How to Create a Family Budget (Easy Step-By-Step Budgeting)

How to create a family budget

With all the demands of running a household, it’s hard to find time to make a family budget—especially if the amount of money left at the end of the month is less than you want. It’s important to look household finances squarely in the eye, because that’s the only way to control them; otherwise, they control you.

Learning how to establish a household budget takes time, so grab some coffee and set aside at least a few hours. It’s better to wait for a day when you don’t have pressing obligations than to cobble together a monthly budget plan that doesn’t work.

Don’t let money management stress you out. Start with a financial goal. Maybe it’s paying off debt, or perhaps it’s a college fund. You don’t have to justify your financial goals to anyone, but envisioning it can help keep you on track.

If you’re feeling like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, take a deep breath. We’re here to teach you exactly how to make a family budget step-by-step – so you can stress less, save more, and sleep better!

Step #1) Choose Your Budgeting Tools: Paper or Electronic?

If you’re scratching your head and asking yourself, “How do I start a family budget?”, simply begin with the basics —whatever budgeting tool you’ll use to keep track of the family finances.

Using a budget worksheet with pen and paper can be just as accurate as electronic budgeting tools, but financial software certainly makes the job a lot easier. It also reduces errors.

If paper feels right, an accounting ledger doesn’t cost much and is designed for credits and debits within your bank statements. In everyday language, credits are incoming dollars and debits are outgoing. You’ll also need a budget calculator.

Make it easier on yourself to establish a household budget with a simplified budget tracker from Instead of manually writing down and accounting for each transaction on a regular basis, intuitive software creates running totals, tracks fixed expenses, highlights discretionary spending, makes suggestions, and shows how debits and credits influence each other for your bottom line.

Step #2) Bring Your Bank Statements to the Table

Everything that shows incoming and outgoing money—such as earnings statements from sources of income, receipts, student loan interest, bills and credit card statements—has a place at the budget table. First, separate them into two categories for incoming and outgoing, suggests U.S. News and World Report.

You’ll need a total for both categories in your family budget. This is where many budgeters get a bit nervous, but don’t be. The incoming amount might be smaller than the outgoing, but an easy family budget will help you control that.

Step #3) Locate Fixed and Variable Expenses

The outgoing category needs more attention after you’ve got a grand total. The next step is breaking debits into subcategories. Your family budget might include Utilities (electric, water, etc.), Secured Debts (mortgage), Unsecured Debts (credit cards), and Discretionary Spending (lunch, clothing, etc.).

One of the best budgeting tips we can offer: discretionary spending adds up fast. A few dollars here for movie tickets and a few more there for dining out sometimes total more than a fixed bill that you pay every month. This is the subcategory where you can create the most change.

Step #4) Set Up the Ledger, Spreadsheet or Budget Software

Now that you’ve mastered the art form and know how to plan a budget for your family, take your initial totals and categories prepared, then add everything to an electronic spreadsheet, budget software or ledger. This is where the budget begins to take shape. The short term goal is to get your debits (expenses) less than your credits (income).

Step #5) Control Discretionary Spending

With the numbers in black and white, you can approach the monthly budget more realistically. Discretionary spending might be the only category where you can find and divert money toward paying off debt and building up savings.

A tried and true way to manage discretionary spending is the envelope method. The money you allocate for everyday expenses goes into an envelope each month—that’s right, cash. Today Money explains that with cash in hand, you’re more aware and less likely to overspend.
Control is the first step toward peace of mind.

Family budget

Step #6) Pay Off Debt

Paying off debt is the main goal of many families and might be the reason why you’re researching how to make a household budget. The only way to get there is to submit at least the minimum payment each month. Paying more than the minimum obviously reduces debt faster, but it can also mean you’ll pay less interest.

Check with each creditor to be sure extra payments will post the way you want them to. In some cases, interest is a fixed amount that won’t change, regardless of whether you pay more each month. It might be worth getting a free credit score in order to shop lenders and contemplate loan consolidation at a lower rate. If your credit is looking a little weak, don’t worry too much. Just stick to your family budget and make it a priority to pay off your debt, you’ll see your credit score start to improve.

Money management is both simple and complex – but once you learn how to make a family budget step-by-step, grabbing control of your finances will become a walk in the park. It’s only a matter of knowing what you earn, what you owe, and where money is spent. What makes it complex is deciding where to cut back and where to divert more money. For some families, debt is a real problem. Without enough resources, debt can mount and credit scores can tumble.

But there’s hope.

If payments are higher than you can manage and you can’t find extra money, a free credit counseling service, such as the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, can help. (Be wary of services that charge a fee and promise to reduce debt.)

A realistic budget can help you meet your financial goals for your family. Sign up for to get a full suite of budgeting tools for free.

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Teaching Your Children Good Saving Habits

Start with the savings basics—then look for teaching opportunities and lead by example.

Children are eager to learn as they grow, so it’s important for parents to teach their children positive lessons about money from a young age. When saving money becomes part of a child’s normal development, saving for the future is likely to become a habit. Early financial education can be the first step on the road to financial freedom.

Young children receiving allowance

Start with the savings basics

Experts say that you can begin teaching money-related lessons to children as young as five. Pre-schoolers may be too young to add or subtract, but these youngsters will understand value, and the idea of trading items — which are the building blocks for understanding money. Then, as they acquire basic math skills, your children can be taught more complex financial concepts.

