Family financial planning: Steps to get your household finances on track

Managing your own finances can be tough enough. Pile on the finances of your whole household and things can get even more complicated. For example, life as a single twenty-something looks different than that of a married thirty-something with three kids. At 25, you’re just starting to establish your own finances, and at 35, you’re stretched thin to provide for your own needs and others as well.  But with a little family financial planning, you can help make your dollars stretch and take important strides towards more stability.

A family financial plan is a roadmap to help get you there and keep you on track. It covers your current money management — including money coming in and out — and outlines strategies to carve out your savings for what matters most to you.

But how do you put this into practice when you’re managing multiple schedules, and your teenage just asked for new sneakers for the seventh time. First, we’ll walk through how to make a financial plan for a family. Then, we’ll outline examples of how to explain the value of financial planning to family members so you can get on the same page with a common financial goal.

Family financial planning guide

dad working on family financial planning on a computer

Taking the time to outline your plan can give you guardrails, so you and your family can stay on track by making smart saving and spending choices. When you have a plan in place, it helps you keep your overall goals in mind — and can steer you away from decisions that could wreak havoc on your finances. Our family financial planning guide will outline common planning steps.

How to make a financial plan for your family

Now that we’ve covered why it’s important, we can dive into how to make a financial plan for your family. Here are the steps:

1. Define your goals

Planning for most things starts with a goal. Learning how to make a shared financial plan for your family is no different. The goal will vary from one family to the next, so as you try to outline “financial planning for my family,” know that you’ll want to customize your goals for what’s right for you and your family.

For some families, it’s about having a cushion for when the unexpected happens. For others, it’s about paying down debt, or saving for a large purchase, like a new appliance or piece of furniture.

Below are a few common short- and long-term goals. We’ll come back to these in step four.

Short-term goals: 

  • Creating an emergency savings account
  • Paying off a credit card
  • Saving for a big purchase, such as a home computer or family vacation

Long-term goals:

  • Saving for a car
  • Saving for a down payment on a home
  • Saving for retirement

2. Outline your expenses, income, and debt

Figure out what’s coming in and out of your household account(s) by outlining your expenses and income. For most, income includes your take home pay, but may also include child support. Be sure to include expenses, income, and debt for everyone that your family budget will cover – generally your spouse or partner, plus any children living at home or that you still financially support.

Daily or monthly expenses are important to factor in your family financial planning guide. Expenses can fall into the following categories:

  • Discretionary expenses like entertainment and shopping.
  • Necessities like expenses related to food and shelter.

Now, let’s talk about debt. You probably use credit in some fashion — think loans, mortgages, or credit cards, even cell phones can fall into this category. If your family incurs debt, it should be accounted for in your plan. Your family financial plan should include details on repaying debt and prioritizing the repayment of each debt as part of your necessary expenses. It’s wise to prioritize high-interest items first, then lower interest items later. 

3. Create a budget that will help you reach your family’s financial goals

Now that you know your expenses, income, and debt, you can craft a family budget to help you reach your shared goals. Budgets are essentially detailed plans for your weekly, monthly, or yearly spending and savings activities that help you to get on and stay on financial track. They will help you and your family avoid overspending and can help you reach your financial goals. Your budget should include living expenses as well as short- and long-term goals. It should also track money coming in.

You can point back to your budget when your child begs in the store for the toy they just realized they can’t live without. To let them see that the budget impacts your wants and needs too, you can say for example, “I’d love this new air fryer, but it’s not in the budget.”

One way to budget is by using the 50/30/20 rule to divide your income into three categories:

  • Necessary expenses as described above (50%)
  • Discretionary expenses as described above (30%)
  • Savings (20%). This includes money set aside for future wants and needs. There is a range of categories this covers, including creating an emergency fund or saving for big life milestones or wish-list items.

Note: Retirement planning is in the realm of family financial planning and may be one of your family savings goals. For many, this may mean contributing to a 401(K) at work.

A good rule of thumb is to save around 10% of your total income for retirement. But if your budget is strapped, you may consider starting at a lower rate.  If your employer offers a match, try to contribute enough to take advantage of the full match percentage.

Be sure that your new budget and family financial plan works for all of the members in your family. Some families find that a joint account for all expenses works for them, while other families have a joint account for shared household expenses such as mortgage or rent, food and utilities, and then move their budgeted amounts for personal spending (clothing and shopping, entertainment, etc.) to separate accounts.

Get additional details about how to create a budget.

4. Commit to and track your goals

You should check in on your goals periodically to see if you need to make any adjustments. Are you saving enough each month to reach your goals in time? Or do you need to cut back in other places to bump up your savings?

For short-term goals, you may want to revisit your plan every three or four months. Long-term goals should be revisited annually or semi-annually.

Want extra support? See your savings come to life with Spruce mobile banking!  Spruce’s saving goals feature can help keep your plan top of mind. You can choose to transfer money to your saving goal automatically, helping you build up your funds bit by bit.

Explaining the value of financial planning with your family

Family financial planning should also include the responsibilities of the entire family — including your spouse or partner, dependents, and anyone living under your roof. 

If you’re wondering how to explain the value of financial planning to family, your plan can be the place to start. It’s a great way to get the family on the same page, so you’re dedicated to a shared vision of your financial future. Depending on the age of your children, you may want to simplify things by only sharing the identified goals and choices you may make to get there. For example, you may talk about how you’re choosing to build up your new car fund instead of a splurge purchase.

Financial family planning: How Spruce can help

No matter the goals of your family financial planning, Spruce is here to help you save for them.

With smart tools like saving goals, cash back rewards, no hidden or monthly fees, and more, you can Spruce can help you get well on your way to getting better with money each day.

Find out more about all the features Spruce has to offer. 

Get started with Spruce! 

This information provided for general educational purposes only. It is not intended as specific financial planning advice as everyone’s financial situation is different.

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