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17 Practical Tips to Keeping a Monthly Budget Template

May 1, 2018

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17 Practical Tips to Keeping a Monthly Budget Template

How to save money each month by creating a family budget template.  This will help your family to create a household budget and monthly budget planner to reduce household spending.

Monthly Budget Template

Living on a budget does not have to be painful.  Sometimes when the word budget is introduced, immediately we think that means no spending or taking away all of the fun.  It doesn’t have to be that way!  There is nothing more fulfilling than having financial independence!

This blog is about living a healthy lifestyle.  While I post a lot of health and fitness tips, I strongly believe that financial fitness is directly related to your personal health.  When you feel confident and NOT STRESSED about your personal finance, household spending and monthly budgeting, your overall health is improved!

This post contains affiliate links, please see disclosure for details.

Monthly Budget Template

17 Practical Tips to Create a Monthly Budget Template

These 17 practical steps will help you to create a monthly budget template that is doable for your family.  A number of these steps will be something you focus on at the beginning of your personal finance journey.  Once you have the big stuff covered, creating a monthly budget and having a monthly budget review will be a piece of cake.

Tip #1:  Get on the same page

The first step in this process is to sit down with your spouse and get on the same page.  When spending is out of control or expenses are too high it could be because there is a lack of communication.  Your spending may not be out of control, but maybe you know you can do better.  Either way, by sitting down and going through everything together, you can get a clean start in creating a family budget that is doable!

Tip #2:  Have a monthly meeting

Having and keeping a monthly budget appointment on your calendar is critical to your success.  I’m the first to attest to how hard it can be! With vacations, work trips and other life obligations it can be really hard to consistently meet and discuss our family budget.  When there are months that go by without us discussing our monthly budget and reviewing our monthly expenses, we just aren’t as clued into our monthly spending as we should be.  Treat that appointment like any other and do your best to keep it!

Tip #3:  Create long-term goals

After you’ve had the initial budget meeting and come up with your monthly budget template, it’s time to start thinking about long-term goals.  Chances are if you never set long-term goals, you’ll just be focused on the month-to-month expenses. When you have a collective bigger picture in mind, you can work together to create new spending habits.  

Example?  Our family LOVES Disney and will save just about anything to make sure we get there!  If you’re saving for a Disney vacation or another family trip, that can be a great way to incentivize your family to stick to the monthly budget process.  Maybe even hang a photo of your family at a recent vacation so you can have it at the top of your mind.

saving for vacation

Tip #4:  Analyze Grocery Spending and Other Controllable Expenses

Grocery spending is incredibly variable.  This is one of the most controllable areas for your family to reduce monthly spending.  When we analyze our monthly budget, grocery spending is always something that we try to reduce. I’m one to argue that we can’t change the cost of food, however when you analyze the average grocery bill for a family of 4, I know we go over that. When I started to review our grocery bills, I was able to understand how to save on groceries by planning more efficient grocery tips, buying in bulk, meal planning and determining what we value.  

There are a few tips that you can follow to control grocery spending.

Consider buying in bulk. 

If you find yourself buying the same things over and over again each week, consider purchasing in bulk.  

Determine what you value.

If eating organic is a priority for your family, then begin to research how you can eat organic on a budget. For us, that means shopping at Aldi, Walmart, or buying in bulk at Costco.

Meal Planning

Meal planning is one of the easiest ways to reduce food waste and ensure your family eats healthy and on budget.  If you are new to meal planning, this article will help you!  Also — services like Emeals make meal planning super easy and affordable.  You can even get a free trial

Meal Planning Basics – Read it!

Tip #5 – Review past financial statements

Reviewing past financial statements should be a part of your initial budget meeting.  You should also plan on reviewing your financial statements annually and monthly.  Many banks will send you a statement that breaks out your spending by category.  For example, you get to see what percentage of money was spent on eating out.  When you sit down and check out the numbers it can be very eye opening.

When you are reviewing past financial statements, make note of recurring holidays, appointments, vacations, etc.  For example, if your family takes a beach vacation every year in July, make sure you are aware of that expense.  Review how much you spent in the prior year and consider creating a vacation fund.  Each month, save a smaller sum of money so that when it’s time to hit the beach you can pay for it in cash!

If Christmas always sneaks up on you and your budget, consider better planning throughout the year.  Save a small sum each month to a Christmas saving account should make saving for Christmas presents a breeze.

Need help in getting started?  Download your Free Budget Spreadsheet below!

monthly budget template

Tip #6 – At least monthly, review every outgoing expense.

When you have your monthly meeting, review the past month.  Where did most of your money go?  Do you need to reevaluate some of your spending?

When we review our monthly budget, we also make sure to review our expenses that seem fixed.  For example, when we started to analyze our cable spending, we realized we were spending WAY too much for cable we rarely watched.  A simple phone call enabled us to switch cable providers and reduce our cable spending by $100 a month!

Reviewing your expenses monthly will also keep you on top of variable spending and make you more aware of higher spend months.

Tip #7 – Get organized!

When you are starting out in creating a monthly budget template, getting organized will be a great way to get started.  Gather all of your paper statements and any other financial documents that you need to discuss.  You will also want to have the login information for all of your digital accounts so that you have an up-to-date record of all of your financial statements.

