Developing a family budget is not an easy task. The balance between personal wants and household needs is a tricky “dance”. However, since money is such an intrinsic part of family life, families can experience more “success” in their day to day lives by being in accord on what is best for the household. There is a four-step cycle in budgeting the family money that will achieve financial success for the home AND maintain peace and harmony for each family member.
1. Set your priorities.
Priorities are different from goals. They are aspects in your family’s life that you, as a family, want to set focus on, say health or children’s future. While goals are specific targets that support priorities.
In setting priorities, do not set too many as it defeats the purpose. Ideally, there should only be one, but because life is not ideal, 2 to 3 are reasonable.
As the priorities are set and agreed upon, write them down. Post the paper where everybody can see them to remind them of what your family is focused on for the next few years.
2. List down your goals.
Once the family has set and agreed on priorities, the next step is to set the goals. Goals are specific and measurable conditions that, when achieved, will support the priorities.
In setting goals, establish a target that is both challenging yet achievable. A 10-15% of the family’s income is a good savings target for a child’s future education: stretching yet reachable.
Try to limit your family into setting 1-2 goals per priority, to maintain focus.
3. Work towards your goals.
After setting your priorities and goals, start living by them. All of the family’s activities will be geared towards working at your goals. Track progress, particularly on financial goals, by using an income and expense-tracking tool. The simplest way is to get a notebook and list down all expenses and incomes and set a budget for future spending. There are those that invest in computer software or a family accountant. Whatever it is, the important thing is to have a system of monitoring the family’s performance towards achieving their goals.
4. Evaluate your family life.
At a certain point in time, when you feel like it’s time to evaluate your life, check how your family is doing against the goals. Goals that have been achieved can be checked off the list, and new ones can be formulated.
At times, in major changes, say a career move, or when a family member goes away, it may be time to re-evaluate priorities. When such a time comes, then the cycle begins, just like what it’s for: life!