Help your children avoid falling into the instant gratification pit by setting savings goals for an important date. According to Prosperity Now, this may be “an effective way of delivering financial education that takes into account children’s concept of time.” Open a savings account — then, when your child receives birthday money, or cash from chores, have them put some into the bank to save for bigger ticket items.

If your child is old enough for an allowance, encourage them to direct a percentage into savings. Check the balances often: your children will enjoy watching their money grow as deposits and interest accumulate.

Look for teaching opportunities

Learning about money shouldn’t feel like going to school, so turn it into fun by finding teachable moments in everyday life. When you go to the bank, explain that it’s like a garden that helps make money grow. You could buy a piggy bank, and encourage your child to fatten it up with spare change. When saving money becomes fun, kids look forward to repeating the behavior.

Lead by example

Children are observant, so they often emulate their parents’ behavior. Be conscious of what you say and do around them; your money attitudes will become theirs.

The power of acknowledgement cannot be overstated. Children love to please, so praising them for positive behavior, like depositing money into a savings account or doing simple chores for pay, helps them feel good about themselves. Encouragement motivates them to repeat similar behavior, which ultimately becomes a habit.

Two sisters earning allowance by washing the family dog

Saving for the future

Try teaching your children money lessons that are fun as well as informative. By helping them develop better money and savings habits now, they’ll have the basic tools necessary for financial freedom as they grow.


4 Things to Consider Before Combining Finances With Your Significant Other

A joint account is a shared responsibility, so be sure you’re both on the same page.

The deeper into a relationship you get, the more important talking about money and combining finances with your significant other become. So romantic, right? But if you and your significant other decide to move in together, or get married, then a conversation about combining your finances is natural. A joint account is a shared responsibility, and—if something doesn’t work out—possibly one with lasting repercussions. Exhibit A: Nearly one-third of adults with partners say money is a major source of conflict in their relationship, according to a survey by the American Psychological Association.

Significant others talking about combining financesEven though you’ll be sharing with the person you love, there’s no need to rush into a joint bank account without getting on the same page. Make sure you and your partner have a deep conversation about your finances first so you know it’s the right choice. For both of you.

Not sure how to break the ice and talk money? Try these four topics to get the conversation going before combining finances with your significant other:

1. What’s the financial situation?

Most people don’t talk openly about the state of their finances, except perhaps with a financial professional. As relationships develop, however, it’s important to be realistic about both partners’ finances in order to establish equal footing. This is one time when you don’t want personal finances to be too personal.

Consider sharing your credit scores, and understand if either of you has debt that would be taken on by the other upon combining your finances. Discuss each other’s attitudes and willpower when it comes to spending—and saving. All of this can help give you a clearer view into how you may function together to manage your money. You may even learn a thing or two about your own financial approach in the process.

“Combining finances can even improve money management because it opens up the lines of communication between partners,” says Lauren Greutman, author of The Recovering Spender and founder of

Nearly one-third of adults with partners say money is a major source of conflict in their relationship, according to a survey by the American Psychological Association.

2. Will you have joint and separate accounts?

Many couples choose to have shared accounts while maintaining individual ones. If you decide to open a joint account, think about whether you want to open just a checking account, or if a shared savings account meets your goals, too.

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With multiple accounts of any combination, it’s good to break down how each will be used. Know which accounts receive paycheck deposits, for example, and how the shared account will be funded. If a joint account is for shared bills (rent, utilities, food), decide how bills will be paid. Do both parties transfer money into the account to cover bills as needed, or is there an amount deposited automatically with each paycheck?

What about other joint expenses, like vacations? Will you fund your retirement with a joint account, or will you go solo on that venture? It’s best to get these questions answered before you combine finances with your significant other to avoid confusion or disagreement down the road.

3. Who manages the joint account and what are the “rules?”

If you choose to combine your finances and open a joint account, it’s important to discuss how it’s managed and by whom. Nobody loves rules, but establishing each person’s responsibilities with your joint account can go a long way toward avoiding future conflict.

Let’s say you open a joint checking account for shared bills. While you may both deposit money into the account, you could consider putting one person in charge of making sure those bills get paid. Maybe the other person is responsible for ensuring the balance statement is correct each month.

Additional rules can also help avoid unnecessary arguments and impulse purchases. Maybe you commit to discussing purchases when they are over a certain dollar amount.

“My wife and I set a limit each week on how much ‘spending’ money we each have for things we like to get ourselves,” says John Rampton, Founder and CEO of the online digital wallet, “Giving each other an allowance means we cut out arguments on what we spend that money on.”

4. How will you deal with problems along the way?

Having a clear view into your joint finances doesn’t mean there won’t be hiccups here and there. It just means you may know about them sooner rather than later, and you’ll know how to address them with your partner. If, for example, you don’t have enough money in your account to cover bills, having a plan as a team can help.

“If your money is combined, you have to talk about it because of the risk of overdrafting the account, not having enough money and about future plans with where to spend the money,” Greutman says.

If you notice your joint account is trending low on funds, sit down and go over your joint budget. See if there are areas that can be adjusted. It might mean economizing where possible or increasing the amount going into the shared account. Either way, talking through the situation will help you come out ahead each month.

