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How to Budget with a Family and Still Have Fun

Mar 02, 2023
family having fun on a budget

Money may not be able to buy happiness, per se, but smart budgeting can go a long way to funding little extras. Working families must prioritize their resources to fund a home for shelter, groceries for nourishment, insurance for security, and transportation for freedom, among others.

But salaries are also the primary tool used for leisure, fun, and quality of life expenses. That, in turn, actually does tend to bring people happiness. And, they’re reasons why budgeting and putting money-saving tips to work are important. Smartly managing household finances helps families set aside cash to fund more of the good life.


Why Budgeting as a Family is Important

The most recent Consumer Expenditures report issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates the average household expenses were $5,577 in 2021. The report covering 2022 is expected to be released in September and many anticipate that figure to be higher, given the rate of inflation. This is how key household spending percentages shook out, according to the BLS.

  • Housing: 34%

  • Transportation: 16%

  • Food: 12%

  • Healthcare: 8%

  • Apparel and Services: 3%

  • Entertainment: 5%

  • Personal Care Products and Services: 1%

Going forward, our financially challenging times call for diligent spending controls if households are to allocate the same or more money for pleasant, memorable moments. This will take a concerted effort on the part of every family member. The alternative would likely involve paying more for necessities and canceling fun, adventurous excursions. These are ways to successfully budget as a family and what to do with extra money.


Have Open Communication About Finances

It’s not unusual for people to feel uncomfortable about the need to rein in spending. The idea that you are not earning enough to cover monthly expenses and have ample money left over makes us all feel a little less successful.

But sidestepping going out to dinner or coming up with excuses not to pay for enjoyable activities only adds to that discomfort. It may also make your loved ones feel unsure about the reasons why you don’t want to do fun things as a couple or family. Honesty, as they say, is always the best policy, and it definitely applies to managing household finances.

By articulating the current economic situation, you create an opportunity for everyone to participate in solutions. Consider crafting a monthly budget that covers all the fixed and variable expenses. If your entertainment costs hovered around the national average of 5 percent or higher, it may require a sharp pencil to maintain that threshold. But by working together, great things can be accomplished. Don’t be surprised if someone asks what to do with extra money sooner than later.


Allocate Money for Fun

It’s no secret working families may need to do more with less this year. Making sometimes tough decisions about what to cut back on is the business part of the equation. Bringing people together, who all have a stake in the allocation of household resources, tends to motivate them to carve out space for fun activities.

While working on a budget, family members will be able to see the hard numbers regarding monthly spending. As you navigate fixed and variable expenses, participants can see the amounts and percentages allocated to various categories. Although housing, groceries, transportation, and security are essential priorities, there’s an opportunity to buoy leisure and entertainment spending as well. Having an open dialogue about what to do with extra money may prove helpful.



Enjoy our budgeting and money-saving tips to maximize your budget by downloading our free guide:

Budgeting Tips and Tricks: Quick Solutions to Start Saving Today



Get Creative with Your Activities

With household budgets likely putting higher percentages toward necessities, it’s time to start thinking outside the box. These are just some of the free and inexpensive fun things to do year-round.

  • Visit a Local Museum
  • Make Arts and Crafts as a Family
  • Make a New Recipe Together
  • Practice Yoga
  • Enjoy an Evening of Dancing
  • Go Bike Riding
  • Organize a Weekly Game Night
  • Spend a Day at the Park
  • Take Advantage of Cheap Movie Matinee Tickets
  • Go to a Local Open Mic

These are the kind of money-saving tips that help people stretch their entertainment dollars. There are also ways to transform necessary spending into fun. For example, your family could shop at a local farmer's market for vegetables and products instead of a supermarket. Additionally, they typically have live music to entertain the crowd.


Take Advantage of Employee and Student Discounts

Maximizing your ability to invest in entertainment and leisure time requires practicing money-saving tips. One of the underused strategies involves leveraging discount programs.

Companies sometimes establish discount programs with wholesale organizations that save employees money. If your employer offers a free Costco or Sam’s Club membership, your family can reduce the money spent on groceries and other necessities.

Whether it's a free membership or another type of employee discount, a penny saved is a penny earned.
The same holds true for teacher and student discounts. If retail outlets take a percentage off, have the teacher or student in the family make the purchases. The point is that lowering your monthly costs is in the best interest of the entire family.  


cabin vacation booked on a budget with flexible travel plans


Be Flexible with Your Plans

Remaining flexible about travel and other plans may be one of the most underused money-saving tips. The significant discounts offered on hotel and vacation booking platforms provide families with rare cost-reduction opportunities. It’s not uncommon for prime vacation and weekend getaway locations to slash prices on vacancies at the last minute. This allows people to stay at top hotels and resorts with excellent amenities at budget prices.

The same can be said of Airbnb options. People who rent out their second homes like to maximize their profitability. Because taxes and cleaning fees are already rolled into the rental cost, discounting the space during the off-season or weekdays has emerged as a standard practice. Having enough flexibility in your schedule to take advantage of low prices can be a boon for families on a budget. When you are looking at rates for flights, hotels, or even excursion tickets, make sure to keep the flexible dates option open so you can see the savings a few days can make. 


Use Rewards and Loyalty Points

Credit card companies and retailers continue to create incentives for consumers. The use of credit card points and retail loyalty points rank among the best options for families trying to save money without compromising on their overall quality of life. 

Retailers are routinely offering incentives that involve a discount that comes right off the top when exceeding a specific amount. Some are also promoting zero interest for 6 months to a year as an incentive to make larger purchases. Credit card promotions are by far more diverse. Cash back, gift cards, and points that can be used for select merchandise are attractive ways to save money. If you’re tightening spending, it may be worthwhile to consider applying for a new credit card.


Open a Dedicated Savings Account with CCCU

Putting these and other money-saving tips to work helps people reduce spending on necessities and invest more in quality-of-life experiences. Before you can make any decisions about what to do with extra money, you’ll need a secure place to put it. Opening a dedicated Savings Account separates leisure and entertainment dollars from other line items in your budget. In terms of working together to reduce costs and have more fun, family members have a reason to get excited as the balance grows. If you have questions about how to budget with a family, contact CCCU today! 

For more smart saving and budgeting tips for all ages, review our Budgeting Tips and Tricks: Quick Solutions to Start Saving Today Guide.