Many of the most popular personal finance blogs are geared toward singles or couples with no kids. This makes it seem as though families have it all figured out and need no help. However, there are many families who struggle with their finances. Kids add expenses, and there are usually larger homes and vehicles involved with bringing up a family. There are some ways for families to improve their personal finances. Here are some great financial tips for families.
One of the first recommendations that personal finance experts give is the strong encouragement for individuals and families to set up a budget. It’s impossible to get a handle on your family’s finances if you have no clue as to what’s coming in and what’s going out each month. Figure out how much your paycheck brings in, and then subtract your monthly bills. What’s left over, if anything, is discretionary funds that you can use for other goals. These goals can involve eating, clothing your kids, taking a vacation or retiring at a reasonable age. If you have nothing left over after a mortgage, utilities and car payments, you’ll need to downsize your lifestyle or find other avenues for additional income.
Another great personal finance tip for families is avoiding too much debt. It’s easier said than done but possible with a few long-term changes to budgeting and spending. While the ability to apply for an installment loan in a pinch will always be beneficial to families who need it, relying on these and other forms of borrowing should never be a recurring way to manage household finances. Pay off any existing debt and commit to not accumulating any more to take its place.
Set Up an Emergency Fund
Bumps and scrapes are likely. Stitches and casts are common as well. These can wind up costing money. So can car repairs and broken refrigerators. This is why it’s a good idea to set up an emergency fund before taking any other steps to remedy your personal financial situation. An emergency fund can reduce stress when an emergency actually happens, and it can show you that you can start taking steps toward saving money.
Save Money for the Future
There are many ways to save. With the exception of an emergency fund, a traditional bank savings account is not the best option. Putting money into a 401(k) fund or a similar account is a great way to save for retirement. If you’re able to put 10 or 15 percent into this account, it’s a good idea to start saving for college for your kids. They’ll likely want to attend, and it will likely cost a pretty penny. If you save up to offset the cost, both you and your kids will come out ahead. If not, student debt will likely be the result. This will defeat the purpose of the previous recommendation to avoid debt.
Set Up an HSA
The cost of medical care has gone up at well above the normal rate of inflation for decades. One of the best ways to save money on health care expenditures is through the use of a Health Savings Account. These are used with high-deductible plans. Plans with higher deductibles require lower monthly premiums, and families can save up to $7,000 to offset deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses. If your family is relatively healthy, this money can roll over each year, and you’ll be able to pay cash for things like braces and the stitches and casts mentioned above.
Taking these steps can go a long way toward helping your family have better finances in the coming months and years. Doing so will also lead to greater empowerment on your part. The time to start is now. Your family will be glad you did.