Communication is key

Combining finances with your significant other is a big step in any relationship. Even if you decide to keep your finances separate for now, you will have an easier time talking with your significant other about your financial needs. If you do decide to open a joint account, being able to communicate will allow you to pick an account that will help meet your shared goals.


How to Manage Your Finances While Also Supporting Loved Ones

Have you ever wondered why airline flight attendants instruct you to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others?

It might seem selfish to put your own needs before the needs of your loved ones, but this rule is actually part of a broader philosophy: in order to help someone else, you need to be on firm footing yourself. This is especially true when helping someone financially.

If supporting your elderly parents forces you to take on debt just to make ends meet, you won’t be able to support them for very long. A careful, sustainable approach is the only way to make sure everyone’s well-being is accounted for.

That’s why we’ve put together some simple, practical strategies from financial experts who have been in this situation before.

Start a Budget

Anika Jindal of What Anika Says has been sending money to her husband’s parents for the past five years to help them pay off some debt from their struggling garment business. She and her husband plan to keep helping them until the debt is paid off, hopefully at the end of this year.

Jindal said having a budget has made it possible for the couple to stick to their own retirement goals and help her in-laws at the same time. Before they started sending money to his parents, their approach to budgeting was decidedly more lax.

“But once we decided we are going all-in to help them, we started preparing a monthly budget to make sure we are spending our money wisely,” Jindal said.

Discuss Problems Early

If you suspect that a loved one is having financial problems you might be able to help with, ask them about it sooner rather than later. Financial planner R.J. Weiss of The Ways to Wealth said he sees many people wait until they’re in dire straits before mentioning the severity of their situation. At that point, it can be incredibly difficult to help them.

Set up a time to talk and calmly ask about any problems you’ve noticed. Avoid being judgemental or critical, because that will usually lead to the other person becoming defensive. You want them to open up, not avoid the topic because they feel ashamed.

Build Your Emergency Fund

When taking care of a loved one, it becomes even more important to have an emergency fund in place because you’re responsible for someone besides yourself.

Take some time to re-evaluate your fixed expenses and determine if you need to increase your emergency fund. You may need to save 6 to 12 month’s worth of expenses instead of just the standard three-month recommendation. Caregivers often have to take unpaid time off work, so you should have enough to pay the bills during that time.

Evaluate Insurance Policies

If you’re financially responsible for another person, you may need to increase your own life insurance policy to protect them if you pass away first. Figure out the annual cost of care for that person and multiply this number by how many years they likely have left. If you already have a term life policy, you can contact the current provider and ask how to increase the total payout.

You should also consider buying a disability insurance policy in case you can no longer work, but still have to care for your loved one.

Start Saving for it Now

Financial educator Athena Lent of Money Smart Latina said she always knew she’d end up taking care of her dad at some point. But when he had a stroke last year, she realized that was going to happen sooner than she expected.

While he hasn’t had to move in with her yet, Lent has started preparing for the inevitable. She automatically saves a certain amount in a separate savings account every month to cover his future expenses.

“If you even think you might be in my shoes in the future, start saving and figuring it out now,” she said.

To make up how much she needs to save, Lent has worked on increasing income from her side hustle. Having another stream of income means she doesn’t have to worry about pinching pennies to make it all work.

Set Clear Boundaries

Before agreeing to help a relative, you should think about your own limits and how much you are willing to give up. Remember that your boundaries may change over time, like if you have a child or experience your own financial hardship. Both parties should be willing to revisit the arrangement in the future.

If your loved one moves in with you, you should also clearly agree on who will be responsible for which expenses.

“By having boundaries, you can say things to yourself like, ‘I’m willing to decrease the amount of saving for retirement for six months, but I’m unwilling to go beyond a point where I’m not able to get the full match on my 401(k),’” Weiss said.

Don’t Neglect Your Own Future

When supporting a loved one, try to remember the saying, “Don’t set yourself on fire to keep others warm.”

As tempting as it may be to put your finances on the back burner, it’s important to still prioritize your own major goals. Remember, you won’t be able to borrow money for your own retirement.

Get a Tax Break

If you provide the majority of financial assistance for a loved one, you may be able to claim them as a dependent on your taxes. This can also make you eligible for a special tax credit worth up to $500.

This will only come into play if they don’t claim to be independent on their own tax return. They must also earn less than $4,300 a year, be unmarried and be a US citizen. Talk to a tax specialist if you’re unsure whether or not you can claim someone else as a dependent.

Find Outside Resources

Your loved ones may be eligible for financial help that could ease their burden. Contact a social worker who may be able to connect you with organizations that can help.

The Eldercare Locator site from the U.S. Administration on Aging has a list of resources available to elders and their caregivers. You can also contact your city’s United Way agency to be connected with other local agencies that provide specific support.

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Tips for Spending Less While Raising a Family

It’s no secret that kids can be expensive, so here are some simple ways to save a little extra.

It’s no secret that raising kids is one of life’s most expensive undertakings. According to CNNMoney, it can cost nearly a quarter of a million dollars on average to raise a child born in 2013 to the age of 18—not including college tuition. The good news is there are ways to ease the strain on your bank account by reducing both daily expenses, such as food, and also larger ones, like housing.

These tips can help you save money while raising your family.

1. Cook at home

For the first time last year, Americans spent more money dining out than buying groceries. Takeout and restaurants are convenient for tired families, but the costs of prepared food can pile up quickly. Eating more home-cooked meals is one surefire way to limit food costs. Cook in bulk so you can lean on leftovers on busy nights.

