If you have tried and failed to improve your family’s finances, you are probably feeling stuck and discouraged
One of the good things about living on one income is that you’re always looking for ways to improve your family’s finances.
Since you have a limited income, you know that managing your finances is the only way you can achieve your financial goals and live well.
We have been living on one income for over ten years and I’ve learned a lot about how to make our financial life better and less stressful.
If you’re going through financial stress right now and wondering how to change your financial situation, I have a few tips that can help.
Before I share my tips, let me just say that personal finance is 80 percent behavior.
It doesn’t matter how many tips you learn or how much personal finance knowledge you have.
At the end of the day, the only thing that truly matters is what you do with the knowledge you acquire, because your financial situation won’t change unless you do.
Your family’s finances won’t improve unless you implement what you learn.
With that said, if you’re ready to do the work that’s required to improve your family’s finances, let’s jump right in!
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5 NO FLUFF WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR FAMILY’S FINANCES (WHEN YOU HAVE TRIED EVERYTHING ELSE)
1. SPEND LESS THAN YOU EARN
This is personal finance 101, but one of the most difficult things to put in practice.
When your income exceeds your expenses by a good margin, you know you’re doing something right.
You can’t change your financial situation if you keep spending everything that you earn.
That’s why the first thing that you need to do is trim your spending and expenses.
Find ways to build some margin into your budget so you can have more money to save.
The easiest way to spend less than you earn is to make some lifestyle changes. To do this, start by asking yourself “Where does all my money go?”
If you really want to know where all your money goes, track your expenses for sixty or ninety days to get a clear picture of your spending habits.
During this time frame, don’t change your habits since that would give you an inaccurate picture of your spending habits (note: if your situation is really dire, please change your habits ASAP!).
The first time I tracked my spending, I was amazed (more like horrified) to see how much money I wasted every month.
One dollar here and two dollars there, really do add up over time.
Making mindless purchases because they cost only a few bucks is a habit that’s caused a lot of financial pain to many families, so don’t ignore it or think it isn’t that big of a deal.
Just in case I didn’t make my point, here it is again.
Spend less than you earn and watch your spending habits.
2. SAVE AND INVEST CONSISTENTLY
If your family can’t survive more than one missed paycheck, then you know you’re doing life wrong.
Not too long ago, this was my situation.
The thought of missing a paycheck would cause me to feel anxious to the point that I’d have sleepless nights.
There was a time when I couldn’t afford for my paycheck to be a day late because I literally had no other money to spend.
This isn’t how it’s supposed to be.
When you live on one income like me, you can’t afford to live this way. It’s just too stressful and unhealthy.
So what do you do to stop situations like these from happening?
I am glad you asked.
The only way to avoid situations like these is to save consistently, and invest a part of your income, if you’re in a position to do so.
I know not everyone can invest because of their financial situation. This is usually the case if you have a lot of debt, but you should still save consistently no matter how little the amount is.
I used to think it was pointless saving $1 or $5, but it really isn’t.
You see those $1 or $5 you saved months ago? They could be the difference between your ability to pay your bills or keep a roof over your head, and being homeless or without power,
So don’t look down on them or think they are just meager amounts that won’t make much difference to your finances.
Find every opportunity to save. Fill your kids piggy banks with your spare change because they may come in handy for emergencies.
You want to make your family finances better? Start saving consistently, and if you’re in a position to invest, don’t miss the chance to grow your money.
3. MAKE SMART FINANCIAL DECISIONS WITH AN END IN MIND
Making good financial decisions is one of the pillars of financial stability.
You can’t improve your financial situation if you keep making bad financial decisions.
You just can’t!
For example, if you keep taking on more debt or using your credit card to pay for your living expenses, you’re only going to make your situation worse and make it harder to get out of debt.
Knowing how to make smart financial decisions is one of the most important skills everyone should have.