Whether you are going paperless or looking to organize your monthly budget with a budget template binder, getting everything in one place is critical to starting your monthly family budget meetings.  Consider creating your own family budget template binder, or have a shareable file within Google Docs or Dropbox that can be easily updated.

Tip #8 – Declutter!

Now that you’ve organized everything and have all of your financial documents in one place, it’s time to declutter.  This process can help you in two ways.  First, by decluttering, you will have more clarity in what you are trying to achieve in your monthly budget.  Clearing physical clutter helps your mental health and getting organized will help your morale in sticking to your monthly budgeting process.

Also – decluttering your home can have a direct money impact!  You may be sitting on a number of things in your home that can be sold or consigned.  If you have old baby clothes, furniture, electronics, etc.  you could be able to sell some of these items.  If you’re not using them, why not make some money on them and get some momentum in your family’s personal finance journey?

Services like ThredUp help you to get money back for your gently used clothes!

Getting started with decluttering?  This article will help you!

27 Quick Decluttering Tips When You’re Overwhelmed

budgeting tips reduce spending

Tip #9 – Try a No-Spend Month

A no-spend month is a great way to really use up what you have.  You set the rules, it can be as little as no non-essential purchases all the way up to literally no spend for the entire month.

How to survive a no-spend month?  Look for old gift cards, subscriptions for freebies you haven’t yet used, get creative!  Once the no-spend month is over you’ll be able to see that you can survive on less and that you have a nice little sum for what you didn’t buy during the no-spend month.

Not ready for a full-blown no-spend month?  This Simplicity Challenge by Nancy Ray is a great start!

Tip #10 – Kill the Credit Cards!

I used to be the person who had a credit card because I wanted to either establish a credit history or gain rewards points.  Although these perks can be nice, having a credit card, and even worse, carrying a credit card balance can put some serious strain on your budget.  The first step in keeping your monthly budget template should be a plan to pay down and/or eliminate your credit cards.

Dave Ramsey recommends paying off your smallest balance first.  That way you will get some momentum built and will see progress being made!

Tip #11 – The Dave Ramsey Cash Envelope System

One easy way to kill credit card debt is to start paying for things in cash.  Cash hurts a lot more than swiping a card.  When we switched over to a cash-based system and used the physical cash envelope system, it made me so much more mindful about what we were purchasing.

The dollar spot at Target is a prime example.  I love it, sooooooo much.  But, when I have to take out real money and pay for something that I don’t really need, it makes it a lot easier to walk right past it.

Using cash also enabled us to declutter!  When you are being mindful of what you are buying with cash you are bringing less stuff into your house.

You don’t need to carry around an envelope binder!  I did this when we first started Dave Ramsey because we were SUPER serious about becoming debt free.  Now, I use the app Goodbudget which helps me to keep up to date on all of our purchases using our debit card.  It’s just like the cash envelope system but digital!

Watch this video to hear about our debt free story with the Dave Ramsey plan!

Tip #12 Build an Emergency Fund

Your monthly budget becomes a lot less intimidating when you know you have a little padding, right?  You may have 401k or other investments, but do you have an emergency fund?  An emergency fund will help you to pay cash when unexpected emergencies come up.

Make it a goal to save $1,000 dollars to your emergency fund.  From there, only use it for true emergencies, i.e. your car breaks down, you have an unexpected health bill, your washing machine breaks, etc!

Tip #13 Get Tech-y and find some personal finance and home budget apps

The Balance had a great list of the Best 8 Budgeting Apps to help you with control spending and personal finance.  The overall winner was Mint which is a well-known budgeting app.  This article lists the other great apps for personal finance!

Tip #14 Educate yourself on personal finance resources and budgeting resources

Sometimes it’s just about figuring out a system that works for you that will help to get the ball rolling.  Make it a goal to spend a few minutes each day to further your knowledge on family budgeting and personal finance.

The College Investor has a great list of the top personal investing finance and investing podcasts.

Two great books for managing your household budget and income are The Total Money Makeover and Rich Dad, Poor Dad.

Tip #15 – Simplify

Take another hard look at where your money is going.  Is it time to simplify?  Have less commitments?  Have less stuff? More time?

When you review your budget and your schedule, you might find that there are things that you can eliminate.  There may be commitments that you can say no to, things you can stop buying, appointments you no longer really need to go to.

Tip #16 – Consider Side Hustles that can help to create a secondary income stream!

Ever thought about bringing in some extra money to offset some expenses?  There are a variety of ways to do this!

My favorite way is of course to start a blog!  If you’ve ever thought about starting a blog but have no clue where to start, check out my post on How to Start a Blog.

How to Start a Blog | Step by Step Blogging for Beginners

Working from home, Etsy businesses, virtual assistant, editors/proofreaders, tutoring, network marketing, the opportunities are growing each day.

Beware – adding more income will not fix your ability to stick to a budget.  This will definitely help your money coming in, but until you are able to effectively manage your budget and spending, it will not matter how much money you make.

Tip #17 – Decide what your family values, and spend your money there.

No two families are alike and only you will know what your family values most.  When you have a family budget plan that works for your family, your money will go to the things that make the most sense for you.

Our family will always value experience over things.  We’d much rather take a vacation than buy a new fancy car.  Review your expenses, review your goals and keep those in front of you.  When you see the bigger picture of what your family really values, sticking to a monthly budget template will be just a bit easier.

How is monthly budgeting going for you?  I’d love to hear your thoughts or struggles in the comments!

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