Your family doesn’t fit the mold of the average American family, and why should it? Instead, your family does it big, somewhere in the realm of The Brady Bunch or Cheaper by the Dozen. While you wouldn’t trade your crew for anything, the pinch on your budget does leave much to be desired.
Budgets are essential for single people and big families alike. But the balance can be easily thrown off course when your party consists of more kids than you have hands. Learn how to manage your finances while meeting the needs of your growing family with less stress and more fun.
1. Treat Your Budget Like a Businessperson Would
Managing your income and expenses is a delicate balance in any family, and it’s especially sensitive with a large one. Establish a budget practice that keeps you informed of your spending pattern in real time so you can adjust when needed.
Use a debit card to keep daily spending organized and secure. Export your transactions using a comma-separated values Excel spreadsheet to sort and calculate expenses. Consider yourself the family accountant and set a date weekly to review where you stand.
Track the family expenses each month to identify patterns to be mindful of over time. If summer camp registrations come due in January, budget over the year for initial payments. The same rule goes for managing gift-giving opportunities like birthdays and holidays.
Prepare for surprise expenses associated with your home and vehicles so a dragging brake pad doesn’t derail your budget. Allocate a monthly amount toward short-term emergencies so you’re prepared when they arise.
2. Take Meal Planning Seriously
With inflation going through the roof, families large and small must manage essential expenditures like food costs. A quick stop at the grocery store for a forgotten ingredient can easily lead to impulse buys that bust a budget.
Instead, aim to plan out your family’s meals each week, projecting efficient ingredient use and accounting for leftovers. Pinterest and blog sites can serve as inspiration when accomplishing this task and often provide resources for sale shopping.
Consider making enough for dinner to allow for leftovers to help your family control costs for lunchtime meals. An individual lunch out can cost $10 or more while an efficiently planned home-cooked meal can be $2 or less.
Plan for occasional takeout meals to break up the monotony and give yourself a breather from constant cooking. Discuss family favorites and try to come to a consensus of the best use of your takeout budget. When you agree on little luxuries, they can feel like a treat as you work to manage your food costs.
3. Get the Best Cost-Per-Wear on Your Family’s Wardrobe
Kids notoriously grow out of clothes the moment you cut the tags off a new outfit. Fight against high-water jeans and other wardrobe disasters by planning ahead as you shop. Shop sales for next season’s clothes by projecting your kids’ new sizes based on their growth patterns.
Encourage your kids to embrace hand-me-downs. Tell them they’re helping the environment by wearing their siblings’ outgrown jeans; plus, ripped-up denim is hip! Separate your kids’ wardrobes based on use, segmenting school, play, and special occasion clothes to help them last.
When your kids grow out of clothes, consider reselling the items that are still in good condition. Consignment shops have been the traditional go-to for selling used clothes, but the newest online outlets are worth a look.
List items on Facebook Marketplace for shipping or local pickup, and you’ll easily net a nice profit. Name your price and list your items with quality photos and an accurate description to get the best results. Roll your profits into your kids’ clothing budget or use it to shore up your savings account.
4. Source Unique Experiences Made for Big Groups
You can’t expect your family to thrive when your sole focus is cash conservation. Instead, be mindful of your overall spending so it has the biggest impact for your dollar.
Seek out opportunities for fun, both free and paid, that cater to large families. Review the local event listings for festivals, farmer’s markets, and free concerts for an easy outing for your crew. Often lasting for hours, these events have something for everyone and often allow attendees to bring their own food.
Check out local museum memberships to gain access to endless entertainment and educational opportunities. For an upfront cost, families can access the museum at any time, even gaining early admission to new exhibits.
Generally, these memberships don’t place a cap on the amount of children included with a family membership. In big families like yours, a membership can pay for itself in just one visit. Even better, respond to requests for gift suggestions with links to local museum and zoo memberships, making future outings free.
Involve the Whole Family in the Financial Conversation
Now that you’ve got your big family budget organized, how do you manage it? Use the monthly task of balancing the budget as a teaching moment. Most children learn their first lessons in finance from their parents, so include the whole family in the conversation about the prior months’ expenses. Have a chat about what was spent and identify any areas to better manage next month.
If you’re inclined to, draft up a PowerPoint to go over key categories of interest. Start a discussion about financial behavior, savings, and why being a good steward of your resources is essential. Doing so can build a solid financial education foundation, which will help your kids well into their futures.