Since "Manage Debt" and "Save Money" are two consistently popular New Year's Resolutions according to the USA government, I wanted to share how my family goes about making our financial goals for the year.
1. First, we sit down and evaluate how the prior year went financially. Although early 2010 threw about $10,000 in unexpected costs our way in the first couple of months, we were able to pay off everything - primarily by me increasing my income through camp and paid social media work. Yes!
2. Next, we try to plan for the things that we know that we want and/or need in the new year. There are a few things that we have budgeted ahead of time in addition to our normal monthly expenses (bills, tithes, etc.) for 2011:
-Family travel: I am going to a Disney Social Media Moms conference in March. The great thing about this conference is that while I learn, my family can enjoy The Parks. With the conference cost, air travel for the four of us, etc., we knew that we had to put aside a couple of thousand. That was going to be our family trip for the year until...
I was invited on a press trip for the Nickelodeon All Access Cruise leaving from NYC (oh, yeah!) in February. We went back and forth regarding whether we should go or not. The pro: it is the week that the kids are out of school. The con: Press invites are (+1), unlike many mom blogger events that include the whole family. In any event, we decided to pay the cost for 2 additional passengers and go as a family. (The cruise falls on Sean's birthday week, so that will be an extra fun birthday treat.)
Between the Disney trip and the Cruise, we have used up our family travel allotment in the first three months of the year. We might be twiddling our thumbs at home for the rest of the year, but we're good with that. (Anyway, we live in NYC...there is always something going on here!)
-Increased school costs: Hopefully, Sean will be going to preschool this fall. Although, we're only looking for a 2 1/2 hours/day public program, there will still be additional costs (clothing, supplies, school fees, etc.). I'm just factoring in double the amount that we currently spend on school costs. Speaking of "school" costs…karate adds up. It's so worth it though, because Michael loves it. In the three months that he has been doing it so far, he has learned how to do a split and he received his yellow belt last week. Awww.
-Career Expenses: Although, I don't want to go back to traditional school right now, I do want to take some classes. As I mentioned, I will hopefully be launching "Foodie City Mom" in June of this year. As with any new business, there are costs involved - LLCs, DBAs, TMs, website creation, etc. In addition, I want to take a food writing class and a photography class so that I will be better equipped for this next chapter of my bloggity-blog life.
Of course, there are other things that we want. Don't get me started - there are so many cool new computers, cameras…and of course the iPhone now that Verizon will start selling a version of the iPhone 4 on February 10th. However, I'm not going to "jump" on any additional expenses. I'm even going to wait until my current Verizon contract ends before upgrading to an iPhone. I have "survived" without it for this long…
3. We also use our different strengths to stay on track. As I always say, my husband isn't perfect…but he's perfect for me! Finances are a great example. I'm great at making the budget - I can crunch some numbers in an Excel spreadsheet! My husband is great at helping us stick to the budget that I crunched. Food, gifts, a cute dress - they can all make me forget what was in my cute little worksheet…
4. Most of all, we have learned to be gracious with ourselves. The budgets are great guidelines, but we give ourselves "wiggle room". Life is too short to nickel and dime ourselves to death!
In any event, those are the main things that work for us. You can also check out Yahoo! Personal Finance that has some great tools and guides to help you with your finances.
How does your family create and maintain your budget?
Article by Kimberly Coleman. Kimberly's primary blog is Mom in the City. She is also the content manager for CBS New York Best of Kids and a contributor at Momtourage.