Ok , so I promised to talk about making a budget. first thing's first ; you need to track all of your monthly expenses. Knowing exactly where your money is going will help you learn what you can cut out and what you can't cut out . Most families can immediately shave at least a couple hundred dollars on the miscellaneous stuff , once you've identified what that miscellaneous stuff is . If you think you are already living bare bones , don't worry we can cut out some stuff for you too.
I've said it once , I'll say it again ( see my face going a bit blue already) GET a PAYPAL debit card ! It makes tracking the miscellaneous so much easier AND you get some actual cash back right away that can go straight back into your pocket . Better yet it can go straight into a Rainy Day fund , but more on that later.
Step 3. Once you have identified what cash is going where you need to prioritize your budget . Do you need that Starbucks Coffee every day ? What about the dry cleaner , salon , do the kids need to participate in 10 activities , could you car pool ? Your budget will reveal alot of things you spend alot of money on that aren't priorities. Mortgage, cars, utilities , insurance , groceries, and savings ( not long term investments) are priorities.
Step 4 . You have alot of bills/ your mortgage or rent is super high. Whoever is the better negotiator in your family needs to have the conversation with the bank, landlord or creditor. You can lower your monthly interest or payments, establish a pay-off plan, lower your rent ( even $50.00 a month will help) . You also need to call your insurance company . Many moms ( especially those who stay home and those folks who live in smaller towns and even cities where their cars sit unused for days at a time) , might be able to negotiate a lower car insurance payment . In my household we have 1 car that is our primary vehicle , taking my husband 35 miles round trip every day to work , and my other car which sits in my driveway and makes 2-3 mile trips a couple times per week. I used to pay on both as "primary" vehicles , but now only 1 is the primary and I save around 40.00 per month.
Step 5 : Cut up your credit cards and pay them off ASAP . Sure you might consider using your tax refund for a great vacation , but in reality you probably can't afford it . One vacationless year for next year's financial freedom is a really fair trade off.
Step 6 : Plan ahead. You know you will need money for Christmas , birthdays, and other special events. You know you will have to wrap and possibly mail those gifts. Planning ahead means you can have money in the budget for those expenses and you can get something nice on sale and pay less than say the night before Christmas ! As a side note , if you can't afford ANY gift then be direct and not avoid the giftee . A friend or relative that truly cares about you and your financial situation will understand. You can also get creative and offer your services in lieu of an actual gift . A night out with the hubby for a friend , childfree, may mean far more than a new sweater from you.
Enough for now. Start tracking those expenses for at least 2 months so you can get a good idea of your real ( not perceived situation) and check back for more Budgeting help and info . There is some cool free tracking software that links to the picture at the top of this post , use a notebook, save every receipt WHATEVER ! Just track all your expenses !