Household budget tips

Beginner household budget tips | One Mama's Daily Drama

One of the most popular posts here on One Mama’s Daily Drama is my free printable budget worksheet. If you’re new to budgeting, it is a great place to start. It is how I track our monthly expenses. I can tell in a glance whether we have gone over budget or if – yay! – we saved money this month. However, it is really just a starting place. I certainly don’t claim to be a financial expert on any level. Still, I know what works for us. Check out my household budget tips, then leave a comment letting me know what works best for you.

Budget tips

1. Start where you are at.

It really doesn’t matter what your income is or whether you can balance a checkbook. {Sidebar: Does anyone still do that?} You can create and follow a budget. I spent a lot of time telling myself how hard it was before I actually got in the habit of doing it. That’s partly true, but if it were easy, everyone would do it well, right?

To start with what you’ve got, you have to know what that is. I recommend using my free printable budget worksheet to write down everything you earn and spend for a month. I usually sit down on Mondays and compare my online bank account, receipts swimming around in my purse, and my worksheet.

2. Don’t count income until you have it.

As a freelance writer, I don’t always know exactly how much money I’m going to earn in a month or when the glorious PayPal deposit will arrive. I keep track of everything in a profit and loss document, but I don’t count that money as income in my budget until it is in the bank. For the most part, that means I start the month on a tight budget and let myself spend more toward the end.

3. Plan the bills around payday.

Hubby’s pay is regular, so I know exactly what we will have from that and when. That income goes to the essentials first. Once I know that is covered, I go from there. I generally sit down and pay all the bills online at the beginning of the month after he gets paid. If your bills regularly arrive before payday, give the company a call. They will almost always be happy to move your due date.

4. Diversify your income.

Okay, so for most families, having about six jobs is insane. For us, it works, but it is really about how I count that money. Hubby has a day job. We run a craft business together. I write for several places that I count separately because they aren’t all on the same schedule. It always seems to work out in our favor though, for one big reason. If income from one is less than expected, the others tend to pick up the slack.

Now I’m not recommending anyone work 65 hours per week, but if you need to make a little more money, consider adding something different on the side instead of trying to pile more hours into your day job.

5. Trim your expenses.

Once you have an idea of what you are spending, it is time to think about where you could be spending less. This is the hardest part, but it does get easier. First, figure our where most of your money goes. Of course, household expenses like rent and utilities will probably be a big chunk of that. For the other expenses, there is almost always a way to spend a little less, even if just for a short time.

Once you get in the habit of spending less, it becomes habit-forming in a good way. Five years ago, Spendy Keri would have an “extra” ten bucks and feel the need to treat herself to a new shirt. Now, I pause and look ahead to see if that ten would be better saved for something later. Sometimes the answer is yes, but when I do buy something just for fun, I know I have earned it by deciding against the other three things I didn’t really need.

6. Set flexible goals.

I’ve seen a lot of posts floating around Pinterest along the lines of “How I paid off [giant debt number] in [small number of months or years]”. That’s all well and good if you have the income. No matter how frugal you are, you can’t pay off more debt that you earn though. Start by setting a reasonable goal for a year from now that you can work toward. You might only save $20 the first month. You might totally overspend one month. It makes a big difference for me to look at the whole year at once for savings.

Budget resources

I’m not comfortable sharing our specific personal budget online, but I know a few bloggers who are.

I have found a lot of useful advice from Stephanie at Six Figures Under. Her family has a similar experience to mine in that their student loan debt is more than their annual income.

One of the most resourceful freelance writers I know is Kerrie McLoughlin, author of Make Money to Write About Your Kids. She shares her monthly income down to the nickel (and she’s someone who could probably say she has six jobs) on her Make Money from Home blog.

Sarah Titus is a blogger who you just have to read to believe. She went from homeless to living well on $18k.

Now, leave a comment letting me know your most useful household budget tips. I really think the key to good finances is having support from the people around you. We can all learn from one another and there is always someone who didn’t think of the “obvious” tip that you’re following now.


    • says

      You’re welcome! It is so easy to look at finances and be overwhelmed because really, it is hard. When what you are doing works okay, trying to do better doesn’t really seem important.

I appreciate every comment!