Reality Check: A Family Budget That Will Last

by Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

The cashier checking me out at the grocery store last night told me this time of the year is always the busiest for them. Every January and February, he explained, thousands of people swear that this is the year they will start cooking at home instead of hitting up restaurants and drive-thrus. All these people stuff their carts during January and February. As the year proceeds, sales dwindle as gradually, they revert to TGI Friday’s and Panda Express.

January is often the busiest month for me as well. It is prime time for new clients to look me up, after making the resolution to get their finances under control, once and for all. But as opposed to the grocery store’s customers, most of my clients are able to stick to the goals and budgets they set for themselves. Why? Because we talk about the importance of being realistic.  

Rather than setting huge, abstract goals like “I’m never going to eat out again” or “I’m going to retire a millionaire” or “my children will not have to take on any student debt,” we break the aspirations down into small, manageable pieces. If, for instance, your goal is that your children won’t have to take out any student loans, open savings accounts for them and start to contribute $20 per week. If you want to save on dinners, instead of opting never to eat out again, let your children cook twice per week and add the money you save to the family vacation budget.

I usually recommend 4-5 small changes per year, as long as everyone in the family is onboard. Next year, when these changes have become habits, you can implement another 4-5 – and just like that, you are on your way to healthier family finances.

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Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

Stacy Francis is the Founder, CEO and President of Francis Financial, Inc., a Wealth Management and Financial Planning firm. With over 18 years of experience in the financial industry, she is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®), a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™ (CDFA™), and a Certified Estate Planning Specialist (CES™). She is the Co-Director of the Association of Divorce Financial Planners’ (ADFP) Greater New York Metro Chapter and a member of the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) and an honoree member of the Private Risk Management Association (PRMA). A nationally recognized financial expert, Stacy has appeared on ABC News, CNBC, CNN, PBS Nightly Business Report, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Fine Living Network, and The O’Reilly Factor. Stacy attended the New York University Center for Finance, Law and Taxation.