How to Easily Save for Family Fun It's important for your marriage and family to spend some fun time together. Here's how you can financially make that happen. BY JIM BURCH
Once you know how much you spend, saving for some family fun becomes a lot easier.
“ Tracking spending is a lot like tracking your diet—simple knowledge starts the path to better habits.”
It doesn't matter if it's a week at the beach or just a night out for a nice dinner—family outings are expensive. Saving for them can be a huge headache, but it doesn't have to be that way. Follow these easy steps and the only thing you'll have to worry about is choosing what to do for a night of fun away from home.
Saving for family fun goes beyond throwing cash into a savings account each paycheck. First, understand the principles of basic budgeting to comfortably save for anything from a night out to a trip to Disneyland. Lucky for you, there are only a few points to know before you get started:
1. Track every dime you spend, starting with the necessary reoccurring costs like mortgage/rent, utilities and car payments, and working down to even the most frivolous purchases at the corner market down the road. Tracking spending is a lot like tracking your diet—simple knowledge starts the path to better habits.
2. Now track every dime of your income. For most people, this begins and ends with the bi-weekly check from work, but others have side incomes that need to be included as well (more on this later).
3. Now it's a matter of simple addition and subtraction. A budgeting program such as You Need A Budget or service like Mint will help you lay everything out and look for places where you can reduce expenses.
Prioritize Your Fun
Now that the math is out of the way, it's time to start planning the fun. Get out a pen and paper, open the notes app on your phone—or however you like to write or type anything—and rank the priorities you want in a family outing:
* Good food * Beaches or waterfront * Historical landmarks * Family-oriented activities * Opportunity for alone time
The list goes on and on, depending on what you want from a family outing, but the critical step is ranking them from most to least important. The perfect getaway will start to come together from there.
Go Big, Go Local
If you want more for less keep it local (shorter than a flight). Even the most rural of residents likely live within driving distance of a state or national park. Use free sites such as Yelp (it's not just for food) or Traveler's Choice on Trip Advisor to search for fun activities in your area so your dollar can do more when the family is away from home.
It's hard to save for a trip or even a night out if you don't first reduce your expenses. These are common places where spending can be cut back to increase savings:
* Coffee and energy drinks * Subscription services such as Netflix and Hulu * Going out to lunch during the workday * Eating out more and cooking at home less
But let's say you're doing everything you can to reduce expenses, but it's still not enough. There are some opportunities to create more income; you just have to get creative:
Everything listed above should be taken care of before the trip, not during. Pinching pennies during the trip will not only stress you out, but it will stress out your family as well. If you took the steps to track spending, reduce expenses and plan your finances properly, it's time to sit back, relax and enjoy.
Jim Burch—Born and raised near St. Louis, I developed an obsession for baseball and the Cardinals. College days brought me south to Kentucky where I studied creative writing and journalism while working as an editor for the Murray State News. These days, I write diverse and sexy copy and hone my physical prowess at my CrossFit gym in Chandler, AZ. My specialties range from movies and television to consumer technology to health and fitness.