Daughter helping mom make dinner at home

2. Shop secondhand

Kids outgrow clothing and toys quickly, but you can stop the cycle of constantly buying new items. Arrange a clothing and toy swap with other parents, accept hand-me-downs from friends with older kids, buy clothing from consignment shops, and keep an eye out for local, online yard sales on social media. You may be surprised at how easy it is to find a pre-owned version of what you need—at a fraction of the price.

3. Set limits on extracurricular activities

Extracurricular activities like sports leagues and art and music lessons can do wonders to enhance a child’s skill set and social circle. However, out-of-school activities tend to be costly. While it’s typical for parents to cover these expenses, it’s not unreasonable to set limits. For example, offer to enroll your child in piano or guitar lessons, but not both.

4. Keep housing costs within your means

Housing is likely the biggest expense in your family’s budget. The trick is making sure your housing costs are not consuming an outsized portion of your income. Many financial experts recommend spending no more than 30% of your after-tax income on housing. As your family grows, it may seem like you need more square footage, but that may not be the most practical resolution. Rearranging furniture and clearing out clutter can do wonders to unlock new space in your existing setup.

5. Look for alternatives to your existing childcare

If housing isn’t your biggest budget item, childcare likely is. The Economic Policy Institute reports that most families live in areas where childcare is unaffordable, or the cost exceeds 10% of the average family’s budget. To find the best option for your family, compare the cost of a few choices—daycare, nanny or nanny share, or even having one parent stay at home full time—to see what makes the most sense. Find out if your employer offers a Dependent Care FSA PDF Opens in new window., which allows you to contribute pre-tax dollars toward daycare costs, and ask your accountant whether you qualify for the Child and Dependent Care Credit.

There are a number of ways to cut the cost of raising a family, but even so, you will likely find that those costs only rise as your kids get older. One way to get ahead of future expenses may be to make regular deposits into a savings account. When a large expense rolls around, you’ll thank yourself for having extra money on hand.


From Infant to Investor: How to Teach Kids About Money Using a Savings Account

Raising financially responsible kids? Start with a savings account and these simple skills.

When it comes to money management, practice really does make perfect. Start teaching your kids about money by taking an active role in their financial education and demonstrating the importance of saving. You can create activities based on their limited “income,” and exemplify the practices yourself, to help ensure your kids will have a solid foundation for financial success.

Start from a young age and make the lessons interactive

While talking about money can feel uncomfortable, children who don’t receive financial education from their parents can be left trying to figure things out on their own.

Young children learning the importance of saving money

Yulin Lee, who runs a financial coaching service that helps women achieve financial independence, decided to be, “intentional about educating my children with positive mindsets and habits around money.” She worked as a mortgage consultant and financial advisor for years and often dealt with clients who struggled with money. She believes this can be the result of inadequate financial education as children.

Lee started talking to her daughter, Maddie, and her son, Cameron, about money when they were aged 8 and 5, respectively, and received money for birthdays and holidays. “I instilled in them the idea of planning,” she says. “We split the money into five envelopes for: savings, projects, education, charity and fun.” In the beginning, the money got split evenly to simplify the math, but over time the children—with parental guidance—decided how to divide their income. Lee deposited their savings-category funds into the savings accounts she opened for them.

Be Net Worthy, used a similar approach to teach his kids about money. Starting when they were in elementary school, he gave them each a dollar, in 10 dimes, every week. They decorated four containers with spending, saving, investing and donating labels, and each week would put seven dimes into spending, and one each into the other categories. At the end of the year, the children would pick a charity and Sharpe would match their donation—a practice that continues today.

“I have had savings accounts set up for each of them since shortly after their allowances started,” Sharpe says, “I started sharing the interest they were getting every month once it started to accrue.”

Keep lessons interesting

As you teach your kids about money, try to keep your lessons relevant to your child’s age. Focusing on how to divide gift or allowance money is a good start at an age of 5 or 6, and the lessons can build from there. When Lee’s daughter turned 16 and started a part-time job, for example, it prompted a conversation about taxes. Lee also helped Maddie open an online bank account where she can deposit paychecks and is discussing using multiple accounts to emulate their envelope system.

As children start to get into a savings groove, some parents encourage the behavior by offering to contribute the equivalent of a high interest rate to their kids’ savings funds. Increasing your children’s savings by 5 percent a month could help them understand how interest works and the power of compounding interest over time. It also satisfies a child’s desire to “see the results.” Once they saw how interest could increase their savings, Sharpe’s kids didn’t need the extra incentive. “They loved seeing that every month, even when it was just a penny,” he says.

You can continue to teach your kids about money when they head off to high school or college by using new situations and challenges to prompt discussions of more complex topics. This is the time to talk about saving and paying for college, as well as building credit, all of which can impact a child’s finances when he or she leaves the nest. Starting a first job in the real world might call for a deeper dive into taxes, including a discussion of employer benefits and tax-advantaged retirement accounts.

Children may respond differently, but the principles stick

As you might expect, not every child will have the same reaction to your lessons. Both of Sharpe’s children continue to divide everything they earn into the same categories, although their savings rates vary. Anna, who’s now 16, increased her savings rate to 50 percent of everything she makes while Eric, who’s 14, stays closer to the original 70/10/10/10 split.

