Useful Tools, Get Kids Involved

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The author’s family.
Cork Gaines/Business Insider

  • Over the last two years, our family has overhauled our budget to combat inflation.
  • We were like many Americans who have a budget, but don’t stick to it and sometimes overspend.
  • Here are eight ways my family got our money situation under control.

With inflation still hitting bank accounts hard, our family of four which includes two teenagers realized it was time to start taking our household budget more seriously.

Over the last two years, our family has overhauled our budget, created important financial habits, and even involved our daughters. We are now making progress toward our money goals more than ever.

While I had a budget for many years, I suffered from lazy budgeting treating it more like a suggestion than a rule and often overspending.

It turns out my family was not alone.

Eighty-four percent of Americans with a monthly budget sometimes overspent, according to a survey of more than 2,070 US adults over the age of 18 conducted last April by The Harris Poll on behalf of NerdWallet.

When inflation hit, and prices started to soar, we realized our family was not making as much progress toward our financial goals as we would have liked. If we were going to pay off our car loan, permanently stay out of credit card debt, and do a better job of saving for our daughters’ college education and our retirements, we needed to start taking our budget more seriously.

Here are some ways we got our money situation under control.

Start simple, be patient, and adjust

Getting serious about a budget can be overwhelming at first, but it gets better. The author’s family is not pictured.
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We first needed to get a better idea of how we were spending our money. To do this, we started using Mint, a budgeting app.

Mint was great at providing a clear picture of our spending habits. Unfortunately, Mint shut down, but there are alternatives depending on what you need.

Then, we needed to be patient. It took us about six months to get a good picture of our expenses since some categories, like medical costs, can vary greatly from month to month.

Once we had a clear picture of our expenses, we switched to the budgeting app YNAB, which stands for you need a budget. This app has a bit of a learning curve, so it is not ideal if you are just starting to budget. But once you have a good grasp of your finances and what you want to do, this app is great at prioritizing savings, making plans to pay down debts, and giving every dollar a purpose.

Make budgeting a part of the daily routine

Budgeting can be completed in a few minutes if done every day. The author’s family is not pictured.
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To overcome my lazy budgeting, I knew that I had to hunker down and make better budgeting a habit. So now I make time every morning to review our family’s spending.

Doing it every day only takes about five minutes of my time. I find that when I skip more than a couple of days, the log of transactions becomes overwhelming, and there is a greater risk of putting it off and falling behind.

Food savings have become our great equalizer

Food inflation has Americans spending a lot more on groceries. The author’s family is not pictured.
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Food is the one place we found that we have the most control over how much we spend.

The first thing we did was cut down on how much we were eating out or ordering for delivery, especially when we realized just how much those indulgences had increased in price over the years.

When it comes to groceries, we are now more conscious about sticking to lists, meal planning, only buying some things in bulk, and using apps for coupons and rebates.

Despite inflation, our monthly grocery bill has fallen from at least $800 every month before the pandemic to an average of $650 since we stopped being lazy about our budget.

Review subscriptions with other household members once a month

Subscriptions, such as streaming services, can add up and weigh down your budget. The author’s family is not pictured.
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Once we had a better sense of where our money was going every month, we saw how much we spent monthly on app subscriptions.

As a family, we had about 20 apps and streaming services with subscriptions, making it easy to forget how much we spent each month.

We weren’t alone there either. A 2022 study showed consumers underestimated app subscription costs by $133 a month.

In addition to tracking all of our subscriptions, we followed some rules to get them under control, including avoiding bundles and annual subscriptions. While those may feel like a better deal, they often take away your flexibility to cancel or adjust anytime.

With the flexibility of going month-to-month on subscriptions, we can take a few minutes each month to go over each one and determine which ones we are no longer using.

Thanks to these changes, we save nearly $200 monthly on apps and streaming services alone.

Make weekly payments on credit cards

It can be easier to stay ahead of credit card bills if paid off weekly. The author’s family is not pictured.
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Like many Americans, our family uses credit cards for most purchases to take advantage of points and rewards.

The downside to using credit cards so frequently is that falling behind on paying down a card one month is easy. And once you do, it can snowball into a problem — especially now, due to sky-high interest rates following the Federal Reserve’s fight against inflation.

While we typically paid off our credit cards every month, there were times when we carried a balance, and nothing ruins a budget quite like leftover expenses from the previous month.

Now that we have better control of our spending, we have taken the extra step to pay off our credit card balances every week. Not only does it help us stay permanently out of credit card debt, but it is also less overwhelming mentally to make smaller weekly payments than one large payment at the end of the month.

Constantly shop around for better deals

A little bit of shopping around can save you hundreds. The author’s family is not pictured.
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Many companies, either through websites or apps on your phone, have made it easy to sign up for their services and can often grab new customers with just a couple of clicks. The good news is that this also makes it easier than ever to shop around for the best deals.

We have made it a regular habit to check for the best deals from streaming services, phone companies, and car insurance companies.

For example, we had taken our car insurance for granted, letting it renew every six months without question. But with car insurance rates at a 50-year high right now, we shopped around and found another company with the same coverage that saves us about $600 every six months.

Profit-share with children to get them invested

We reward our daughters when the family budget does well. The author’s family is not pictured.
Tetra Images/Getty Images

Our daughters are 13 and 14, and are nearing high school. Their needs and wants are constantly changing, so I have to stay on my toes when it comes to budgeting.

There are several ways we have adjusted our budget to include two teenagers, including giving them an allowance that is not tied to chores and adding bonuses linked to good patterns of helping around the house, being kind, trying hard in school, and getting exercise.

But the most important step for the family budget was getting them involved by giving them a share of the monthly profits if we underspend.

Rewarding our daughters when the entire family spends well encourages them to be more conscious of our monthly spending. In addition, their money habits have improved greatly.

Despite inflation, we are spending less money every month

The author’s wife and two teenage daughters at an Austin FC game.
Cork Gaines/Business Insider

Getting over our lazy budgeting has been better than I ever imagined.

We are spending less money now than we were before the pandemic. As a result, we paid off our car loan, eliminated all credit card debt, and tripled our savings each month.

And that means more freedom for experiences like attending the occasional Austin FC soccer game or traveling to California for a Taylor Swift concert.

Have you adjusted your family finances or developed any tips or tricks for budgeting to fight inflation? Reach out to this reporter at

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