Are you a parent trying to juggle your family's budget while still enjoying life? We’re going to walk you through how to find a balance with raising your kids, managing your money, and have fun!
Parenting on a Budget: Strategies for Juggling Kids, Money, and Happiness
When you’re a parent, it can sometimes feel like there are so many demands on your finances and times. As we raise our kids, we may have to deal with daycare, school trips, extra curricular activities, family vacations, saving for college or trade, the list goes on and on.
Oh wait, you’re also expected to save for your own retirement.
It feels like a lot, right?
The pressure we feel from others or that we put on ourselves can make it seem like the price of parenthood is too much.
While we do have more responsibilities as we raise our kids, there are some real joys with it. The trick is find a way to identify your family’s particular priorities and manage your money in a way that balanced and fits the particular season of life you’re in.
Which is why I’m so glad Melissa McCollough from Coastal Credit Union is here to join us.
Not only is she the Digital Marketing Manager behind Coastal’s blog, but she’s also a mom who knows firsthand the juggling act of parenthood.
I love someone in the trenches chatting with me about making this work well.
In this episode we get into:
- common challenges parents and families face when it comes to budgeting, and how to get through them
- effective strategies for saving money on kid-related expenses without sacrificing quality or experiences
- tools and resources, both online and in your community, that can make it easier to stay on top of your money so you have more time with your kids
So, whether you're a parent looking to navigate the complexities of family finances or simply curious about the art of budgeting, this podcast episode is a must-listen.
We have a lot to cover, so let’s dive in!
Resources to Build Better Family Budgets
If you’re looking to start or revamp your budget so you can reach your family and financial goals faster, check out some of these resources below!
- Best Budget and Money Apps: Empower, Tiller, Mint
- Grab Your Copy of My Book: Jumpstart Your Marriage and Your Money
- Why are kids’ sports so expensive?
- Nuts and Bolts of Creating a Budget That Works
- Cashing Out: Creating a Flexible Financial Plan That Fits Your Family
- How to Define Your Financial Priorities Together
- How to (Actually) Make Managing Your Money Fun
- Kids and Money: How to Teach Them About Bank and Investing Accounts
- Financial Wellness: Tracking More Than Just the Numbers
- Send in your family and financial questions here!
If you’d like to chat more your money system, please join us in our private and free Facebook group – Thriving Families.
We’re families looking to support and help one another out.
Hope to see you there!
Thank You to Our Sponsor Coastal!
Support for this podcast comes from Coastal Credit Union! Come check out Coastal today if you’re living in the Raleigh Durham area and looking to bank better.
As a credit union, Coastal serves its members first and foremost including an annual loyalty bonus.
How to Prioritize Your Family Budget and Still Enjoy Life Now
Elle Martinez: I think a lot of people think, ‘okay budgeting, taking care of the kids…how's that exciting?’ But I think first of all, we need to talk about what a budget is is basically a plan for your money for what's important for you, prioritizing.
To make sure, of course taking care of the bills, planning for the future, but enjoying life now.
A big challenge with parents is' I want my kids to enjoy the time, they have growing up. I have financial goals that I'm trying to do'. And it's like, okay, which one do I do first? How do I get started?
You work over at Coastal, you see things on the blog. You are putting out a lot of fantastic material for families. I want to start there. What mistakes do you see a lot of parents and families making when it comes to creating those budgets?
Melissa McCollough: I think a lot of the times, I don't know that I'd use the word mistakes necessarily, because I think that that puts a lot of pressure on families to be perfect, and nobody's perfect, and everybody is, I think a lot of people struggle with this idea of budget and family life.
We all want to give our kids the best. We can't always make that happen, and it becomes stressful.
I think that there are just some little things that people can adjust in their budget and in their time when they're planning out these things to help them be more successful and achieve the results that they would like to achieve.
Uncover the Hidden Truths of Your Spending Habits
Melissa McCollough: I think the first one can be a little time consuming, unfortunately, but it's really understanding the true cost of your current lifestyle and all of the things you want to accomplish, whether it's in like just for the summer.
For the holiday season for the year for five years for 10 years, whatever your scope is really taking the time to understand what that is going to cost you.