Lee also observed differences as her children grew older. Cameron, her son, started looking for ways to shift money toward “fun spending,” and he argued that gift money from holidays or birthdays should be able to go exclusively into his discretionary fund. Lee stood firm and showed him how sticking to the plan (putting some cash into savings and other budget categories) could impact his future finances. “He was impressed with the numbers, which helped him to stay with the system,” she says.

Teach your kids about money and exemplify good money habits

Creating interactive money lessons for children can help instill good financial habits, and starting that education from a young age is key. As you continue to tailor your lessons to your children’s needs and circumstances as they grow older, try to exemplify good habits in your own money management. Setting a good example as you teach your kids about money can go a long way as financial skills are learned and practiced over time.


How to Throw a Baby Shower On a Budget

With some creativity and help from friends, it’s easy to plan a baby shower on a budget that’s right for you.

If you’re at a stage in life when many of your friends are having children, or if you’re about to become a grandparent several times over, you could find yourself thrust into planning more than one baby shower. These soirees can get pricey if you don’t keep budget in mind from the moment you accept the role as host.

Fortunately, most baby showers are not expected to look like the over-the-top celebrity events that dominate news headlines. But you’ll still need to handle food, decorations and party favors, as well as finding a location to hold the event.

It is possible to plan a baby shower on a budget while still creating a beautiful and memorable event for the parents-to-be and their loved ones.

Here are four tips for budget baby showers that will be sure to impress your guests:

1. Set clear expectations

Latoya Scott shares money-saving tips on her personal finance blog Life and a Budget. She’s thrown four baby showers, two she volunteered for and two she was asked to plan. She’s never spent more than $200 on a baby shower.

If you're wondering how to throw a baby shower on a budget, start by talking with the mom-to-be.

Her number one tip before you begin to plan a baby shower on a budget is to set clear expectations with everyone involved.

“Most of the time, I’ve volunteered to host the shower because I love doing them,” she says. “In those cases, I ask a lot of questions about things they like and let them know upfront that I consider it to be fun trying to incorporate as many of their wishes and likes on a budget.”

When it came to the showers she was asked to plan, she wasn’t shy about telling the mothers-to-be that she needed to check her budget first to make sure she could afford to throw the parties. She returned to both with her $200 price point and asked if that was okay.

“Out of those two showers, one person agreed and the other person actually found someone who was willing to help me, and I didn’t mind at all,” she says.

2. Ask for help

Scott’s second piece of advice for those strategizing on how to throw a baby shower on a budget: Enlist your friends. That could mean setting up a co-hosting arrangement or assigning your friends different tasks.

“While I may handle the food, another friend may be completely responsible for games,” Scott says. “Another friend may handle gifts, and sometimes another will handle decor.”

Enlist the help of friends when you're trying to plan a baby shower on a budget.

Scott also suggests giving everyone involved a spending cap to ensure that you plan a baby shower on a budget. How she handles the spending cap depends on the group of friends involved, she says. Some friends use their money to cover their contribution, while others hand Scott cash to cover their share of logistics and let her plan away.

The exception is often food, since it’s usually more expensive than other ingredients to hosting a baby shower. In that case, Scott either has everyone pitch in for the cost of food or assigns the food to two different people instead of just one.

As for a location, Scott gets creative to plan a baby shower on a budget.

“I’ve been able to host showers at places for free because someone I knew lived in an apartment complex and I asked if they could use the apartment clubhouse,” she says.

She suggests local parks and recreation centers could also help plan a baby shower on a budget. Meeting rooms can often be rented for a flat fee or a three- to four-hour window, Scott says. If a few friends pitch in to cover that cost, that brings your personal expenses down.

3. Get creative with decor

Rather than buying disposable shower decorations, think long term for a tip for budget baby showers. That’s what Colleen Coughlin recommends. She is a clothing designer and founder of The Full Edit, a professional styling and organization company.

Coughlin recently planned a baby shower on a budget for a close friend and spent a whopping $0 on decorations. She made some of the decorations herself with materials she gathered from her clients. For example, she cut the letters for “BABY” out of a discarded silver sun protector for a car. Coughlin has also reused items from baby showers she has attended when she was determining how to throw a baby shower on a budget.

“I went to a baby shower shortly before organizing one where they were going to throw away all the decorations,” she says. “Since I knew I would be throwing a shower myself, I asked if I could take the decorations.”

One of Coughlin’s top tips for budget baby showers is to consider decorations that are gender neutral and can be reused, like those featuring orange, yellow and white. Coughlin suggests making a bunting banner out of bed sheets or old pillow cases you no longer use, then pinning or taping the bunting to the wall to decorate your hosting space.

4. Look around your house for party favors

When it comes to how to throw a baby shower on a budget, Coughlin could easily take home a gold medal. In addition to spending nothing on decorations for the baby shower she hosted, Coughlin also spent $0 on party favors for guests.

“You’d be surprised how many shower gifts are in your house already,” she says. “I gave away beauty products, plants and a Coach purse from a ‘The Full Edit’ client that I already had laying around. They loved it!”

For a party favor tip for budget baby showers, Coughlin points out that if you order makeup from certain companies, you may already have a collection of beauty samples you can use as party favors. If you happen to attend industry events for work, you may be able to use samples from swag bags as party favors. Coughlin is also not opposed to re-gifting items you don’t want to help plan a baby shower on a budget (exhibit A: that candle your distant cousin gave you for Christmas).