When you know how to make good decisions, you can easily spot scams and ponzi schemes because you know what they are promising is too good to be true.
Knowing how to make good financial decisions means you aren’t likely to become a victim of get-rich-quick ideas that can ruin you financially.
Since we make lots of important financial decisions for ourselves and our families, we have to ensure we make not only the right decisions, but our decisions should have a purpose.
Think about what the end goal of your decisions are and how they would affect your life and finances in the future. This way you can avoid making decisions that would cause you financial hardship in the long run.
4. EARN MORE THAN YOU SPEND
I have been around long enough to know money problems isn’t always the result of bad spending habits.
I feel like a lot more emphasis is put on the spending part of money management than the earning part.
Yes, it’s good to scrutinize your purchases and reduce your expenses as much as you can, but what happens when that isn’t enough?
What happens if you live in a high cost of living area, have cut everything you can from your budget, but you’re still barely making ends meet?
Sadly, this happens a lot, and when this is the case, the problem isn’t how much you spend but how much you earn.
Sometimes you just aren’t earning enough money to improve your family’s finances and that’s where lots of families find themselves.
What you spend matters, but in some cases, what you earn matters even more.
If you’ve tried everything and you are still living paycheck to paycheck, it’s time to think seriously about earning more money since that may be your best option for improving your financial situation.
For example, what difference would an extra $5000 a year make to your finances? What about $10,000 or $15,000?
I imagine it would make a difference, as long as your spending doesn’t increase to use up the extra income (otherwise known as lifestyle inflation).
So instead of focusing only on your spending, focus on increasing your earnings (preferably from multiples sources) as a way to improve your family’s finances (especially if you’re a one income family).
5. HAVE A PLAN FOR UNEXPECTED AND NON-RECURRING EXPENSES AND WINDFALLS
Unexpected expenses can cause a lot of financial stress, but you can avoid this if you anticipate them and have a plan for dealing with them.
Life is full of ups and downs and things always have a way of happening at the worst possible times, but you can ensure you aren’t caught off guard when these unexpected events happen.
Non-recurring expenses are those expenses you don’t have to pay every month (like rent, telephone bill or car payment). They are expenses that occur on an occasional basis like needing new tires or engine for your car, an emergency trip to the dentist, replacing a broken washing machine etc.
While these expenses don’t occur every month, they are just as important as your recurring expenses, and you need to make room for them in your budget.
What happens when you don’t plan for these expenses?
They become another financial crisis and may cause you to go into debt or use up whatever small savings you have, thus worsening your financial situation (which is the opposite of what you want to do).
So make it a habit of anticipating unexpected expenses and putting some money aside to cover these expenses. This is separate from your emergency savings and should be a separate category in your budget.
Apart from planning for non-recurring expenses, you should also plan for unexpected windfalls.
A windfall is defined as “A large amount of money that is won or received unexpectedly.”
For some of you, a windfall could be an unexpected raise, an inheritance, money gift or a tax refund.
The reason why it’s important to plan for a windfall is because you run the risk of wasting all that money if you don’t have a plan.
Here’s what I am talking about.
Have you ever received a raise at work or gotten some unexpected money and the only thing you could think of was how to spend it?
Yeah, if that’s how you reacted to unexpected money gifts or windfalls, then you are going to struggle to improve your financial life.
Having a plan in place for how you will spend any unexpeced money will help you to make the best financial decisions, and save you from wasteful spending.
There are quite a few things you can do with a windfall (depending on how big it is).
You could pay off debt, invest a part or all of it, pay off or pay down your mortgage, fully fund a retirement account, give to charity, start a business etc.
So make sure you’re prepared and you know what to do if you ever get a windfall, since that’s a great way to improve your family’s finances.
Final thoughts on how to improve your family’s finances
It’s possible to improve your financial situation if you’re intentional and committed to the process.
The five tips above are easy to implement and can make a big difference to your finances over time.
How do you plan to improve your finances?