So you're finally ready to develop a household budget. Whether it is for freeing up income to start an investment program or through necessity, the first thing to do is sit down with your spouse to see where the common goals are and where there are differences. Any differences that are not worked out before the budget is set will surely ruin any chance of success. Compromise is important to a marriage and essential to a budget. Sacrifices will be made. Make sure they are worth living on a strict budget and make even more sure that they are evenly distributed. A team effort is not built on just one person bearing all the burden. Reinforce in each other the benefits of the goals you have set. Mutual goals equal mutual success.
Now it is time to bring in the rest of the family for their input. Kids are probably the most common reason a budget fails. If they don't see a benefit for them, their pressure will crack the best of intentions in a budget. Unless there are concrete benefits for the kids, keep the impact of the budget from "ruining" their lives. If there are goals they want such as a vacation or a new car so that they will not be embarrassed by Dad's old clunker, ask them for their realistic sacrifices. Making them part of the budget and part of the rewards helps keep their commitment to the overall good the budget will provide.
Make sure you have both short and long term reasonable goals that everyone can work toward. Especially in the first few months, a budget takes hard work by all and requires a positive attitude to help reinforce each others moments of doubts. Working together on a budget doesn't stop once the budget is set. It is a continual process. Each member of the family has strengths to help the others through what will seem like hard times. Keep talking and supporting each other. Keep discussing your finances and any perceived failures in the budget. Don't forget to touch on your personal feelings about the budget. With this comes the responsibility of the other spouse to listen, really listen. Budgets take constant tweaking. Most budgets fail over the long term because one spouse didn't listen to the rest of the family's feelings or problems with living within the budget. If anger and resentment builds in one member of the family that is not addressed by the whole then there is only failure. The result of a failure to listen and adapt is a failure not only of your budget but the failure of your goals, your dreams. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to set some short term goals. Accomplishing a short term goal like a vacation makes the long term goals some obtainable and worth the confinement of the present budget.
When you set the budget for clothes, food, entertainment, etc. don't forget to include a personal allowance for each member of the family. This is not a rationale to break the budget but to reinforce each members commitment to the entire budget. Obviously it would be great if each member of the family could get the same amount, but that is impossible. Each one has different requirements. The allowance for each must meet that persons basic needs. This is probably the touchiest part of budget building. What a teenager sees as a necessity is not what an adult may see as one AND vice-versa. One hard and fast rule, once the allowance is spent, tough, until the next scheduled allowance. There should be enough leeway in an allowance to give the person a chance to save if they are willing to sacrifice. Oh, and never punish saving by looking at it as a reason to cut an allowance.
Making a budget a family affair with family goals and family benefits equals success and future happiness. Family cooperation and family commitment can do anything, including living with a budget.
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