Plan a baby shower on a budget

As you can see from these tips for budget baby showers, with some creative thinking and a little help from friends, you and your loved ones can celebrate the miracle of life without going broke.


7 Resources When Caring for an Elderly Parent

Caring for an aging parent can be hard. These resources can help, financially and emotionally.

No parent wants to be a burden to their children—emotionally, physically or financially. As time passes, each generation faces the same caregiving issues. By using new technology and services available today, the caregiver and the person/people receiving the care can efficiently manage senior care costs.

The daily cost of caregiving

According to, taking care of aging parents can take a toll on the caregiver’s quality of life and future:

Grandparents spending time with their young grandchildren outdoors

“Many caregivers are so stressed that they do not realize how these out-of-pocket costs of caregiving add up,” says Cindy Hounsell, President of the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER). Common out-of-pocket senior care costs include:

  • Transportation: Doctor visits, errands and other activities to remain socially connected.
  • Food and household goods: Meal preparation, grocery shopping, as well as a wide range of household goods, clothing and personal items.
  • Medical: Pharmaceuticals, doctors’ consultations, medical procedures and rehabilitation.
  • Lost time: Most doctor appointments and trips to the bank must take place during working hours, which could mean taking time off from work. While some jobs are flexible, many aren’t.

Balancing senior care costs

According to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, the average time spent caring for elderly parents is more than 77 hours a month. This is like having a second job, which is why balancing your own financial and emotional needs can be challenging.

If you are caring for an elderly parent, consider these seven resources to help manage senior care costs:

1. Available benefits

Depending on where you live, government programs like Medicaid can help in taking care of aging parents. Some states have waiver programs to help manage everyday senior care costs. “Make sure the older person you’re assisting is getting every benefit to which they are entitled,” says Catherine Roper of She recommends the National Council on Aging’s BenefitsCheckUp®, a free service to help determine which programs are available to both you and your loved ones.

Woman and her elderly mother enjoying an afternoon at the park

2. Caregiving services

When taking care of aging parents, in-home care can be expensive and involve a mountain of forms. Today, there are many independent, qualified caregivers available. For example, you may be able to find websites where retired nurses offer their paid services. Also, most seniors living alone at home have empty bedrooms and, “often a young person is looking for ways to save on housing costs,” Roper says. “Swapping some caregiving tasks for low-cost (or even free) housing can be a great option, in addition to being an enjoyable experience for both the older and younger person.”

The elderly may also have vehicles at their home that are rarely utilized, Roper says. “They’d be happy to offer it to a young person in exchange for driving them where they need to go. This can be a great way for a young person to save on car payments,” she says.

to get an hourly wage for the caregiving tasks a young person would be doing anyway,” Roper says.

4. Home monitoring

If full-time assistance isn’t required, installing a home monitoring system can aid in making sure your loved one is still supervised in case of an accident. There are also self-monitoring devices that can be worn and will automatically detect if an elderly parent takes a fall.

5. Meal services

Local outreach programs provide hot meals to homebound individuals and can help keep senior care costs down. Such services can also help in caring for elderly parents with regulated, controlled diets.

6. Support groups

Always remember you are not alone. So many caregivers run into similar emotional and financial struggles when taking care of aging parents. Reach out locally and through online forums. Someone may have solutions you haven’t considered.

7. Family

Everyone can help out when caring for elderly parents. Split up care duties with other family members when possible. Even long-distance family can help with managing bills, visits (which means a break for the primary caregiver) and companionship via the phone or video calling. Just knowing people care can ease anxiety or brighten a day.

Recognizing the heavy burdens of caring for elderly parents is the first step to maintaining balance during a tough time. A bit of research and planning ahead could help guide new caregivers toward making better decisions. But most importantly, cherish the quality time with your loved ones—these moments make it possible to embrace the good days and look forward to the future.


5 Money-Saving Tips for Your Wedding

Preparing for the big day? Here are some areas where you can cut costs.

The moment you get engaged, everyone wants to know: When is the wedding? Engagements can be simple when compared to weddings—unless you are eloping or having a courthouse ceremony. If you are wedding planning on a budget and your plans don’t include hiring a wedding planner, here are some money-saving tips for your wedding:

The dress

2018 national average: $1,6311

Not wearing your grandmother’s gown? Buying used or renting can be a cost-effective way to save money on your wedding. Because wedding dresses tend to be worn once and then preserved, they are usually in “like new” condition when sold secondhand. Many websites offer pre-owned wedding dresses from major designers for when you are wedding planning on a budget.

Save money on your wedding by shopping for dresses secondhand

“We find it very rare that a bride finds sentimental value in her veil or headpiece unless it is an heirloom,” says Brittany Haas, CEO of Happily Ever Borrowed, an accessory rental store. “Accessories are generally an expensive afterthought,” she adds. “For example, the veil is something that you generally only wear for 15 minutes for your wedding day. Brides have so many more romantic things to spend on than an object only worn for 15 minutes.”

Local consignment stores also frequently carry wedding dresses, and sometimes a formal evening gown can double for your big day, which can help you save money on your wedding.

