Budget Makeover: Save for Big Items Year Round

create a family budget


Is money a big stress come Christmas time?  Have a month loaded down with birthdays?  Ever want to go on a trip but didn’t have the cash to go once summer got here? Big events such as Christmas and trips can be a big stress when that time of year rolls around but they don’t need to be.  If you know you’re going to be spending money on a big ticket item, then you should be saving for it year round.

This has made such a huge difference for us because we no longer feel strapped during expensive months.  When we go on a trip we don’t have to wonder where the money is going to come from because we’ve been saving up all year for it.  Plus, since the money is there, we actually go on the trips and don’t miss out on some much needed relaxation.  Too many times we come up with more practical ways to spend our money if we aren’t actually setting it aside to spend it on vacation.  Remember, budgeting is not about limiting your spending necessarily, but rather, telling your money where to go!

The important thing to do is figure out what big costs you have coming up in the next year, perhaps it’s replacing your old refrigerator or saving for a car.  You also need to think about what you consistently spend money on but aren’t actually billed for.  For example, we save year round for lawn care and auto upkeep.  Lastly, you want to think about what other things you would like to be able to do and save for, such as vacations or perhaps a leather chair.

If you just joined in on the budget makeover today, you may want to go back and figure out how you relate to money, get your bills in order, estimate your monthly costs, and start saving for an emergency fund before you move on to saving for big items.

Game Plan:

1.  Figure out your total costs for Christmas & birthdays year round and divide by 12 to get a monthly amount to save for.

Make a list of everyone you buy presents for at Christmas and next to their name write how much you want to spend on their gift(s).  This includes your immediate family too and any money spent on filling stockings.  I always add an additional $50 because there may be some unplanned people we decide to buy for.  After you get your total, divide it be 12 to get the monthly amount you need to save for Christmas.  You may be shocked!  I know I’m blown away by how much we save monthly for Christmas and I feel like we even have a pretty strict amount.  For example, if your total came up to $750 that means each month you would need to put back $62.50 for Christmas.

Follow the same process for birthdays and don’t forget to include yourself.

I would keep these lists handy or you can create a spreadsheet in excel where you can keep track of everything.

create a family budget

2. If you are planning on going on a trip(s) this year, figure out how much you want to spend on it and then divide by 12 to get your monthly amount to save for it.

We haven’t started going on annual family trips yet since the boys are still pretty young, but we always go on an anniversary weekend trip that we put back some money for each month.

make a budget

3. If you own a vehicle, you WILL have to pay to keep it running.

This is a given unfortunately…a fact of life I still struggle with.  I hate spending money on something that was just working fine the day before and that there’s no noticeable improvement such as a new paint job would be for instance.  I cringe when an orange light pops up because I know it means that we’re probably going to have to spend a lot of money to get whatever the problem is fixed.  Nothing is cheap in the auto repair world.

Putting back monthly for auto upkeep doesn’t mean your vehicle won’t need to be fixed, but it definitely makes the sting of repair costs much less painful when they come.

Don’t know how much to put back?  Neither did we and that’s okay.  You come up with a good estimate and adjust as you go along.  After keeping a budget several years, you’ll be able to save just the right amount.  We never seemed to save enough and always ended up having to raise the cost.  This year we are putting back $125 a month for auto upkeep and I think it will probably be just right.  So far we’ve saved up $500 for auto upkeep and only spent $137.86 but I’m not about to adjust it because right when I do, something will go wrong.

Don’t forget to include in this amount, the costs for oil changes, washing the car, rotating tires, etc.  Allow for unexpected repairs too.

4. Figure out what other items you KNOW you WILL be paying for and if it is a significant amount, you should figure out the monthly cost and save up for it.

Here are some of the other things we save for on a monthly basis

    • Scrapbooks- I make and print one for each of my boys every year and since they each cost around $120, we put back $20 a month for them.
    • Lawn Care- this includes the cost of fertilizer, seed, flowers, mulch, plants, round up, etc.
    • Gifts- all other gifts excluding Christmas & birthdays such as graduations, weddings, Easter, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day.
    • Garage & tools- this includes shelving, organizers, and tools
    • Home Improvement-we are saving up for painting our kitchen cabinets and putting hardwood
    • Car- we have paid off all our loans except for our mortgage so we now put back the amount we would be paying on a car loan so when Jeff needs a new vehicle we’ll hopefully be able to pay for it with cash!
    • Bug Man- I am absolutely terrified of bugs so I realize this is an extra expense that is not needed, but I have much enjoyed not seeing a bug or spider in our house the past several years so we will keep paying for it. I don’t put in our billing section because he comes at random times.  We put back $27 a month for the service and every time he comes I pay him $65.

create a family budget

The “trash pick-up” is highlighted because it is really a bill but we only pay for it every three months so I put it under our things to save for in our spreadsheet but I didn’t want to confuse you.

Come back tomorrow to put it all together and download the excel spreadsheet I use to keep track of our budget.

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