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Creating a family budget

5-minute read

Creating a family budget can help you take control of your finances and spend less time worrying about money. This information will guide you through the steps.

Benefits of creating a family budget

A family budget is a plan to remind you how much you can spend on items over a period of time. It can cover both your regular spending, such as food or utility bills, as well as larger items, such as a family holiday.

By examining how much money you have coming in (income) and going out (expenses), you’ll be able to see if you are spending more than you can afford. This could help you make changes that will let you save for the things you need in the future and be better prepared for an unexpected emergency.

A budget can help you balance your spending and saving and avoid having to live from week to week. It will also help you sort out your financial goals and make it harder to overspend. Whether you’re a single parent, living off one or two incomes, or relying on Centrelink benefits, a budget can help you.

If you’re having a baby or young children, your spending will need to increase, and you may find you or your partner need to take time off work. Working out your budget beforehand can make it less likely that you go into debt and ensure you have enough for the things your family needs.

How to get a budget started

First, work out exactly how much money you have coming in and going out. You’ll need bank and credit card statements, pay slips, benefit statements, bills, or anything else that records how you currently use your money.

Look at the entire year because some things, like electricity, are more expensive at some times than at others.

To get you started, you could download an online planner like ASIC’s Moneysmart Budget Planner. Many banks also offer online budget planners to their customers.

What to include in a budget

To work out your family budget you should take into account your entire income, including take-home pay, overtime, bonuses, income from savings or investments, Centrelink benefits and any other money you have coming in.

Then work out how much you spend, including:

Spending on your home: Mortgage or rent, gas, electricity, water, rates, maintenance, internet, phones and pay TV.

Groceries: Everything you spend at the supermarket or other food shops.

Insurance and financial payments: Car, home and contents, life, income protection, pet and car insurance. Also include payments on your car loan, any other loans or debts, credit card interest, and charity donations.

Medical costs: Medicines, doctors’ bills, pharmacy costs, glasses and health fund premiums, as well as veterinary bills. If you are having a baby, think about extra costs like private hospital, specialist fees and medical imaging.

Personal costs: Everything you spend on personal care and grooming, clothing, hobbies, computers, the gym and education.

Entertainment: Include money for eating out, going to the movies, holidays, buying gifts, books and magazines, and alcohol.

Transport: Train, bus or ferry, petrol, tolls, car registration, driver’s licence, fines, car repairs.

Children: Baby products, clothes, babysitting, childcare, preschool, children’s activities.

How to manage your budget

Now you know how much you are spending on each item, you can work out how much money you need each week.

If you spend more than you earn, it will now be easier for you to find areas where you can reduce your spending. If you are already spending less than you earn, you can start to think about a savings plan and developing some longer term goals for your money. This could include things that you want, but don’t necessarily need.

However, it’s a good idea to build a ‘buffer’ into the budget so there is always some money in an emergency.

Sticking to a family budget isn’t always easy. But if you work out where you can make savings – and how much you are willing to save – you will be in a much better position to set long-term goals for your family.

Where to get help

If you have young children, you may be eligible for a range of government subsidies and benefits including Family Tax Benefit Part A, Family Tax Benefit Part B, parental leave, a Childcare Subsidy, Medicare and dental benefits for your children.

You can also get financial support if you are a teenage parent or live in a rural area. The Department of Human Services helps you calculate any benefits you might be entitled to.

There is plenty of advice available too. Speak to your bank about opening a fee-free bank account for savings, consider using a free Commonwealth financial counsellor, or speak to a private financial advisor.

ASIC’s Moneysmart website has plenty of tips on managing your money, and you can download their TrackMySPEND App to keep on top of your spending.

The Department of Human Services has a Financial Information Service to help you make decisions about your money.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: May 2019

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