Having a family can be one of the most expensive undertakings in society. Between providing the necessities like food, clothing and shelter in addition to going on family vacations and saving for college there never seems to be enough money. Instead of looking at the amount of money needed and wondering how you'll ever climb to the top, break it down into smaller pieces first. $20 here and $50 there put in the right places for a long enough amount of time can add up to hundreds dollars per month. Be smart with your money and make it work for you instead of the other way around. Here are some ideas on how to stretch your family budget and accomplish your goals.
Food by itself can equal hundreds of dollars per month in family expenses. But it doesn't have to be that way and smart shoppers can get 2 to 3 times the amount of food as someone who doesn't shop wisely. A few of the best ways to cut your food expense and maximizing a budget is to use coupons and price matching from grocery stores in your area. By taking flyers to a competitor you can get fruits, vegetables, dairy and bread for significantly less while consolidating your shopping to one location. Coupons are also the in thing to do as illustrated by the many TV shows and Internet coverage. Not using coupons is basically throwing money away unnecessarily. Shopping at local farmers market for fruits and vegetables in season can also mean purchasing copious amounts of food for minimal cost. When a farmer has hundreds of pounds of peaches available all at once they tend to be fairly inexpensive.
When planning entertainment for the family while trying to stay on a budget avoid activities which charge a lot of money but offer little in return. Going to dinner and a movie is the stereotypical family activity but only provides a few hours of entertainment for sometimes $100 or more. Instead, rent movies and have a pizza party or better yet a barbecue with friends and family. You'll have more freedom to do what you want for a longer amount of time for half the price. Also consider going to amusement parks during special times or purchase season passes to keep costs down. While a season pass may seem expensive at first the more you use it the less expensive it becomes with no additional cost after the initial purchase. Visiting state parks and having picnic lunches or enjoying other outside activities like hiking and camping can be had for little to no expense and create valuable memories for you and your family.
Clothes shopping when trying to stretch your family budget can be a difficult task at best. For adults it's not really an issue as they are willing to make compromises and shop at thrift or consignment shops or buy clothes on sale to save money for the family. Children however can be picky and stubborn and will require a more delicate balance of thriftiness while still allowing them to look cool for their friends. This might be the perfect opportunity to teach them independence and the importance of budgeting and spending money wisely. Set a fixed amount for their clothes, such as $200, and help them buy the clothes they like for the best prices. If they want something fancy like a $200 pair of tennis shoes let them know that they will be wearing their old clothes or getting a part-time job. This might require some tough love because if they make poor financial decisions they will need to understand there are consequences for their decisions.
Figuring out ways to stretch your family budget will require creativity and dedication. There is no easy solution but using a multi-pronged approach applied to food, entertainment and clothing can save hundreds of dollars per month. This frees up additional financial resources which can be used for family vacations, college funds or your own personal retirement. Don't think of a budget as a sacrifice but as an opportunity to teach your children about the value of money, setting goals, and long-term planning.