Luckily to help you figure out what you're spending right now, where all your money is going, there are a lot of apps that you can use that will just do that for you.
Take advantage of those. I think Mint is one of the most widely used ones and it connects with multiple different institutions.
I would definitely start there and utilize those types of services to help you figure out. What you're spending and more importantly, what you're spending it on because I think that will give you a really good basis for some decision making on priorities.
Elle Martinez: Yeah, I have to say that's an eye opener for good and bad, right? When you look at the expenses.
Melissa McCollough: It's scary when you have to force yourself to get real with how much money you really spend and where you spend it. I think that's the scary part, right?
But it's also exciting in that it provides you opportunities to figure out what your priorities are, right? Because sometimes we have values that we try to align to our priorities, but then when you look at what you're spending, you realize that maybe that's not what you value at all.
Maybe it's something different and that can be scary, but you can work through it and using those apps to your advantage to take some of that mental load off of your plate can really help you get clear about. Where you are financially right now, because it's important to understand that before you can move forward.
Elle Martinez: Just from personal experience and chatting with people in the community, I think there is something empowering, like saying, Hey, here's where we spend and just having that conversation, as a family, did we get value out of this?
Like you were mentioning, maybe we say we love traveling and you discovered that. You don't have to travel as far. Like North Carolina has some great destinations. We just got back from Lake Lure and Chimney Rock.
That was fairly inexpensive and nice long weekend as a family, or maybe you want a pricier vacation. You like those all inclusive ones. You don't know until you look at the numbers and say, ‘Hey, you know what? This is important for us. So maybe we can cut back on here. Cause it wasn't as good as we thought, but we can kind of redirect it in a different way.’
Here are five engaging headlines for parents about the importance of communication with finances:
Strengthening Your Family and Finance with Money Chats
Remember, open communication about finances can lead to healthier relationships and better financial outcomes for the whole family.
Melissa McCollough: Absolutely. I think it's a really good conversation starter between partners as well. I think that's another place where people get stressed out and they shut down and they fail to communicate with each other. We already know that money is a huge stress in partnerships and in families as well.
Trying to figure out where you are. It's not just about you anymore. It's about everybody who has access to your bank account, right? And that is a stressful conversation to have, but hopefully you can find ways to to do that together and like make it like a game plan for two people to challenge each other to really pay attention to what you're spending money on and come to that conversation with no judgment.
Because I think that will really help people be able to connect and understand your true family values, right? And once you can figure out what your family values and what your spending is telling you, you can make good decisions going forward together.
Elle Martinez: Yeah, absolutely. I'm a big believer in working as a team because that momentum when both of you on board, try to get that and then depending on how old your kids are, they can help out.
I have a middle schooler that she wants to buy a lot of things. And I said, that's fine. It can come out of your allowance or you can earn some more. And when they really want something, they can get pretty creative with that.
Tips to Help Kids Learn to Manage Their Money
Melissa McCollough: Absolutely. And there are great apps available too, that you can utilize as a family to help keep, to help with some of those things that older kids would like to do as well, some financial freedom for them.
I think Greenlight is one of the bigger ones that is used widely in the industry at that. You can give them a budget or an allowance and then they can choose what they would like to do with it. It's really great way to teach them about money and get them involved in that process as well.
Elle Martinez: Yeah, I know. And maybe I'm dating myself. When I was growing up they would come to the school like once a month, and it was a bank or a credit union.
You do the deposits, you put it into your savings and then you would have to balance, you would have to fill that paper out. Now everything's digital, but yeah, there are apps for that. There's programs so your kids can have that practice.
I know we've done a couple of like day trips. It was interesting the first couple times where I gave my oldest cash and I said, okay, this is our snack and lunch money for like a trip to the zoo.
I was so surprised because I thought she was going to spend it all in five minutes. She was just trying to save it because I said, whatever is left over, you can just keep. And she just was like, are you going to eat she told her sister? Are you going to eat that? No, you're not going to get the whole meal.
You're only going to get a piece of a meal because we're not going to waste anything. It's funny giving them that experience how different it feels for them. I definitely appreciate that.
