to keep fit.
Ideas to bring in extra money
Teach Classes Online
With the growth of the internet, there are so many opportunities to teach online. If you happen to have a teaching license (from any US state) you can teach content at an online school like K12 or ESL at VIPKid.
Check out Teachable or Udemy for vocational courses. I’ve recently seen course offerings on needle point, cake decorating, and scrap booking. With limited technological know-how, you can offer your own course based on your hobby in no time.
If you have a marketable skill, like, writing, graphic design, or web development, you can offer it as a freelancer. If you work full-time or part-time, consider picking up some clients on nights and weekends. If you’re a stay-at-home mom, you can always try doing some work early mornings, during nap time, or after the kiddos are in bed. Check out sites like Fiverr, UpWork, and The Mom Project.
Sell Gently Used Items Online
There is a huge market for selling gently used items. My first stop is always Facebook Marketplace, but there are tons of apps for it, too. Check out Mercari and LetGo – they both come highly recommended. And, don’t rule out old standbys like Craigslist and Ebay.
Sell a physical product
For us, it’s our PreparaKit first aid kits. As a nurse, encouraging safety in families is something that is tremendously important to me.
However, you don’t need to start out with something this involved. With sites like Etsy, you can sell almost anything you make – jewelry, apparel, home decor, the possibilities are endless.
Whether you need to cut expenses and bring in more income or you’d just like a little extra money each month for a safety net, I encourage you to check out our Free Family Monthly Action Plan. This Monthly Budgeting Action Plan offers step-by-step instructions to guide you through the exact steps you need to take to set up your own family budgeting plan.