First off, I should mention that I am not a Financial Advisor, however, I do have a number of years working within a debt collections environment. For this reason, I am a bit obsessed with making sure the family budget is secure and we have enough money at the start of each month to pay our bills and get food and petrol.
Finances are difficult for a lot of people.
Simply because, a lot of the time, we don’t really want to think about it, and it’s this that I find tends to get people in a muddle. It’s actually quite like being a parent. Planning ahead makes things much easier.
In fact, on that basis, it’s probably much easier to deal with finances, than a 2-month-old baby that’s crying when you’ve only had 2 hours of sleep.
Like I said, planning is key to understanding your finances. I’ve always found it easier to have sole accounts for wages to be paid into, and joint bills account. Before I quit work to become a stay at home parent, I would collect my payslip the day before getting paid and throw the figure into the relevant cell in the spreadsheet.
Once home, I’d hassle my wife for hers so I could update the spreadsheet properly and then make sure all of our bills were correct. Once this was done, I had a whole routine that I would go through over the next 24 hours, as follows:
- Check phone bills, credit card bills etc and make sure these were correct on the sheet. Then update the sheet with the income to be received the following day
- Check bank accounts that salaries were paid into for any payments that were still pending to go out
- Once I knew exactly (to the penny) how much we had left, I would then split this between credit cards (as additional payments to the due amount) and savings accounts leaving zero balances in both of our accounts ready for pay day. Or it can be used for the following month’s bills, especially useful if any bonuses were paid
- Money transfer evening
- Take a look at the spreadsheet, and then split all the bills (except credit cards, loans, car finance etc) in half and make a note
- Add into this each individual’s own credit as above so that each of you are paying an equal amount for household bills and your own credit. I personally don’t feel it’s fair to pay my wife’s debts or vice versa, however, given our situation now with me as a stay at home parent, it’s the only way unfortunately
- Then simply transfer the relevant amount from each person’s bank account into the joint bills account
Most importantly: Keep an eye on the bills account throughout the month just in case a company takes a double payment in error or even just to make sure you got the numbers right. You’ll be surprisingly proud of the month you end with an exact zero balance.
As I said at the start, I’m no expert, but this works for us. I’ve attached a blank version of the spreadsheet I use, give it a try, make any tweaks you need to, but one thing is for sure; it’s crucial to manage and be on top of your family budget.
If you are having financial difficulties, please seek advice. Free organisations do exist in addition to the ones that charge a fee, and these include your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk Step Change https://www.stepchange.org and Shelter http://www.shelter.org.uk