money matters for home makers
Budgeting and Tracking of Expenses

Women can be equally good as men at budgeting household expenses and housewives can be even better because they have more time to spare for the activity. A typical family in India celebrates at least 5-6 festivals a year and the number varies with religion and region one belongs to. At many of these festivals one is expected to spend on sweets, gifts and doing up the house and such other expenses. Entertaining guests from time to time also involves additional expenses on preparing special food for them. Women are good at keeping tabs on such expenses and for many of them it is a hobby to explore ways of saving on the family budget. If you are the one who does groceries and utilities shopping which is a major item of expenses in many households you are better equipped to maintain track of it.

If you are unfamiliar with budgeting and expenses tracking, here it is explained in simple terms  

What is budgeting?

A budget is a financial blueprint. It keeps track of how much money comes from where and how much goes to where. Budgeting helps you to plan and control your expenses and keep them within your income and stay clear of debt.  

To start budgeting all you need is a pen and paper and the list of all expenses you expect to have in the month. First list down the items of expenditure under various heads such as house rent, electricity, phone, groceries, traveling, children's expenses (school fees, toys, etc), insurance, loans, savings, taxes, leisure and so on. Make sure that all your expenses are put down under some category.

In another column, put down a projected amount, which is the ideal amount for you, beside each expense item. There is no right or wrong amount for any expense. It all depends on your family's earnings and requirements. However for general guidance people advice one should not spend more than 30% house rent. If you've bought a house on loan, all your long term loans which include home loan, vehicle loan, credit card debts, student loan should not exceed 65% of your gross income.

At the end of the month in a third column put down the actual amount spent on each item. This gives you insight into how much (or less) you've strayed from the ideal value. Of course, there will be times when certain unavoidable expenses creep in. But try to decrease the gap between projected and actual expenses every month.

Some tips

  • If in a certain month you expect spending to be more, save some in the previous months to use in that month. Alternately cut down some expenses in the consecutive months to make good for the months of over spending.
  • Look out for good deals at stores. Departmental stores periodically have discount offer days which they advertize in local newspapers. While you should check if the deals are genuine, many times it is cheaper to purchase stuff from a discount sale offer.
  • Household necessities and grocery items are cheaper when bought in bulk. Do this whenever possible and affordable.
  • Keep files or folders to store your bills, receipts and documents in order. This will make it easier for reference later on.  
  • Figure out creative ways to cut down on the grocery bill without compromising on the grocery list. Have a list of things you want to purchase and avoid buying anything that wasn't on it unless it will find use in the house in the present time. Keep away the money you have saved and use it for buying a gift for your child's birthday.