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Planning a Budget as a Working Mum

By: Sarah Knowles BA, MA - Updated: 26 Mar 2013 | comments*Discuss
Planning A Budget As A Working Mum

Believe it or not, the vast majority of people are kept in the dark about their spending habits. They know roughly how much they spend every month, but often have no idea where it goes. That's why planning a budget can be so important if you need to cut costs.

Working mums, who often are responsible for budgeting the entire family's expenses, can greatly benefit from having a budget – and sticking to it. It may sound hard, but it isn't with these easy steps.

Your Monthly Income

The first step in planning a budget is to find out how much you pocket every month. There is usually a lot more to your income than your salary. Make sure that you include:

  • Salary after tax
  • Bonus after tax
  • Alimony
  • Child support
  • Child Trust Fund
  • Savings
  • Child Benefit

Your Spending

Next, divide your spending into specific categories. For most people they include:

  • Housing, with sub-sections for rent/mortgage, utilities, maintenance etc.
  • Debts: Credit cards, student loans etc.
  • Food: Calculate both weekly shops and top-ups
  • Kids: Childcare, school activities, clubs
  • Clothing: For everyone in the family
  • Entertainment: Don't forget to budget for this one, including cable telly, cinema etc
  • Savings: Pension, Child Trust Fund contributions etc.
  • Transport: Monthly Tube pass, car insurance, petrol etc.
  • Miscellaneous: Holidays, hobbies, morning coffee and paper etc.

Your Monthly Expenditures

Now, write down your actual spending. In theory this should be the easy part, but in reality it's a lot harder than it looks. Look at your direct debits and other bills, then write down everything you spend for at least two weeks.

This means EVERYTHING: that cup of Starbucks coffee every morning, the monthly copy of Grazia, your favourite bubble bath and even the kids' socks. Write it all down.

What You Should be Spending

Finally, figure out what you should be spending, based on your income. By writing it all down you should be able to see how much you can afford to allocate to a specific category every month, and where you need to cut down.

You may be pleasantly surprised by the outcome, you may be dismayed. In any case, this exercise should point out where you are going right – and where you are going wrong.

Trimming the Fat from Your Budget

There are several ways to cut down on spending quickly. Here are our Top Ten Tips:

  • Carry cash instead of credit cards
  • Keep a daily spending diary
  • Eliminate frivolous luxuries
  • Buy supermarket brands
  • Buy food and toiletries in bulk
  • Offer to swap babysitting with a friend
  • Bring a packed lunch to work
  • Hire DVDs instead of going to the cinema
  • Pay by Direct Debit
  • Bundle up in cold weather and turn down the heat

Creating a budget is easy. You don't need to have a degree in accounting or know how to use a complicated spreadsheet to do it properly. All you need it to be able to write down every expense you make during a typical week to see what you are actually spending money on.

Maybe you never realised that your two cups of Starbucks coffee per day is costing you over £12 per week, or that taking a sandwich to work instead of eating out every weekday will save you another £25 weekly. Now you do.

That doesn't mean you have to give up your daily Frappucino or the £5 Chicken and Pesto sarnie that you constantly crave. But being aware of your spending, even the little things, will help you to budget more efficiently – and have more money in future when you need it.

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