Quick Tips to Set Up a Family Budget

How to stretch your money without feeling the crunch

Start living on a budget that works for you and your family. Make healthy financial choices to eliminate debt, decrease costs, save money, and stretch a paycheck without constantly crunching numbers. Quickly evaluate your financial situation, and start saving with these easy tips to set up a family budget today.

01 of 07

Create a Budget

Mom sitting on floor working on her family's budget on laptop while her baby plays in a bouncer seat
Jamie Grill / Getty Images

The first step to living on a budget is to track your family's income and expenses. Gather all of your bills, paycheck stubs, bank statements—everything you have that shows money coming in or going out. Write a frugal budget to manage your money.

When you wing it every month without a budget in mind, you're passing up opportunities to slash unnecessary costs and save money. A few minutes spent creating a budget now can save you big money later.

02 of 07

Set Financial Goals

Father and daughter counting change for piggy bank as mother works out family budget on laptop
Tom Merton / Getty Images

Saving money seems like a long-term goal that's always out of reach when you're struggling from month to month just to pay the bills. Whether you want to save money for your child's college fund or you'd like to tuck money away for your retirement, setting financial goals is an important step in protecting your family's future.

Don't neglect your short-term goals either. Your financial goals can include quick reductions on utility bills, cable bills, and other expenses that are keeping you from saving more money each month.

03 of 07

Get Out of Debt

Woman cutting her credit card to help her family budget
Chemistry / Getty Images

While being in debt can feel overwhelming, managing your debt is easy when you set realistic goals. A debt management plan can be built into your budget so you can pay off your credit cards and mortgage and eliminate your overall debt.

You might not be able to pay off all of your debt today, but you can create a realistic plan to work toward paying it off. Your budget will show you where your money is being squandered with high interest charges and unnecessary expenses so you can then identify where your money truly needs to go.

04 of 07

Lower Your Taxes

Mom on floor with her tax receipts, teaching her daughter about family budgeting
David Sacks / Getty Images

Stop dreading the spring tax deadline every year. Simple tweaks can reduce your taxes and add money to your family's bottom line.

Choosing the right filing status, studying current tax rules on claiming dependents, claiming the Child Tax Credit, and taking advantage of child care and dependent care expenses are a few of the tax rules you should be aware of every year when it's time to file.


The Child Tax Credit and the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit have been beefed up for the 2021 tax year—the return you'll file in 2022—so you definitely won't want to overlook claiming these if you qualify.

People overspend on taxes every year. Make sure you're not being overly generous to Uncle Sam.

05 of 07

Plan for Financial Emergencies

Woman sitting at table budgeting her finances on a calculator with husband and child in background
Blend Images / Getty Images

The stress of a financial crisis can put a strain on the wealthiest families. Establishing an emergency fund helps you build up savings for unexpected expenses.

Life insurance and a last will and testament can also shield your family from financial hardship if something should happen to you or your spouse. The benefits and peace of mind of having them in place often outweigh the costs.

06 of 07

Control Spending on Food

Smiling mom with kids buying items with cash at register
asiseeit / Getty Images

Cut the costs of feeding your family with a well-planned food budget. Save money on groceries with a ready-made shopping list of your family's favorite recipes. You'll always know what you need and can spot a sale on your staples. This keeps your kitchen pantry stocked without having to pay full price.

Think outside the grocery store to find even more savings. "Kids eat free" deals at restaurants are also budget-friendly options that give you a break from the kitchen without draining your bank account.

07 of 07

Budget for Travel

Dad and son to budget by adding change to a piggy bank marked vacation
Jamie Grill / Getty Images

Many families think a vacation is an automatic budget buster. Stretching your travel dollars can make your dream trip a reality, though. With a few extra steps, you can save money on your vacation to make a getaway a part of your budget.

If you discover that your budget just won't allow your family to travel, plan a staycation that keeps everyone close to home but still has room for day trips and fun activities to fit any budget.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is discretionary income?

Discretionary income is what you have left after you've paid all your necessary expenses for the month, such as rent or mortgage, utilities, and groceries.

How much of an emergency fund should I have?

It can depend on your personal situation, but many experts recommend that you should have enough savings to cover three to six months of essential living expenses. It doesn't necessarily have to be enough to cover what you normally spend a month during good times, but rather how much you must pay each month toward expenses like food, shelter, and utilities.

What are some options for paying off credit cards and other high-interest debt?

There are several proven strategies for paying off debt, but the avalanche method and the snowball method are two of the most popular. The avalanche approach involves making more than the minimum payment on your debt with the highest interest rate, then shifting that money to the card or account with the second highest interest rate when the first is paid off. The snowball method involves paying your smallest balance off first, then shifting the extra money to the next smallest balance. Both require making at least minimum payments on all your other accounts.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Democratic Policy and Communications Committee. "American Rescue Plan Expanding Tax Relief for Working Families."

  2. Cambridge Dictionary. "Discretionary Income."

  3. Consumer Reports. "Is Your Emergency Fund Big Enough?"

  4. Take Charge America. "Seven Strategies for Paying Off Credit Card Debt."

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