Making Ends Meet- A guide to help families get the most from their m

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      Making Ends Meet
      A guide to help families get the most from their money

      Making ends meet is a challenge for almost every family. One of the most important tools to help you meet that challenge is a spending and saving plan designed to fit your family.

      Your plan for spending and saving is a guide for dividing your income so that it provides for your needs and as many of your wants as possible. A spending and saving plan can help you in these ways:

        [*]live within your income, [*]place your needs above your wants, [*]set aside money for large planned expenses and emergencies, [*]save for the things you want, [*]avoid or reduce family arguments about money, [*]spend more wisely, [*]make your dreams come true. [/list]This publication can help you develop a spending and saving plan for your family.

        By following the six steps discussed, you will take one giant step towards better money management.

        1. Your Family Goals

        Before you begin to divide up your income, you will want to think about your family goals. What is important to you and your family – your values – will influence the goals you set for using your money.

        Your family probably has a number of goals that require money. Talk over family goals for using money and try to identify the ones that are most important to your family.

        Some goals may take a short time to reach, while others may require a longer time, maybe even several years. Family goals will change from time to time. Therefore, every now and then, review your goals to see if they are still important to family members.

        Identifying Family Goals

        Have you ever talked together, as a family, about the goals of each person and the family for using money? The following activity may help you identify some of your most important individual and family goals.

        1. Ask each family member to write down his or her goals that require money. The goals can be individual or family goals.

        They can be desired soon or in the future. (See the following example.)

        The things or goals that I would like to have or do are —

        1. make money last until the next pay period
        2. have a sofa that makes into a bed
        3. pay all the bills.

        2. Then, each family member should mark each goal he or she has written down, indicating which ones are most important:

        *** three stars if it is something that the family or a family member must have or do.
        ** two stars if it is something that is needed or wanted, if the family can possibly find the money, but could be put off for a while.
        * one star if it is something that would be nice to have or do, but could be put off for quite awhile or could even be given up entirely. (See the following example.)

        The things or goals that I would like to have or do are —

        1. make money last until the next pay period ***
        2. have a sofa that makes into a bed **
        3. pay all the bills. *

        3. Next, one person should collect each family member’s list and make one list with goals that are alike grouped together.

        4. Once the goals are all listed, family members should discuss each one and agree on its importance to the family.

        5. Finally, the information obtained through discussion and agreement on family goals can be used to complete the following chart.

        Our Family Goals

        To Accomplish This YearEstimated CostHow To Reach Goal *1. ______________________________________________________________________

        2. ______________________________________________________________________

        3. ______________________________________________________________________

        To Accomplish in the Next 5 YearsEstimated CostHow To Reach Goal *1. ______________________________________________________________________

        2. ______________________________________________________________________

        3. ______________________________________________________________________

        To Accomplish in More Than 5 YearsEstimated CostHow To Reach Goal *1. ______________________________________________________________________

        2. ______________________________________________________________________

        3. ______________________________________________________________________

        * Examples: save each pay period, work overtime, use income tax refund, etc.

        2. Your Family Income

        Once you have determined your family goals, the next step in developing a spending and saving plan is to figure out how much income you will have to work with. If income is from more than one source and comes at different times of the month, it is wise to look at the total income for a month. Income can come from a variety of sources, such as earnings from a job, interest, rents, public assistance, social security, or child support.

        When you total the family’s income, it is important to be accurate and include only income that is “for sure,” not what it “might be.” For example, if income varies each pay period, use an average or low figure, not the largest ever received. If wages are seasonal and might not be received some weeks or months, figure the average income over the year on a monthly or weekly basis.

        Save money for those weeks or months when there is no paycheck.

        Plan only on “disposable” income, that is, what is left after taxes and other deductions. The following chart can help you organize and determine how much income your family has to work with.

        Our Family Income

        Source of IncomeWhen ReceivedAmount per Pay PeriodAmount per Month1. _______________________________________________________________

        2. _______________________________________________________________

        3. _______________________________________________________________

        4. _______________________________________________________________

        5. _______________________________________________________________

        6. _______________________________________________________________

        7. _______________________________________________________________

        Total Monthly Family Income$___________

        3. Your Family Spending and Saving Plan

        When you have a clear picture of your family’s goals and income, you are ready to start your spending and saving plan. To begin the plan, you should determine your family’s expenses.

