The Complete Family Budget Planner and Guide

April 30th, 2019

Did you know that in 2016, Australian households spent $666 billion on general living costs, equal to $74,301 per household?

With the Northern Territory having the highest weekly total spend at $1,700 per household, we spent $65.8 billion during the year on our cars, $20.4 billion on fashion and $12.6 billion on meat.

That’s a serious amount of cash!

Whether you’re a single person, living as a couple or you have children of your own, every household is different when it comes to spending your money. We all have different needs depending on our life circumstances, ages and incomes, and it can be tricky to figure out how to budget and make your money take you further.

We’ve put together the ultimate guide to helping you budget and plan for your finances, whether it’s bringing a new pet into the family, welcoming a newborn, taking the kids out on their school holidays, or preparing for a financial emergency. We want to make sure you have all the information you possibly can to live a financially healthy, happy life.

How much does a new pet cost?

The cost of adding a furry new face to your family can be surprisingly large – the average Australian dog owner will spend around $3,000 in their first year of dog ownership, and an additional $1,500 per year thereafter.

While other animals, like cats, rabbits, fish or iguanas are typically less expensive to buy and keep, these costs are still not negligible.

However, as we all know, the benefits of pet ownership definitely outweigh the costs, and if you budget accordingly, pet ownership is firmly in the grasp of every Australian.

What does it cost to buy a pet?

Your first step towards pet ownership is finding the companion that fits your needs. Thankfully, there are a number of easy ways to do this. Obviously, a trip down to your local pet store or breeder is the first thing most people think of. However, this is often a more costly route, particularly for pedigree or thoroughbred animals. Often, buying a pet from a store or breeder will necessitate additional costs, such as microchipping, behavioural training, vaccinations, desexing and other assorted costs.

In our opinion, a much better option is heading down to your local adoption shelter!

Adopting an animal – as opposed to buying from a pet store or breeder – isn’t just a prudent financial choice. It’s also an opportunity to save a life, and give a rescued animal some much needed love and attention.

Rescue shelters often include the price of desexing, vaccinations and microchipping in their adoption fee – which will vary depending on the adoption group and the animal in question.

What are the ongoing costs?

Once your new best friend is safe and settled in their new home, there are a number of costs to consider. Initially, you’ll want to kit your house out, and give your new mate some toys to play with, a place to sleep and things to eat and drink from.

In addition, you might need to invest in some obedience training as well as vaccinations and other medical expenses. There are also fixed costs like annual vet fees, food, dog walking, boarding and other costs – these can quickly add up, so be sure to consider them when budgeting for your new life with your pet.

Are there any unexpected or hidden costs to consider?

One of the most expensive aspects of pet ownership can be the sudden and costly expenses associated with vet visits. Unlike us humans, there is no Medicare for animals, and vets are just as expensive as their human-treating counterparts. Complicated surgeries can require whole teams of vets, anesthesiologists, nurses and support staff – adding up to some seriously large bills!

For some, the answer to the prospect of these expensive possibilities is pet insurance. Pet insurance can be acquired for as little as $25 per month, providing a level security for if anything is to happen to your hairiest family member.

And if it’s still looking like your budget doesn’t have space for a furry friend – check out this list of 100 amazing spending hacks, and maybe you can make some wiggle room!

Budgeting for a newborn

Having kids is a core part of many peoples’ dreams for the future, but it can be seriously daunting, especially for those of us with limited financial acumen.

As it turns out, having kids is expensive … seriously expensive. It is estimated that the average Australian household will spend approximately $300,000 to raise a child to the age of 17. The figures for the cost of just having a child are similarly daunting, as the average cost of giving birth in an Australian hospital is around $9000!

It’s not all doom and gloom though, as budgeting effectively for a newborn is actually a pretty straightforward process.

Start setting aside some extra savings now

While it might seem obvious, the first step to saving for a newborn is, well,  saving. Simply putting aside a little bit of cash each week to cover the costs that you might incur after having your child is a simple and effective way of reducing the financial stress of childbirth. Trust us.

When you’re an overtired new parent eyeing off a fancy new bottle sanitiser, you’ll be thanking yourself for this one!

Make your purchases early and save

There are just so many bits and pieces that you need to look after a newborn child. Everything from baby clothes to change tables to car seats and nappies. For the first three items in that list, the best way to make serious savings is to buy second hand or used items.

Heading down to op shops and garage sales is a whole lot of fun, but the best bargains are often found on sites like Gumtree and Ebay.

An even better option is asking your friends and family for unwanted baby items. Things like strollers and change tables have a tendency to end up forgotten in a dusty corner of someone’s garage, and people are often more than happy to have you take them off their hands – asking can’t hurt!

