One of the reasons in my defence of my time management challenges is my inability – shared with some other women (Most? All?) – to compartmentalise different life areas so that I can just think about gardening when I’m in the garden, the children when I am with them, and the piece of work I have in hand when I am sitting at my desk.
One of the things I am mostly responsible for is our household budget, which again is common in many houses, where women are often in charge of major and minor household spend, but a scary number of women I know ‘don’t have time’ or ‘don’t think it’s important’ to track that spend as it changes.
The sad result of this is inevitably an ‘average household debt’ of £8000. Tax and benefit changes affecting millions in the UK came into force last month, with that ‘average household’ predicted to lose around £200 per year. In our house we have tried to mitigate against the scope and scale of these changes, and one of our actions has been in setting and maintaining a realistic and transparent budget, just as we do with our business.
I sat down with my other half to review last year’s household budget, and we talked about line items needing to change for next year.
‘What’s this spending on toys? They should have nothing apart from Christmas and birthdays’ was the opening line from the man who last year gave my two small children the run of Hamley’s for an afternoon on a special London trip last year.
This highlights for me the benefit of having simple family budget principles alongside simple tools to keep you on track through the year. Such principles might be ‘as a family we will only eat out once every two weeks instead of one’, or ‘we will teach the children about the value of money by giving them pocket money which, with guidance, they can either spend immediately or save for something bigger.’
Sitting down as a family and explaining the budget is a way of sharing responsibility and ensuring that everyone understands that if we spend all our money on Barbie magazines and tractors each week then there will be no family holiday or no ice cream treat after tea on Sundays – a great opportunity for the start of a responsible financial education.
This is one area I have successfully boxed in. I use a simple spreadsheet to track family spend, which has got more complex the more we understand. We can track money going into and coming out of the home as well as the business. At the very least if my mind wanders to work rather than another read-through of ‘The Tiger that came to Tea’, or I pop out and give the plants a little extra water if I see them drooping from my desk, I can be confident that my tracking of the household budget will help us to achieve a family life we can both afford and enjoy.