One of my personal growth projects each year is my family’s personal financial plan. Trust me, I know that financial planning can feel overwhelming. But, honestly, it’s more overwhelming to fail to plan for your financial future. It’s only when you have a system in place for how you’ll spend your money that you can achieve true financial freedom. If you’re committed to tackling your family’s finances, I applaud you, you’ve made a very wise decision!
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For years, my husband and I didn’t pay very much attention to our finances. We lived without a budget and spent freely. But those were in the days of being a DINK (double income no kids) couple. Once kids came into the picture, so did childcare, additional health care costs, more mouths to feed, clothes to buy and college savings. And our finances took a big hit.
When we finally sat down to take a hard look at our declining financial health, we knew it was time to get serious about budgeting.
Now, every January my husband and I come up with our personal financial goals for the year and create our annual budget.
A Personal Financial Plan Begins With Analyzing Your Current Situation
The first step in creating your family’s personal financial plan is to analyze your family’s current financial health.
The best way to do this is to review your bank and credit card statements from last year. Take a look at what you spent last year and create categories. These categories will be used in creating your budget for the year.
And next year, this step is going to be a whole lot easier because you’ll simply review your budget from the prior year.
Once you’ve determined how much you spent last year, compare it to how much you earned.
Do your expenses exceed your income?
How about savings for retirement or college?
Were you able to put away any money for short-term or long-term savings?
Once you’ve determined the current state of your financial health, your can begin setting financial goals for the year.
Set Your Short- and Long-Term Financial Goals
When setting financial goals, you’ll likely have both short-term and long-term financial goals.
Short-term goals might be saving for your family’s annual vacation or to pay for Christmas expenses. Another short-term goal might be to fully fund your family’s emergency fund.
Longer-term goals might include things like to pay off your mortgage or to pay off credit card debt. One of my family’s longer-term goals is to save up enough money to travel the U.S. with our children in 3-5 years.
If you’re married or have a partner, sit down together to come up with your financial goals.
I recommend using the SMART system (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant or realistic, and time-bound) of setting goals.
Here are some examples:
- We will save $200 per month to fund our emergency fund this year.
- We’ll pay an additional mortgage payment this year in December.
- We will pay off our credit card debt by July.
- We’ll put away $1000 per month for retirement this year.
For longer term goals, you should set a longer-term deadline.
For example, if your goal is to pay off your car. You might not be able to pay it off in one year, so your SMART goals would be: We will pay off our car loan within 3 years by paying an additional $200 per month for the next 36 months.
Once you’ve set your financial goals for the year, it’s time to create your family’s budget.
Create Your Family Budget (Free Family Budget Worksheets)
Let’s get started creating your family’s financial plan for the year.
You can download a simple family budget worksheet printable when you subscribe using the form below.
My recommendation is to start with your SMART goals, determine savings and charitable giving for the year, then list out fixed expenses, and finally budget for variable expenses.
This method of prioritizing your family’s financial goals will help put you on the path to financial freedom.
By training yourself to spend less on variable expenses, like groceries, clothing, and eating out, you’ll feel like you have more money.
My favorite digital app for budgeting is You Need A Budget (YNAB).
We’ve been using YNAB for several years and I recommend it to everyone looking for a budgeting app.
You can connect your bank accounts, sync across all devices, and track your goals.
Consider Using Separate Savings Accounts For Bucket Budgeting
Have you heard of bucket budgeting?
There are some items we pay for during the year that don’t fall under the traditional budget categories of income and expenses.
For example, summer school, Christmas expenses, gifts/birthdays, property taxes, and home repairs.
These categories of items can be more difficult to plan for because they are not monthly expenses we can simply add to our budget.
But there is a solution.
I recommend making a list of these additional expenses. Then decide on an annual budget for each of these items and divide the annual budget by 12 months.
You can then save for these expenses each month as though they are a monthly expense.
The simplest way to create a savings plan for these bucket items is to have a separate savings account for each item.
My favorite bank to create these savings accounts is Capital One 360.
If you decide that creating separate bucket savings accounts makes sense for your family, and use my referral link, Capital One will give you a bonus (at least at the time of this post).
Training on Personal Money Management
Financial planning can be difficult but it’s doable.
If you’re just too overwhelmed with budgeting, you can always use a financial planner.
Or you can educate yourself by investing your time in learning about personal finance.
While there are a lot of free resources on the web, I’ve found that taking a course on personal finance is often your best bet.
One of the best investments my family made in our financial future was taking Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. Dave really knows how to put financial planning in perspective and gives solid step-by-step advice for achieving financial freedom.
I completed the home study DVD kit, but you can also search for an in-person class if that fits your needs better.
If you’re motivated to start budgeting, don’t forget to request your free family budget worksheet printable by subscribing below.
Have you created financial goals for the year?
If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below.
With Love and Joy,