Prioritizing Kid-Related Expenses
Elle Martinez: With a lot of families there's so many different kid related expenses. If both work outside the home daycare, huge expense. And then your kids are older extracurricular activities with their interests and family vacations are kind of into the mix.
Do you have any tips on prioritizing, cause you like daycare, if you have to pay for it, you have to pay for it, but like the others balancing it and finding the space in your budget for that?
Melissa McCollough: Sure. So I am in the daycare phase myself. I have a two year old and daycare is ridiculously expensive. I know that my son's teachers, they work hard and they do good work and they deserve to get paid, but that is a big expense. I do know that.
Some tips there if anybody is in the daycare bucket, like I am take advantage of the tax credit that is available, right? I think it's up to, I think if it's $3,000 per child per year, up to 6, 000. And it's all dependent on your income, how much you would get back. So that's a good one for that.
If your company offers an FSA you can contribute to that. I think it's up to 5, 000 annually that can help alleviate some of the tax burdens associated with daycare. Those are two good options.
When it comes to extra curricular activities for older kids in particular that I think, gosh, I think back on when I was a kid and think my parents, gosh, they drove us around, didn't they?
That is something that I think is really important to consider, too. It's not just how much it. it costs for your kids to sign up and get all the equipment. It's also your time, right? Because you have to be able to, if you work, you have to be able to get out of work and get them to that location, hang out for an hour or so, bring them back.
It's usually not just once a week. It's like twice a week. I think you got to budget your time there as well, but some really good ways to help say for those things is to really talk with your kids about what they value and their priorities as well. Like get them involved, because if you ask a kid, what do you want to do?
They want to do everything, right? But do they really want to do everything? No, they don't.
They don't want to get up early on Saturday morning. I think it's important to get them involved in that conversation and really find out what they enjoy doing if they don't enjoy music extracurriculars outside of school, maybe that's not a priority for you.
You got to have those conversations with your kids and figure out what they might like to do. Then you have to do your research and figure out how much is it really going to cost for them to do this type of thing. I do think that social media can offer some really great advice and some help on that part too.
If you reach out to your communities, your friends, your family even. Like my neighborhood that I live in has a very active social media group where people post questions all day, every day, and there'll be moms that have been in the trenches, they've done that before, they can tell you exactly how much it costs, and they've got the equipment in your garage if you want to buy it from them. That's another great way. It's a great way to save some money, particularly if they've never done it before you're not sure if they're going to like it.
O ne of my favorites. I have two favorite things. One is the memberships to like the zoo or to kids museums. Those offer a really great benefit because not only can you have something you can plan on the fly with your kids, you could go to the zoo, go to the whatever the museum is, but those memberships usually come with discounts that you can apply when you travel.
So if you go to like, like I'm a member of the North Carolina Zoo. And my zoo membership gets me discounts into other zoos across the country, which is super cool. And my son is two and he really enjoys animals. So when we travel, we try and find other zoos that we can go to. We get a discount to get in.
That's another way to save a little bit of money there. And the museums are the same way. Sometimes they, depending on which one you join and. You can get discounts to other museums and sometimes museum events across the country as well, depending on where you live.
Elle Martinez: Yeah, that's a good reminder with the museums because here in Raleigh, we have a lot of really good options. We also, like you mentioned, we have events here that going back to your idea. Are they really interested? Is you can try it out. I know bug fest is coming up in the fall.
Things like that, are you really interested? Or it's like a one time thing or a special event, you can always fit that in usually pretty well, but if it's something they're really interested in, then, you know, okay, maybe we should invest, like you mentioned, not just the money, but the time.
Those are some really good, tips. Now you've mentioned using discounts and with your membership, do you have any other? You know, balancing, giving your kids that experience, you know, doing activities with them but saving money without sacrificing the quality?
Melissa McCollough: Sure. I do think that there are a lot of though there are some resources available that I would definitely encourage people to look into so that you can participate and have as much fun as possible without breaking your budget.
Elle Martinez: I think, first of all, a lot of the first. Like people that I would reach out to you, honestly, it's your HR benefits coordinator. You know, it seems a little weird. Yeah, tell me more.
