What Belongs on Your Family Budget List?

Creating a family budget is easy. Creating a family budget list that includes all of your actual expenses and still fits within your income can be terribly challenging. As you work through the process of trying to get a handle on your family finances and set a realistic budget on which you can live, you need to identify what truly belongs.

The essential family budget list items

There are a handful of things every family needs in order to survive. These are non-negotiable. Within each of these categories there are decisions to make, of course, and ways to save money; but you can’t drop any of these altogether.

Essential items for your family budget list include:

  • Food, in order to meet basic nutritional needs
  • Clothing
  • Personal care products (toothpaste, hairbrushes, etc)
  • Gas to get to and from work or school
  • A vehicle
  • Housing
  • Basic utilities including home phone, electricity and heating
  • An education

No matter what, you’re going to pay for these things every month. You can become an extreme couponer and save money on food; you can shop at thrift stores for clothes and save some money there; you can turn the thermostat down to 68 during the winter. And sure, you may be able to get a cell phone cheaper than a home phone. But, you get the idea. You’re still going to shell out for every one of these.

Non-essential family budget list items

There are other things you think you need that are really just wants. Some of these include:

  • Savings (although some would argue this belongs on the “essential” family budget list)
  • Dining out
  • Designer or higher-quality clothes
  • Makeup
  • A private education
  • Extended utilities including cell phone and Internet
  • Recreational activities such as movies, sporting events, etc.
  • Gas to get to the movies, sporting events, etc.
  • Private lessons
  • Gym memberships
  • Credit card bills
  • Higher car payments for a nicer or newer car
  • A larger mortgage or rent payment for a nicer home

Creating an effective family budget list means first identifying what you truly need to have and then slowly adding the things you want to have.


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