One Last Frog, suggests brides, “Shop at wholesale stores for a high quantity of decor and flowers. Typically, wholesale stores are more open to negotiation and will give you a better price for the quantity of items or flowers a bride will order.”

And once you have your flowers, if you have bridesmaids willing to help out, you can easily put together bouquets to help cut back on wedding costs.

The reception venue

2018 national average: $15,4391

Most wedding guides will tell you reception venues charge less if you get married “off-season” in January, February or March, or during the week instead of on the weekend. The main way to really save on your venue and cut back on wedding costs is to keep your guest list low (100 or less). A smaller guest list can help you save money on your wedding by lowering the cost for food, tables, chairs and drinks.

When comparing the prices of different venues, consider that going with an all-inclusive venue can be a good money-saving tip for your wedding, says Joyce Scardina Becker, designer-in-chief of Events of Distinction. “The reception site and the vendors may have prearranged financial agreements, making it easy and more cost-effective,” Becker says.

The caterer

2018 national average: $70 per person1

Sit-down or buffet? “Many couples think that buffets are less expensive than a sit-down plated meal, but this is often not the case,” Becker says. “Many times buffets are more expensive because you have to offer more choices and you cannot control the quantity of food a guest takes. So you should check with your caterer before deciding on a buffet versus a sit-down dinner.”

If you’re wedding planning on a budget, food trucks can be an alternative to cut back on wedding costs, while providing a memorable guest experience.

When it comes to alcohol, Becker suggests:

  • Having a short cocktail hour—make it 45 minutes
  • Avoiding salty hors d’oeuvres (they make guests thirstier)
  • Uncorking bottles only as needed (a wedding planner or event organizer can control this)

Additionally, if your venue allows you to bring your own alcohol, wholesalers tend to offer lower prices and typically allow you to return any unopened bottles for credit. Bringing your own alcohol could help you save quite a bit of money on your wedding.

The photographer

2018 national average: $2,6791

One of the easiest ways to cut back on wedding costs is to limit how long your photographer stays. If you’re getting married in the off-season, you’ll likely find better deals than those getting hitched in the summer and fall.

An often overlooked money-saving tip for your wedding: Contact local college students studying photography who are interested in expanding their portfolio. Some experienced photographers may also have assistants who charge less, while still providing good service.

Happily (and financially) ever after

While looking for ways to save money on your wedding may not sound romantic, it may be the best gift couples can give themselves in the long run. Utilizing these money-saving tips to cut back on wedding costs can mean more savings to put toward other financial goals as a couple—goals like buying a home, starting a family, saving for a child’s education or building an emergency fund.




How to Plan a Destination Wedding on a Budget

The right location and a finely-tuned budget are key to making a destination wedding work.

Does your dream wedding involve a beachfront ceremony at sunset even though you live in the city, or exchanging vows surrounded by the lush beauty of a tropical rainforest miles and miles away from home? If so, a destination wedding somewhere outside of your hometown might be right up your alley.

Sound pricey? It certainly can be. According to The Knot, a wedding website, the average price tag of a domestic destination wedding, including the couple’s travel costs, is $28,372. While international destination weddings tend to cost more per guest, they do often include a smaller guest list, with the average wedding spend at $27,227.

Before breaking into a cold sweat at the thought of destination wedding bliss, know that The Knot has reported the total spend for local weddings as high as $32,641 in recent years.

While it’s possible to save money on a wedding hosted locally, it’s also feasible to plan a destination wedding on a budget. These cost-saving tips for destination weddings can get you started:

If you've always dreamed of a beach wedding but you're concerned about budget, these cost-saving tips for destination weddings can help.

1. Know what you’re willing to spend

One of the key budget-saving tips for planning a destination wedding is knowing where to draw the line on cost. Without a firm dollar amount in mind, it can be easy to overspend.

Tiffany Zorotrian, an agent with Chantel Ray Real Estate in Virginia Beach, Virginia, found herself planning a destination wedding on short notice. She and her fiancé originally planned on an outdoor wedding in April but had to move up the date because of a military deployment. Virginia’s winter weather wasn’t accommodating to an outdoor event, so they opted for a destination wedding in Key West, Florida, instead. Their budget was $10,000.

When trying to plan a destination wedding on a budget, they had to decide which costs they were willing to assume.

“One thing you need to consider is whether or not you’re going to support travel costs for close family members who want to be there, but may not have the financial means to make the trip themselves,” Zorotrian says. “We did that, but to accommodate those costs, we needed to save money in other areas.” They negotiated deals for their hotel stay for themselves and five family members and brought in their own food and beverages for the wedding festivities.

The average spend on a domestic destination wedding, including the couple’s travel costs, is $28,372.

– The Knot

Jo Ann Woodward, co-owner of Schwartz & Woodward, a Houston-based wedding planning firm, says couples must consider the extra costs associated with a destination wedding that you may not encounter with a wedding in your hometown. That includes the couple’s airfare and accommodations for all guests, local transportation since most guests won’t have their own cars and excursions (some couples will host their guests on special outings like fishing trips, scuba diving, hiking or guided walking tours). Woodward says if guests are covering their own travel costs, couples should consider if they’re willing pay for other activities.

2. Keep it small

If you’re trying to plan a destination wedding on a budget, a shorter guest list may be the answer.

“Couples need to decide who they really want to attend,” Woodward says. She suggests inviting only those people without whom you couldn’t imagine sharing one of the most important moments of your life.

