Budgeting for A Large Family: A Simple How To

Check out my can’t-miss tips for budgeting for a large family. Stop checking your calendar waiting for the next payday and get back to living your life!

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Does it seem like budgeting for a large family gets harder and harder each month?

Your husband’s paycheck hits your bank account and by the time you buy groceries, dog food, diapers, wipes, toilet paper, pay all of the electricity and water bills, and maybe order a pizza (you know, so you don’t have to cook every meal) your money is gone.


Vanished into thin air.

You sit down to balance the checkbook with your online banking only to find you have about $50 left. Which wouldn’t be terrible except, the next payday is more than a week away. And you still need another week of groceries.

And your oldest needs new jeans because he ripped a hole in his knees. Again.

And the baby will suddenly only eat the expensive organic purees, not the food you mash up for him at home.

So now you’re stuck with no money and no time to get organized. Between your husband’s long work hours and the baby’s inconsistent nap schedule you barely have time to shower let alone overall your budget.

I totally get it. Because I was there.

I AM there. Between long days and three busy children my husband and I hardly ever have time to sit down and look over a budget together.

Over the years I have perfected my budget system. My goal was to get us to stop living paycheck to paycheck (or really paycheck to five days before the next paycheck, because that’s when we would always run out of money, five days before our next paycheck!).

Save money on groceries…without clipping coupons!

And to get us to the point where we forgot it was payday. Not because we didn’t need the money, but because we had budgeted and tracked our money well enough that all of our expenses were accounted for (and paid) before we ran out of money.

What a novel idea, right?!

And guess what? Just this week, for the first time, I logged into our online banking systems, saw a larger number than I was expecting, and went “Oh yeah! It was payday today!”

I completely forgot it was payday (or the week of payday).


It’s not because we’re suddenly making soooooo much more money (we’re not) or because our expenses have decreased (are you kidding, my three boys are going to eat me out of house and home). It’s because I made a budget!

And all year long I’ve tweaked and paid attention to my budget. I check it almost every day. And after an entire year of trial and error, and many, many worrisome nights, I have finally perfected my system of budgeting for my large family.

And now I am going to share my system with you! So that even on one income, with lots of mouths to feed and bodies to clothe, you to can stop watching the calendar longing for the next paycheck and start living your life!

Check out my can't-miss tips for budgeting for a large family. Stop checking your calendar waiting for the next payday and get back to living your life! #budgetingforalargefamily #frugalliving

Budgeting for A Large Family

Ok, my guess is you’re probably no stranger to budgeting. You’ve probably had a budget for years and you’re no stranger to tracking your monthly expenses.

Your big issue is making that money stretch and last so that you aren’t living paycheck to paycheck.

Just in case you need a refresher, let’s gloss over some budgeting basics and then I’ll dive into my tips for budgeting for a large family!

Step 1: Income

Alright, the first step you will want to take in setting your budget is to write down your total monthly net income.

For this part of budgeting you’ll only want to take into consideration regular income. It’s always better to be conservative in your income estimate and plan accordingly.

Step 2: Expenses

Now comes the harder part. It’s time to write down ALL of your expenses.

Yes all of them. I’m talking about everything from your mortgage payment to the phone bill to the $5 you spend every week at Starbucks.

Start with your necessary living expenses.This would include things like your housing payment, car payment, utilities, groceries, insurance, etc. 

Next write down all of your remaining monthly expenses. This is where you’re going to write down items like cable, internet, Netflix, your phone bill, etc.

Finally, write down any debt payments you make monthly. These payments might include things like credit card bills, personal loans, student loans, etc. Any other debt payment that hasn’t already been accounted for.

Step 3: Find the Difference

Now you want to add up ALL of your income and then add up ALL of your expenses.

Then find the difference between the two by subtracting your totally monthly expenses from your total monthly income.

Total Net Monthly Income   – Total Monthly Expenses  = Budget Surplus

Step 4: Budgeting for A Large Family

Over the years our budget has gone through periods of having large monthly surpluses, to not making ends meet. And if I’m completely honest, even in the times when we were experiencing large surpluses, it always felt like our bank account was empty.

My husband would get paid and by the time I paid bills and bought groceries for the week the money was gone.

And it seemed like we could never get caught up on big expenses. So projects around the house would go untouched until we absolutely had to do it.

Check out my can't-miss tips for budgeting for a large family. Stop checking your calendar waiting for the next payday and get back to living your life! #budgetingforalargefamily #frugalliving

I would read tons of advice about budgeting. But no matter what I tried it didn’t work.

I tried cash, but unbuckling three kids from car seats so I can pay for gas with cash inside the gas station was a nightmare.

I tried putting money into savings every month, but it seemed like the next month we were draining our savings account to buy a new dishwasher (because ours broke) or get new tires for the car.

Nothing was working, and it didn’t matter how much money we were bringing in, it was never enough.

Except, technically, on paper, it was enough. When I did the math we should have had a surplus. So where was it all going?

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Here’s what I discovered:

First, we were spending money that had no category in our budget, so the money was being spent but not accounted for.

Here’s an example: every week I would take the kids to a local rec center for their open gym. The cost was $10, but I had not accounted for it anywhere in our budget. I was just spending $10.

And while $10 doesn’t sound like much, $10 every week adds up fast. Plus the $5 for a coffee I snagged on the way to the gym.

We were spending over our budget $10 at a time.

And by the end of the pay period all of our money was gone and we couldn’t figure out why. The budget said we should still have money left, but we never budgeted for all of those little extras. Are you with me?

Ok, so once I realized this my first thought was to just stop spending all of those little extras. They weren’t in the budget we shouldn’t spend the money.

Yeah, that didn’t last.

Instead, I started accounting for those things. I wrote an “activities” line into our budget. And I increased our food budget to cover things like random trips to the store because I forgot bread.

Now, once I did this our monthly surplus decreased, BUT we stopped living paycheck to paycheck. Because I had spent time creating budget for our large family that actually accounted for every dollar we spent. Even the $1.10 my husband spends at the vending machines at work to get an afternoon pick me up.

Yes, my budget got that specific. And it made a difference

Step 5: Timing

Ok, here’s the other tip I found works for us. Our budget was all about proper timing. I take the time each month to create a budget just for that month.

I write down the exact dates of my husband’s paydays and then underneath those paydays I write down all of the bills that are due within that time period.

I’ve always done this, but then I realized I needed to make a change. Instead of paying all of the bills in one day I started spreading them out over the course of that two week period.

I used to think it didn’t matter. It’s not like we were getting more money before the next paycheck so why not pay all of the bills in one swoop?

But that’s when our bank account would get completely drained in about 48 hours, and by the end of my marathon bill-paying session I often times didn’t have any money left for groceries or other necessities.

So I started prioritizing groceries first. And then I pay bills as they’re due. Not as paychecks come in.

By doing this we don’t have all of our money leaving our account in one day. Instead it’s spread out, and I don’t have to hope that there’s money left for groceries. I know I have money for groceries because I’m paying bills just a little at a time.

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Budgeting for a large family can take time to master, especially if you’re doing it on one income. Hopefully these tips will help you get your family’s budget back on track and on the road to financial success!

Leave a comment below and tell me how you approach budgeting for a large family.

a wood table with a cup of coffee, a notebook sits next to it with the word"budget" written in bold letters; feature image for budgeting for a large family by forgotten lattes; the text reads how to successfully survive on one income with these simple budgeting tips