Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Budget Baby Steps
by Tammy Harrison
Tammy Harrison is the mother of four, and the Independent Creative Representative of Home-Based Working Moms. She can be reached via email at CreativeRep@hbwm.com.

You are a two-income family, sharing and spreading the wealth amongst yourselves. All of a sudden, baby one comes along, and you find your heart pulled in a different direction than you ever imagined. Your emotions run high, and you make a decision that will change your life and the life of your family forever -- you quit your job and your checkbook has a heart attack!

I have heard from so many people that they just aren't capable of living within a budget. Why is that? Most likely, it is because you never had to worry about budgeting or because you were never taught how to create and stick to a budget!

I like to recommend baby steps when assisting people with their budget plans. You don't just go from college graduate to the CEO of a Fortune 500 company in a day, and the same can be said for going from a two-income family to a one-income family.

The reality in budgeting effectively runs much deeper than just figuring out how to live with less, as money matters enter into your personal relationships as well. If you are stressed out about money, you will not be happy staying at home.

So, start small. For instance, instead of looking at how much money you do not have to spend each paycheck, look at how much you need. We all have the same expenses that are vital to living, such as mortgage or rent, food, utilities, savings, etc. Those bills should be paid first. Then you have the disposable income, or what's left from your pay to spend on needs or wants beyond the necessities.

Say you are planning to buy summer clothes for your children. Starting small with your budget means not over-spending when you go shopping. To do that, you must know what you are looking for before you go to the mall. First, decide what the kids need. I have four kids, so I would need a minimum of three outfits each for the kids. Let's say I have $100 to spend on all of their summer clothes. That would mean I can only spend about $8.00 apiece on their outfits. Is this realistic? Can I buy all that I plan to buy on that amount? If you cannot, then you need to find alternative ways to outfit your kids, such as shopping at thrift stores, visiting garage sales or learning to sew. I believe, that with some savvy shopping and planning, I would not have any trouble getting the kids some nice clothes within my means.

While making my list, I would go through their clothes drawers, seeing what they have that still fits and could be paired with a new pair of shorts or a new shirt. I would take all of their jeans that have holes in the knees and cut them off for shorts. I would look at their sweatshirts that may not be viable for another winter and cut the sleeves off, even turning a warm shirt into a midriff shirt! Now, my list is pared down to define exactly what they need!

Start your budget small. Know what you need when you go to the store, and do not let your emotions over something very adorable sway. Once you learn how to manage your money on such a small purchase, you will then be able to use your new-found skill on bigger items!

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