At this point in your life, cash management will be the simplest. You don’t have anyone else to consult with at this point. First put all your bills and savings on auto pilot. Set up web bill pay with your bank, and using that try to auto pay as many things as possible. From student loans to the cable bill, have everything paid from your account.
Also, if you have an IRA, have it set to make automatic payments to your account. Next, use a money management program like Quicken that automatically uploads all your expenses and savings. After a few months you will be able to see patterns in your spending that will help you budget and manage your money better.
For couples, everything that went for a single person still applies. The only difference is that now another person’s feelings, expenses, and goals need to be included. I would suggest sitting down once a month to go over your expenses. From the trends you see, you can decide if the two of you are inline with where you both want to be.
Another thing that has worked well for my family is to put everything on a credit card. And I mean everything! This way everything can automatically be categorized and it’s very transparent where the money is going.
Again, everything that applies for a single person and a couple still applies for a family. However, a family probably has the most complicated money management of all.
First, if your children are young, make sure you are taking advantage of the dependent FSA, if possible, which will save you in the long run. Second, if your children are older, bring them into the conversation of expenses. They do not need to know about investment accounts or salaries, but they should understand how much everything costs and where the money is going.
I would also suggest giving an allowance at every age. Especially for the older ones, giving them somewhat of a larger allowance will allow you to manage your money more effectively by putting the ownership on them to pay for miscellaneous things they want rather than constantly coming to you for cash.
Sources of Cash
We all have been in a situation where we are short on cash for the month. There are options available to fund your short-term cash needs like instant cash loans and reducing expenses. The first option should always be cut back on your monthly expenses. Some ideas include: eating leftovers from the freezer, having a garage sale, turning the cable TV or landline off, downsizing gifts, and temporarily changing your W2 exemptions. I would only recommend the last option if you have been getting refunds of more than $1000 over the last several years on your tax return.
Readers: Do you manage your cash or does your cash manage you?