Melissa McCollough: A lot of companies have deals. With other organizations, whether it's for travel or, you know, they sponsor local events. And a lot of times, your HR benefits coordinator, you know, has that benefits package that you probably looked through when you first joined and never thought of it again.
That can get you a discount not only on daycare, but maybe for concert tickets. Maybe for different memberships, gym memberships, and maybe even. You know, for travel car rentals and things like that. So I think that's a really good one to utilize.
The same thing for your alumni organization. If you have a really strong alumni organization, people who went to college with you, they want to help you. They want to see you succeed. And so does your university, right?
A lot of times they broker deals with big Hotel chains, airlines, car rental places. And you can get a discount just because you went to a certain school. So I definitely check out those two places as well.
My third one would be your local library libraries across the country have so many untapped resources from different types of events. Like, our local library is having a Bluey related party, and I don't know, my kid is in the Bluey phase, so that might be something we might have to check out. But they also offer streaming services for kids and adults. You can get movie library, they have a movie library.
You can also get educational, like online tutorials, like Khan Academy type stuff. So those are some really great resources to check out. They only take a few minutes to look into, and you can get a lot of different types of perks and discounts and, and resources that you need almost for free.
Elle Martinez: Yeah, I will vouch definitely for the local library.
They have a lot of good events. I have like the middle schooler and then I have an elementary school girl and they have arts and crafts for the younger ones, the story time, but they've also done like dance lessons, different cultural, like taste different snacks from around the world. They bring in experts.
That is like a couple of hours of really good fun. They get to meet other kids in the neighborhood, in the area. And it's usually free, all you have to do is register. Sometimes not even that you just show up and it's a really good opportunity here, especially in Wake County. So thanks for that reminder.
Melissa McCollough: Of course and parents get an opportunity to meet other parents as well, right? So, we live in a really transient area. People are moving in all the time and they don't know anybody.
It's a really great way to give your kids something really enjoyable to do and you can participate with them. But you can also meet other people who are just like you, who are looking for things to do and, and you might make a friend out of it.
Importance of Build Your Family’s Emergency Fund
Elle Martinez: Yeah, absolutely. Before we wrap up, Melissa, you do some really good work at Coastal Credit Union with the blog, because we're talking about helpful resources for families. And do you mind talking a little bit about some of the topics that are on there in case, besides raising kids, other concerns and questions that families have about money?
Melissa McCollough: Sure. I think a lot of families probably have concerns about emergency funds. I think that's a really hard one for a lot of people, not because it's difficult to set up the fund itself, but to actually allocate resources to that every month, particularly if you have competing priorities is really, really challenging.
A lot of experts will tell you to put three to six months worth of savings into that emergency fund. And when you look at your budget, that can, that's a lot of money, right? I know that's a challenge, but the tip there is really to get one started at Coastal. You can open up like a special savings account or something like that as part of your membership and just contribute as much as you can.
Little by little $10 here, $5 there, a hundred dollars, whatever. It's in your budget to help build that up so that when there are emergencies, you do have a place to pull from and you don't have to stress about that. Yeah. I think that that's probably, that is a big one.
Melissa McCollough: The second biggest one I think is, unfortunately, tragedies happen and children outlive their parents at some point in time.
Making sure that you have your will all sorted out and making sure that those resources are allocated to your children and their future appropriately. That's a tough one to get through, but it is super important to do that. It'll set your families up for success in the future, and hopefully no tragedies.
You don't have to worry about it.
Elle Martinez: Yeah. I mean, planning ahead. I admit like when we went through, it's like, Oh my goodness, I don't want to think about it, but I will say after you get it done, there is a peace of mind that you're like, okay, should something happen?
Or even if it's a matter of like taking care of, like if you're at the hospital and in the last couple of years with COVID if you had those things ahead, your durable power of attorney, Your advocate and everything set up. It's one less thing to stress over.
And I will point out I love what you're doing at the coastal blog. You guys have so many different topics. I know you do have those saving and buying a house. That's a concern, especially here in Raleigh. It seems like a hot market, any little advantage helps.
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