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Budget and Reality: Combining Both

December 19th, 2011 at 06:59 am

When you're managing the budget for a family of four, it's tricky enough. You have to know precisely how much you and your significant other are bringing in and when, and you have to be able to make this income stretch to meet all of your family's needs. Now, imagine that you are a family of three – that is, a single parent with two children relying on you for all of their needs.

This is where it starts to get really tricky. Whereas before, you have two breadwinners pitching in, and there was sometimes money left over for "fun things", those days are long gone. Now you understand what it feels like to be the end-all-be-all for everything—judo classes, ballet lessons, schoolbooks, a wardrobe that must keep up with ever-growing children—plus have enough left over every month for those pesky bills and your mortgage payment.

So what should I do?

If you find yourself in a situation like this, the first thing to do is try to take it easy on yourself. Avoid comparing your finances to anyone else's, even another single parent. Instead, encourage yourself at every turn, even—especially—when things seem to be going to roughest. By keeping your confidence high and your optimism intact, you are more likely to stay on track with your intended budget, and avoid behaviors like impulse shopping and overspending.

Yeah, all of that sounds great, but how what should I do next?

After you are confident in yourself and your abilities, then roll your sleeves up and get to work. You should basically start to think of everything that you buy as taking away from possible future purchases. In this way, you can start to see where you are nickel-and-diming your money away, and you will be able to reign in spending. Even simple steps like clipping coupons, packing a lunch, and investing in a reusable water bottle and filling up at the tap can help you save tons of money.

As you're focusing on these "small details", also start to take note of which bills are due when and how much these bills are on average. Once you have a good idea of when all of your bills are due, decide which bills will get paid with which paycheck (for example, electricity, cable, and phone will be paid with first paycheck of the month, rent and car insurance will be paid with the second). If you must, list everything out for the next six months, with your pay dates heading columns that contain which bills are due at that time.

Finally, start looking into a budget worksheet, where you can organize everything into one place and see at a glance where your money is being spent, how much will be left over every month, and so forth. This way, you can be sure that all of your money is being well spent, and the likelihood of actually having extra money every month increases.

And on a final note…

While I may have made this seem very simple and cut-and-dried, the reality is that, depending upon the state of your financial affairs, this process may take weeks, or even months, to fine tune. If you are contending with debt in addition to your everyday expenditures, then it may be daunting to see everything written out on paper.

However, the more organized you are throughout this process, the easier it will go overall. Additionally, if you are honest with yourself, and cut yourself just a little slack, then what may have seemed hopeless at one point will now seem much more bearable, and you will understand that you are not alone. There are many others who share your frustration, but you can and will make it through this in one piece

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