Saving with a newborn

Once your baby is home and safe, the real fun begins. Amidst all the fanfare and celebration that accompanies bring a new life into the world, there are a lot of expenses that can quickly add up. In addition, consumables like nappies, baby formula and clothes can put a dent in your wallet.

Thankfully, babies tend to take up a lot of your time, so reducing your expenditure on things like going out and dining can often be quite easy.

Another financial stress that is often overlooked is the cost of missed employment opportunities – not working can seriously reduce the size of your budget! It is important to make the distinction between needs and wants – especially now you have a new mouth to feed.

Ultimately, taking the time to develop a solid family budget is the key to saving money with a newborn. Take the time to plan for the future and your bank balance will thank you!

Budgeting for school holidays

Everyone loves the school holidays (except for your accountant). This is the time of year where families get to create new memories, relax, unwind, and generally have a great time.

While it might seem like the holiday period is an absolute catastrophe for the household balance sheet, with the right spending strategies and budgeting tips, this needn’t be the case.

Set a budget and stick to it

This seems obvious, but a lot of people tend to forget it when push comes to shove. Our kids are our lives, and it is often really hard to say “no”, especially during the holiday period.

However, recognising and explaining financial limitations isn’t just important for your financial wellbeing. Children are constantly learning and, as their role models, it is important to demonstrate financial discipline.

Get outdoorsy

Australia is one of the most varied, beautiful and exciting landscapes in the world. Our ‘wide brown land’ is home to a range of beautiful locations – from the turquoise of the coast, to the greens of the rainforest and to the red soil of the outback, this country is a veritable kaleidoscope of vistas and unforgettable images.

Taking the time to expose your kids to this visual cornucopia isn’t just a valuable learning experience — it’s really cheap too!

National parks are accessible for a nominal fee, and beaches and bush walks are a healthy way to experience everything our country has to offer. Taking your kids on a surf safari or outback getaway can be an affordable and memorable way to take advantage of the school holidays, and it certainly won’t break the bank.

Just stay in

If the great outdoors isn’t your cup of tea (or the weather just isn’t too crash hot) then take a look at these other options. During the school holidays, there are heaps of activities which kids just love that don’t cost the earth.

Kids love getting dirty – that’s no secret – so try digging a new veggie patch. Or alternatively, unleash their inner Jamie Oliver with a crash course in baking (enlist the help of Betty Crocker for a seriously easy afternoon).

Our personal favourite is a board game tournament – pick three or four different games, and duke it out in a winner takes all tabletop extravaganza.

…or get away

Whether it’s taking a road trip on a budget or flying to your favourite shoestring South-East Asian paradise, there are heaps of great opportunities out there for the frugal family getaway. The secret to getting the most out of a trip away is planning ahead. Take advantage of the myriad booking websites for airlines and accommodation to get the best price possible, and don’t be afraid to book well in advance. The general rule of thumb is that prices only go up over school holiday periods, so booking well in advance can save you an arm and a leg!

Preparing for a financial emergency

One aspect of financial planning that a lot of Australians struggle with is preparing for periods of severe financial stress. While having a great household budget is really important, what a lot of people don’t plan for is a reduction in income, or an unexpected expense that radically changes your household balance sheet for the worse.

What is a financial emergency?

Financial emergencies can take many forms. Ultimately, a financial emergency is any life event which stands to substantially decrease your income, and create financial stress.

Depending on the size of your savings account, financial emergencies might be:

  • Long term unemployment
  • Medical issues for yourself or a family member
  • Legal trouble
  • Damage to your home
  • Increase in mortgage repayments
  • Large one off expenses, such as vet bills, automotive repairs, and so forth.

How should you be preparing for the unexpected?

The best way to prepare for a financial emergency is to start saving. Ideally, you’ll want to save the equivalent of at least three months income, or three months living expenses – whichever is higher.

In addition, you’ll want to make sure that this emergency fund is separated from your normal savings account.

While it might seem daunting to have to save so much money and then leave it untouched, it’s not as difficult as it sounds. Thankfully, financial emergencies are generally pretty rare events, so time is on your side.

Simply saving a few dollars a month can have pretty profound ramifications over the course of a few years. Even if you can only afford to put aside $50 a week, over the course of four years that makes $10,400 ($2,600 per year) – enough to pay rent for a short period of time, or to pay for emergency engine repairs.

Of course, you should aim to save a bit more than this, but the point stands. Ideally, you’ll never need to access your emergency fund, and all you’ll need to do is keep it topped up over time. But in the event that you do encounter a serious financial emergency, you’ll be thankful to have it.

Budgeting for effective household management

Whether it’s budgeting for a fur baby, a human baby, a holiday or an emergency, these tips will serve you well. Learning to take care of your finances is really easy, but most people don’t take the time to do it until it’s too late. Take control of your financial future, and you’ll ensure a happy, stress free and prosperous life for your family.

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