The greatest gift of the internet to parents has been its humble, if honest, portrait of parenthood. Now populated more than ever with personal ‘stories’, often reading like a comedy, sometimes a drama, parents have found a new, seemingly healing, forum to exchange ideas about the toughest job of all. Here’s an answer to one of the most commonly sought hacks: how to free up the purse strings to get more bite out of your finances if you’re budgeting for a parent.
Budgeting for parents, nowadays
Navigating the various, troubling landmines of parenthood is a tricky balance to master. At some point, likely inconvenient to your daily plans, a hot flash may abruptly tingle somewhere inside you: the sudden anxieties of parenting becomes real. It’s a constant energy grab, oftentimes financially motivated, and is a royal pain for any family.
Saving up feels hard. Perhaps that’s because spending money, with slick and quick “touch” pay methods, makes for easy, if unpersonal, purchases. With electronic currencies, money slips along streams of invisible code, moving unseen, as you might expect files to store in the nebulous “cloud” of a phone, or laptop. The principles are similar, if innovative, and reorder how we decide to a make a purchase.
Indeed, the invisibility of payments is a convenience in the modern age, not a niggle in the everyday hassles of shopping. Keen-eyed budgeters, parents with cunning and calculated brains, can track their money habits better than before – where apps pull data that distils to its user a pretty useful sheet of average spend. Think of this sort of planning, nicely laid out in an Excel-esque spreadsheet, as a radar, a sharpened antenna. It can be near-essential, if empowering when budgeting for parents. It can help detect spending habits, including common pains where overspend is hurting your savings. It shouldn’t be so hard to budget for parents.
We all need a plan
With every purchase, it might help to lean on your personal intuition. Essentially, humanising your spend, making things part of a wider spending plan, can help you calmly, if coolly, shop with purpose. A more personal touch to spending habits, where purchases are informed by your budget, can bring you closer to purposeful savings.
It’s all about destinations. Your goalposts can flexibly move, but should ultimately, if practically, be placed around outcomes that you can, and want, to achieve. For some, a goal is as simple as knowing where you spend money; whilst others choose to get a handle on their spend as a larger savings project.
There are two common goals for savvy savers, both similar, but ultimately a budget should be a living, yet personal, record of your wealth management. Using the likes of a budget can be useful when monitoring your spending patterns, and to see where money is going and how it comes in. Or, empowered by this information, especially any pains in spending habits, you could work to remove purchases that upset your wealth, to reach a better savings total. An easy motivation, here, is to remind yourself what you’re saving for (a new home, for example.)
A budget, being a record of your wealth, will need to map out the highs and lows of your spending habits. As such, we need to make note of more seasonal debts, like children returning to school, and the corresponding fees for their education. Seasonal, or recurring, debts are not problematic in our wealth-building, but rather a common obstacle to plan around. Mapping these out against a calendar, having debts planned against the days, is a useful tip for following your debts.
Pencil your spend into a calendar to help see monthly costs at a glance.
Spreadsheets represent the clean, if functional, lay of spend. Numbers are essential before analysis. Numbers, as a goal, can be a great exercise in handling your transactions, especially if you learn about your own habits. Budgeting, when effectively planned, is an education. Having a number in mind – be it monthly savings goal of £200– spins consumption from an easy, nagging itch into an analytical game of numbers.
According to the New York Times, establishing clear roles – and lines of communication – for couples handling mutual finances is an essential task in good budgeting. A candid conversation about finances is a healthy signpost in your journeying toward a better outcome for savings, too.
Taking inventory of your finances, with a categorical mind, can help clarify your budget. If it feels worrying at first, then it’s working: the process is a confrontational one and seems freeing for parents eyeing a savings plan.
With every purchase there comes a sequence of split decisions. A quick hack to monitor your everyday spend, and to spin your purchase into more personal decisions about your money, is to think about how you pay for items. Should I buy with cash, or swipe my card (or flash my phone)? A seemingly incurious decision becomes the difference between a memorable purchase – one that adds meaningful value to the customer– or another disposable buy that ebbs away at your monthly savings.
Research shows us that buyers are more likely to spend less with cash and make purchase decisions that brings in a more satisfying value to your spend. Using cash for more minor, or routine, purchases could free up your spending habits, making you feel more frugal, without the guilty feeling of shopping.
Cash, or hard currencies, have the power to reset our relationship with purchase decisions, which is helpful in guiding away from patterns that can hurt our wealth. Yet, credit, the convenient counterpart to our money, has use in your budgeting project.
Placing a purchase against your card – be it credit or debit – can open you up to opportunities for savings, usually where a loyalty incentive allows for discounted buying, known as a ‘reward’. Card transactions are often safer, namely because fraud protections look after your wealth online, and having a third party, like a bank, monitor your financial activity is always an added benefit.
Longevity in budgeting
A household budget, now tightly contained within a spreadsheet, needs to consider the long-term project of finance within the bigger picture of your wealth. When looking back, and you follow the numbers of your spreadsheet, you will spot something that builds up like a story. It’ll likely have all dramas and turns of a good read. Yet, how well will your finances age? That’s a question of looking forward.
We designated this task as “age-proofing”, or how to hatch a financial future for yourself and your family. Essentially, the project of budgeting is a long game, and building out a satisfactory savings pot requires, as a proviso, a sense of patience. Keep embracing your plan, even if monthly numbers drop, and persevere, keeping yourself locked into an optimistic high. Confidence pays it ends.
To age-proof your wealth, you’ll need to be analytical about spend. Search out patterns in your budgets, by asking key questions about your shopping habits. Try, for example, a number of the following:
- What are my three largest areas that I spend out on?
- Are these essential spends?
- What would I define as a non-essential spend (and vice versa)?
- Ultimately, are my savings goals smart: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely?
Pains in our finances are universal, or more common that we think. There are precautions we can take, such as savvy budgeting within strong goals and actualisations about our own wealth, that can nudge us closer to a peace of mind. Yet, it seems almost natural that there are long-standing common pitfalls we all make when budgeting. In the jungle of parenthood woes, financial fretting, especially where children are involved, is a common teething issue that has its remedies. But being smart about money, as a newish interest, is actually quite modern. With smartly hatched plans, parents can sew rewards, building out savings under the guidance of optimism and an equal measure of prudence.
Indeed, being thrifty with your finance isn’t just about clipping out wasteful spend, but about feeling comfortable with your whole budget –that means knowing what kind of story your money tells.