        Look back to what you have spent on basic things such as food, clothing, and housing. Seeing what these things have cost your family in the past can give you an idea of what future spending will be. Records you may have such as bills, canceled checks, and receipts will help you be more accurate in determining your family’s expenses.

        As you look at your expenses, consider which ones are fixed expenses, which ones are flexible, and which ones are periodic expenses.

        Fixed expenses stay about the same. They include things such as rent or house payments, insurance, time payments, and charge accounts.

        Flexible expenses, while they may be necessary, vary in amount from week to week or month to month. These include such items as food, clothing, utilities, gasoline, personal and recreation expenses, savings, gifts, medical care, and educational expenses.

        Periodic expenses occur quarterly, semi-annually, or annually. These expenses include things such as driver’s and automobile licenses, subscriptions, Christmas spending, and automobile insurance. You should set money aside regularly to meet these expenses when they are due.

        You should also keep in mind unexpected emergencies that may occur. These might be such things as automobile repairs, household repairs, and medical bills. You may want to develop a special emergency fund to help cover these expenses.

        The chart below can help you develop your family spending and saving plan. You may want to develop your plan on a weekly, semi-monthly, or monthly basis, depending on how often you are paid.

        Our Family Spending and Saving Plan

        Fixed ExpensesDate DueAmount Due_____________________________________________________




        Periodic ExpensesDate DueAmount DueAmount To Set Aside__________________________________________________________



        Flexible ExpensesWeek 1Week 2Week 3Week 4Food____________________________________________________







        Doctor, Dentist____________________________________________________




        Personal Care____________________________________________________




        4. Your Family Resources

        Money is an important resource, but it is only one of many resources available to families. Other resources that families can use are time, energy (effort), skills, talents, and personal characteristics. Resources are also available at little or no cost through communities, such as libraries, schools, parks, beaches, educational organizations, and churches.

        By substituting one resource for another, families may be able to save for things they need or want soon or in the future.

        Ask family members to list some of their own personal resources. Then, as a family, make a list of your total family resources on the chart below.

        Our Family’s Resources

        1. ___________________________________________________________
        2. ___________________________________________________________
        3. ___________________________________________________________
        4. ___________________________________________________________
        5. ___________________________________________________________
        6. ___________________________________________________________

        5. Controls To Help Your Plan Work

        If you stick to a spending and saving plan, it can help you stretch your family’s money resources and live better on the money you have. A spending and saving plan can help you see how to use money to pay bills and get more of the things that you need and want. A plan allows you to decide what is important to your family and to make choices before spending your money.

        You can make your money go farther by developing habits or routines that help you control your money. For example, which of these actions might work for you?

          [*]Pay all bills the day the money arrives. [*]Buy all necessities on the day you get the money.

          [*]Have all the bills in one place, ready to pay when the time comes. [*]Put all money to be used later in the week or month in a safe place. [*]Have a list of all the things you plan to buy this month and know about how much you can pay for each.

          [*]Grocery shop once a week or every two weeks. Keep grocery money in a special fund or pocketbook. Spend no more in the designated period of time.

          [*]Pay an “average” amount on heating/cooling fuel each month to avoid large bills due at one time. Be sure to arrange in advance with your utility. [*]Decide who will be responsible for handling the money, or divide the tasks up among the adults and/or children responsible for buying certain things.

          [*]Set up an “envelope system” to help you track where your money goes. Label each envelope with a specific spending category such as housing, food, transportation, clothing, entertainment, personal care, and credit/loan payments. At the beginning of each month, put the money you have budgeted into the appropriate envelopes.

          When payments are due, withdraw the amount needed. [/list]

          6. Putting Your Plan into Action

          Once your spending plan is developed, you will want to put it into practice. Think of it as a trial period and if it doesn’t work, revise your plan. Your spending plan is made to help you, not to make you feel uncomfortable.

          The plan may require revision fairly often, as your family, your circumstances, your needs, and your goals are always changing.

          After your trial period, look to see how well you did. Chances are you will discover that your money is going farther in providing the things that your family needs and wants. Congratulations; you have taken a giant step toward better financial management and making ends meet!

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Budget101 Discussion List Archives Budget101 Discussion List Making Ends Meet- A guide to help families get the most from their m