With a big family comes a ballooning set of expenses. From soccer cleats to piano lessons to putting enough food on the table, you have to make the most of the money you have and stretch it as far as it can go. Luckily, there are a number of financial steps you can take to save money and make each dollar go farther. No matter how many people are in your household, these steps will help you better reach your financial goals.
Get Your Budget on Track
Most people have a budget, but not everyone accurately updates or follows it and instead lets it languish in a dusty Excel file somewhere. Dave Ramsey, the well-known family financial guru, has a quick start paper budget and an online budget tool called EveryDollar.
Use whichever one works for you to set up your budget, know how much you are spending and follow through on saving money.
Start Shaving Expenses
Once you lay out your budget, you might be shocked at what you actually spend. A 2012 Accounting Principle's Workonomix study revealed the average American worker spent a whopping average of nearly $1,100 a year on coffee alone. In addition, the average magazine and newspaper subscription costs between $5 and $35, according to Magazine Cost. If you have several subscriptions, consider letting a few lapse. Some phone apps also require a weekly or monthly renewal subscription, as do credit monitoring services and data protection services. The NPD Group predicted that by 2015, the average family was also spending $123 a year on TV service subscriptions, such as Netflix and Vudu.
Look at your bank or credit card statement for these small fees that might be adding up. If you follow the average, you’ll save a giant $1,250 a year, or $100 a month, just by cutting these three categories.
Attack the Large Budget Categories
For many families, the monthly food bill is the most expensive line item. There are many tips for saving money at the grocery store. If you spend $1,500 a month on groceries, challenge your family to eat well on less, such as $1,200. Withdraw the budget amount in cash and divide it into two envelopes. Each time you go shopping, only take cash. You’d be surprised the choices you make when you know you have a limited amount you can spend.
Then there are restaurants. According to the National Restaurant Association, the average household spends $2,678 a year on dining out. Whatever your average is, consider whether you can cut it in half by preparing healthy meals at home.
Pay yourself for your hard work by putting your extra money back into your savings account. Use the money to take a family vacation or to buy necessities such as school clothes or lessons for the kids.
Treat Money Like a Business Arrangement
You can’t cut everything, so you need to analyze your cost versus value. For example, it may make sense to get a newer, but not the newest, model of a cellphone, like the iPhone 5c, for your teenager that can be passed down to his or her siblings in the future. You also should scrutinize the hidden plan fees and look carefully at different types of plans, such as family plans and pay-as-you-go plans, to make sure you are paying the lowest possible costs.
Get creative. Can you offer something as a swap for goods or services, such as watching your hairdresser’s kids in exchange for haircuts? Can your kids chip in and care for pets in exchange for homegrown eggs? Talk to other parents about what skills or services they have that can be offered in exchange for talents in your family.
Finally, look at unconventional places for conventional items, such as school supplies. Your local office supply store or drug store might be the cheapest, but online stores, such as Discount School Supply, will price match and beat any other online retailer by 10 percent. Look for similar price match guarantees online for clothing, books and toiletries.