Family Finance: Tips To Help Struggling Families Get Ahead

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Almost 51 million middle class and low income American families are struggling to make ends meet. In Sacramento, the annual household budget for a family of four averages $66,000; a figure that almost half of families cannot afford even with both parents working. Because of rising tuition, childcare and housing costs, many families in the county are struggling to make ends meet and even saving for the future. Based on Bankrate’s financial security index survey, only 39 percent of American households have enough savings to cover a $1,000 emergency and 19 percent of them would have to turn to credit cards or other forms of debt to cover unexpected costs in their household.

For those single or low income households and the single parent families fighting to survive, finding new ways to stay on top of their expenses is rapidly becoming a 24-hour job. If your family is one of those grappling financially, read on for some tips that may help your family get back on track.

Get Familiar with Your Local Resources

You would be surprised at the amount of help available to families out there. From community outreach centers and free after school childcare programs to food banks and clothing drives aimed to help those in the community. With just a few minutes of research online you can find the appropriate information on all that your community has to offer. Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) offers food assistance in the form of CalFresh while our distribution map can help you locate local Partner Agencies and their contact information.

Help does not stop there either. Many families are not aware of the financial assistance offered by the state and nationwide non-profit organizations such a Temporary Assistance For Needy Families (TANF) or short term assistance from Modest Needs. It all begins with the first step of asking for help.

Get Your Household Familiar With Budgeting

If you can successfully implement budgeting in your household, you may be able to find ways of cutting your costs that may not have occurred to you before. Tracking your income and expenses is a great start to cutting out unnecessary expenses. It is also a good way to see areas where you may be overspending. One of those common areas: groceries. Did you know that Americans throw out over $164 billion dollars worth of food each year? For every household that is approximately one pound of food for each person every day. Simple tricks such as meal planning and grocery shopping using a list can help you reduce your grocery bill. In the kitchen, reduce food wastage by batch cooking and freezing meals. Many farmers markets also offer fresh produce at a fraction of the price with slight imperfections. Taking advantage of these offers can reduce your food bill but keep your family well fed.

Getting comfortable with budgeting and expense reduction also increases the likelihood of your family being able to put away some money each month. Experts generally recommend putting away the equivalent of approximately 6 months of your total expenses. However, the average American holds less than $4,000 in savings. Having emergency savings is vital for many reasons, especially when you have a family to think of. Unexpected medical bills, appliance or even car repair costs can set you back hundreds of dollars easily. Being prepared alleviates the pressure to turn to debt options, which we all know come with interest costs. Adding monthly debt and interest payments to a budget that is already stretched thin may not be feasible.

Give Second Hand a Second Glance

For those living paycheck to paycheck, many of them would look to cut their costs. Yet many of them do not think of buying second hand to save money. Children’s clothing and other needs are often frequent expenses in the household budget. Changing seasons and growth spurts means you will be shelling out hundreds of dollars each year for these items. However, at thrift stores, garage sales and charity shops you can not only keep your family happy but do it at a fraction of the initial cost.  

Keep in mind these also goes for your family’s used clothes. Why not stage a garage sale and earn a bit rather than tossing your used clothing? Provided it is in sellable condition, you can end up funding your family’s next season wardrobe. With small adjustments such as this and some creativity, you can help to turn your family’s financial situation around and start the journey to financial freedom.

Submitted by: Jane Lloyd
Freelance Writer

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