Family Finances

One of our episodes next season will be on the topic of family finances. The following is an introduction to the topic with some tips on family budgeting.

Given the shaky state of the global economy and uncertain market forecasts, many hard-hit Canadian families are re-evaluating their approach to family finances. Whether a family is struggling with credit card debt, seeking to pay off their mortgage, or barely staying afloat due to sudden or persistent unemployment, proactive budgeting and financial planning can assist families to improve their financial situations. For those with the resources to do so, personal financial planners can assist with a general overview of a family’s financial situation and advice on the best ways to meet their financial goals. Investment advisers are also available to assist families seeking to navigate the stock market or manage other investments. But for everyone, a personal budgeting plan can stretch a dollar, provide some debt relief and reduce some of the stress that can accompany hits to the family finances.

The best budgeting plans are tailored to individual families’ financial situations. To create a monthly budget, it’s often best to start by recording your spending for a month. Include everything: utilities bills, rent or mortgage payments, transportation, shopping, groceries, entertainment, sports and school expenses and so on. For many families, a written breakdown of where their spending actually goes and how much they spend total in a month can be very surprising. From this, create a budget plan that will prioritize, reduce and redistribute spending as necessary. Think about your longer term goals for a family budget. Is it to save for a vacation? To put money in an college or university fund for the children? To reduce credit card or other debt? Regardless of what a family’s short term or long term financial aims may be, goals that are measurable are the most effective.

Sticking to a budget is difficult. Remember that incidental costs inevitably arise to derail the most faithful attempts to do so. When these do occur, factor them into the budget and adjust it accordingly without stressing overly about the unexpected cost. Try to anticipate the timing of those incidental costs that are almost certain to arise like car tune-ups, home maintenance and repair, and dentist appointments.

Checking back on your budget is key to staying on track but can be hard when the everyday gets hectic. Setting aside a time each week to check it over is one good way to make sure it gets done. For the more tech-savvy, numerous iOS and Android apps have arisen to streamline budgeting and personal finances. Some of these can be connected with your bank account to provide real-time updating on spending and savings. For overall money management, the Mint.com Personal Finance app or Pageonce provide excellent platforms that allow users to track spending and savings, create budget plans, and pay bills all from within the app. Both are also available as Android apps, as are a multitude of other personal finance apps such as Easy Money, Nickel Tracker, and Budget Book.

Creating a separate savings account for any money saved by budgeting is a good way to both measure the success of a family financial plan and help resist the temptation to spend it. If you are struggling to stick to a budget, pair your plan with other financial tips like using cash (as opposed to cards) to keep spending under control and on track.

More information and tips on personal finances and budgeting can be found at:

http://financialplan.about.com/od/budgetingyourmoney/tp/budgeting-101.htm

and forums and articles on family budgeting can be found at:

http://www.families.com/family-finances-101

http://www.clearfacts.ca/budget/budget_planning/family_finances_101

 

About Shari Willis

Shari Willis is a J.D. Candidate at the University of Victoria Law School. She completed her B.A. at Simon Fraser University in 2010 with a major in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and an extended minor in English. Shari formerly worked as a support worker and was active in campaigns and initiatives dedicated to ending violence against women. The views in this blog are not necessarily representative of AdviceScene and do not constitute legal advice.

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