Home Management Nuts & Bolts: Budgets and Schedules

Time and money management issues can put great pressure on a household. Yet, with both of these things properly managed, families can experience greater peace and joy in the home. Let’s look at some practical pointers that can help you get these areas under better control.

Creating a Schedule

It’s easy to let time get away from us, whether it’s inconvenient drop-in visits from well-meaning friends or relatives, a TV show that distracts us…and then turns into two or three, surfing that endless Web, or those incessant phone calls! There were times we all can look at how few items were checked off of our daily to-do lists and wonder, what happened?

A schedule can help; it is simply a budget-tool for the stewardship of our time, since both time and money are valuable commodities. Just as a business will leverage both budgets and schedules for maximum effectiveness, so can a household benefit from a wise plan for time management.

In the project management world, the schedule is based on a work breakdown structure (WBS). The WBS outlines the activities that are required to reach the objectives and breaks them down into tasks and discrete work packages. These work packages are assigned to workers and put on a timeline, or sequenced. In comparative terms, activities are broader in scope, while tasks are narrower and work packages are the most specific.

In order to successfully set up your typical incremental schedule and find time for everything that needs doing in your household, you will need to identify each of the typical activities that will be input in your schedule. You need to take into account the duration of each (how much time it will take), the frequency (how often it needs to be done), and the assignment (who will do it).

When you assign tasks, you need to consider the aptitude and availability of your workers (which, in the home, are usually your children). If you have tasks that are more than you are able to do yourself and your children are not yet able to do the tasks independently, you can work on changing aptitude through training. Work with a child on a new task several times. Then, allow the child to do it several more times as you supervise. Finally, release them to complete the task independently and provide a quality-control check when they are finished. Often, a checklist or written directions can help them to be sure that they have completed the necessary steps.

When you set up your schedule, place fixed events first, then fit the rest. Set time “slots” for related activities with differing frequencies–in other words, if you need to do paperwork or answer emails for both home and home business, you can schedule a daily half-hour chunk of time for “record-keeping” and decide each day what is most pressing to accomplish during that half-hour. Remember, even the best of schedules will require flexibility as you implement it.

Select the scheduling tools that fit your lifestyle and needs: planners, calendars, to-do lists, Outlook reminders, sticky notes, and chore charts can all be used effectively for scheduling your time and activities.

Routines: A Reasonable Alternative to Scheduling

If you’re not the sort of person that works well with a rigid, incremental schedule, there is still much benefit to be derived from having daily routines that enable you to accomplish all that needs to be done. A routine-based day allows you to be more flexible enables you to be more productive. At the same time, there is enough structure to promote necessary self-discipline and ensure that there is a time for everything. It seems an ideal balance.

So how do you shift into a solid routine that will ensure that all of your vital priorities are being met? Well, the first thing you need to do is decide what those priorities are, and try to set them in order of importance. Husband and wife need to talk together about what is most important to each of them, and why, since there will not always be instant agreement. However, this is a vital conversation, and much stress and frustration can be avoided when both partners are on the same page.

Consider your typical household activities and their relative priority. Then, build a routine that includes all of these elements, in order of relative importance if possible. Include in your routines anything that is fixed (such as young children’s naps and meal times), then decide where and how to fit in the more flexible items. Consider work for income, if it is necessary for you, your child care responsibilities, service opportunities in your church or community, time for building family relationships, and home management (housekeeping, grocery shopping, bill payment, and all the things that go along with it).

Both a solid routine or a fixed daily schedule, complimented by a daily “to-do” list, will help you stay on-track with all that you need to accomplish.

The Dreaded “B” Word: Budget

When setting up your budget, the most important first step is to itemize your expenditures. Place necessities first, then include any discretionary spending. If you’re new to budgeting and aren’t sure what your typical expenses include, take a look at about six months’ worth of credit card statements and your check register. Figure out categories of expenses and the average amount spent. You can estimate your variable expenses as well as their frequency, if necessary. Get a handle on both your annual and average monthly expenditures.

Then, itemize your income streams (both fixed and variable). When you input these, be sure to include only “spendable” money (i.e., net income).

Quite simply, once you’ve considered your inputs and outputs, create a balanced budget! In the red? First, reduce or eliminate discretionary categories. Still in the red? Either your income must go up, or expenses down! Consider selling items with payments and purchase debt-free (or cheaper) equivalents, get a second job, or get a higher-paying job. Get radical and consider selling your house and moving to a less expensive home in a different area.

When it comes to household budgeting, both spouses have to be on the same page. Agree on the budget together, then hold each other accountable to the approved plan. Remember that for a budget to work properly, saving receipts and tracking expenses is vital–so both partners must be responsible to do this.

Where some families fail with budgeting is that they use the budget to set goals, and then just compare the results on a “post-mortem” basis (after the money is spent). Others use their account balance to gauge “spendable” funds, resulting in shortfalls when periodic expenses arise (such as car repairs, fuel bills, and so on). Instead, use your budget tool in real-time, to make decisions that will keep your household finances on-track.

 

(Excerpted from the Values-Driven Home Management Bundle)

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