Zorotrian took a different approach. Instead of skimping on the guest list, she invited all of their friends and family so there’d be no hurt feelings. But, she planned her wedding budget on the assumption that only the people who were really committed to being there would come.

When you’re trying to follow cost-saving tips for destination weddings, including everyone on the guest list is a gamble. Should everyone you’ve invited decide to attend, that can inflate your spending. If you’re concerned that the wedding may end up being oversized, it’s better to err on the side of caution and plan for a smaller wedding from the beginning.

“If you invite someone, anticipate and budget that they will attend so there are no financial surprises,” says Candice Coppola, owner and creative director of Jubilee Events, a Cheshire, Connecticut-based wedding planning firm.

The bet did, however, work out for Zorotrian and her husband. They were able to come in just under their $10,000 budget. In the end, their wedding was a tiny, intimate affair, unlike the larger outdoor event they’d originally anticipated in their hometown. But, they were happy with the final result and the money they were able to save.

3. Choose your destination carefully

Where—and when—you plan to have the big day can impact costs in a big way. Coppola says timing matters if you want to plan a destination wedding on a budget.

“Every year, prices increase,” she says, which is why one of her cost-saving tips for destination weddings is to book one to two years in advance to get the current year’s rates.

Scheduling outside the location’s peak season and going low-key on accommodations are other budget-saving tips for planning a destination wedding.

Coppola says that during a destination’s tourist or high season, hotel rates can increase by 25 to 50 percent. She says you can create more room in your budget and save money by scheduling a wedding for the destination’s shoulder or off-peak season instead. Shoulder season is the period between peak and off-peak season.

In general, this time of year offers fewer crowds, but weather could be problematic. In the Caribbean, for example, the off-peak season is typically mid-April to mid-December, which coincides with the North American hurricane season. Sites like Expedia and Lonely Planet can be resources for finding information and recommendations on which off-peak season destinations offer the most favorable weather conditions for a wedding.

Budget-saving tips for planning a destination wedding include researching multiple destinations to determine what you can get for your moneyIf you’ve got a smaller guest list, some cost-saving tips for destination weddings include renting a large vacation home instead of booking hotel rooms for each of your guests. Woodward suggests reading the fine print before choosing a vacation rental, as some vacation homes may come with extra fees for each guest over a certain limit.

Something else to consider when seeking out budget-saving tips for planning a destination wedding: how far your money will stretch if you’re outside the U.S.

“In some regions, like the Caribbean, U.S. dollars are preferred and can get you farther than local currency,” Coppola says. Depending on where you travel, items may simply be less expensive than in America, so you’ll have more purchasing power. In Costa Rica, for example, consumer prices were about 23 percent lower than in the U.S. as of March 2018, according to Numbeo, a website that compares cost of living data.

It’s also worth considering the exchange rate if you’re not using U.S. currency and looking for budget-saving tips for planning a destination wedding. A preferable rate allows you to spend less for the same things abroad than you would at home. Remember also to factor currency exchange fees into your budget.

“Each destination has its own feel and flavor. You have to decide what’s most important for you and your guests to experience, since creating memories for a lifetime is the goal.”

– Jo Ann Woodward, co-owner of Schwartz & Woodward, a Houston-based wedding planning firm

4. Choose the best way to pay

As you research cost-saving tips for destination weddings, don’t overlook your payment method. One potential way to save is by opening a rewards credit card in advance of the wedding that allows you to earn points or miles on purchases. When it’s time to book travel, you could use those miles to cover some or all of the cost of your flights or hotel stays. Some travel cards may offer additional money-saving perks, such as complimentary companion tickets or checked luggage, which can reduce costs. Alternately, cashback rewards could be applied as a statement credit against wedding purchases you’ve already made.

Why should credit cards have all the fun?

Now you can earn cash back with your debit card.

If you want to avoid racking up debt when spending on your destination wedding, consider the benefits of a rewards checking account, which can help you earn cash back on everyday expenses, including those for your wedding. With Discover Cashback Debit you can earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month.1

Preparing in advance and saving up for the big day can also make it easier to plan a destination wedding on a budget. Consider depositing funds for your wedding into an online savings account with a competitive interest rate. This way, you can be earning money on your savings until you’re ready to pay for wedding expenses.

You can plan a destination wedding on a budget—and a rewards checking account can help you earn cash back.

Check your mindset to plan a destination wedding on a budget

These cost-saving tips for destination weddings address the financial side of planning a getaway, but you also need to consider the emotional side.

“Each destination has its own feel and flavor,” Woodward says. “You have to decide what’s most important for you and your guests to experience, since creating memories for a lifetime is the goal.”

As you plan your dream destination wedding, set your expectations early and remember to be flexible. Working on a budget may mean having to cut back on certain expenses, such as flowers or wedding favors, but it’s essential to stay focused on the bigger picture, which is making your special day as enjoyable as possible.

1 ATM transactions, the purchase of money orders or other cash equivalents, cash over portions of point-of-sale transactions, Peer-to-Peer (P2P) payments (such as Apple Pay Cash), and loan payments or account funding made with your debit card are not eligible for cash back rewards. In addition, purchases made using third-party payment accounts (services such as Venmo® and PayPal, who also provide P2P payments) may not be eligible for cash back rewards. Apple, the Apple logo and Apple Pay are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.