Skip to Content
Husband and wife sitting on couch drinking coffee and talking about managing their money in their marriage.
Marriage and Money

Financial spring cleaning: Living on a budget in 10 easy steps

More than half of families in the U.S. are not prepared for a financial setback.1 Fortunately, it's not too late to employ good money habits and form a working budget.

Did you know that only 43% of Americans have enough savings to cover a $1,000 emergency?2  Living paycheck to paycheck, many families are ill-protected against inevitable setbacks.

Fortunately, it's never too late to develop good money stewardship habits - even if you haven't had the best experience with living on a budget in the past. In this article, you'll find 10 simple tips to kick off your financial spring cleaning

  1. Identify priorities and get on the same page   
    According to a survey from, a third of divorcees say that credit card debt played a role in their decision to divorce.3 People lean towards spending either for status or for security. Identify individual priorities and commit to working out a stewardship plan that meets your goals. Make a budget everyone can sustain for the major areas like savings, insurance, college funds, retirement and estate planning.
  2. Track spending and earnings
    First, find out where your money is going. Track every penny spent or earned for the next 30 days, using an app or small notebook. When you see it in black and white, it is harder to ignore overspending, debit and under earning. And, you may discover how well you are doing in saving and investing.
  3. Own it
    Now that you know the facts, don't waste energy worrying about the problems. Take responsibility for where things stand and determine what needs to happen next. No shame or blame required, just squared shoulders and clear thinking.
  4. Take control
    Every adult in your household likely contributed to how things are, and therefore, each has a part in making better money decisions going forward. Each person should identify and write down the changes he or she is responsible for.
  5. Change in 22 days
    Change does take time but it can be faster than you think. For the next 22 days, pay only cash and reduce spending. Practice living on a budget. Soon you will have woven good stewardship habits into your routine.
  6. Pay yourself first with savings
    An automatic savings deduction provides a tangible reward for your hard work and cushions against unplanned expenses. Make it a priority to open and maintain an emergency fund that is only for true emergencies. Consider making your emergency fund somewhat difficult to access. This may buy you time to evaluate if the situation is really an emergency or simply an impulse buy.
  7. Manage resources
    Educate yourself about financial management tools like budgeting, projections and financial planning. Brainstorm how to repair, reuse and recycle items to delay replacing them. Don't always buy new.
  8. Be true to your principles
    Have faith in your ability to become good money managers. Remain true to your best principles, including honesty in everything you do. Seek out professionals who have integrity and avoid fast-talkers who promise a shortcut to wealth. Hard work and good habits will pay off.
  9. Learn the risks
    All financial decisions contain inherent risks. Learn what the risks are and decide what you can live with. Mistakes will happen, however, educated decisions can prevent financial catastrophe.
  10. Keep it simple
    Dr. Thomas Stanley's The Millionaire Next Door revealed how ordinary people like plumbers and police officers accumulated a net worth of more than $1,000,000. If nothing else, protect your family's future with these tips:
  • Save up a prudent reserve to guard against the inevitable emergency.
  • Don't borrow, ever. Pay cash and live within your means.
  • Don't pay top dollar for anything. Look for good quality at modest prices.
  • Educate yourself about sound financial investing.

The bottom line: You don't have to be one of the millions of Americans who are ill-prepared for financial emergencies. You don't have to live from paycheck to paycheck. With some proactive financial spring cleaning, you can make a budget, develop an emergency fund and get your family's financial plan in order.

1,2 Bankrate, 2023 Emergency Savings Report, Divorce Survey


Arrows linking indicating relationship

Related Articles

Woman on the phone discussing how to handle her debt with her financial advisor.

Should you handle your debt with bankruptcy?

Learn more
A wife with an awkward expression looking at her husband

Preparing for life's awkward moments

Learn more
Two young couples out on a beautiful evening, shouting and having fun.

Battle of the sexes: Who needs quality life insurance benefits more?

Learn more
All Learning Center articles are general summaries that can be used when considering your financial future at various life stages. The information presented is for educational purposes and is meant to supplement other information specific to your situation. It is not intended as investment advice and does not necessarily represent the opinion of Protective or its subsidiaries.

Learning Center articles may describe services and financial products not offered by Protective or its subsidiaries. Descriptions of financial products contained in Learning Center articles are not intended to represent those offered by Protective or its subsidiaries.

Neither Protective nor its representatives offer legal or tax advice. We encourage you to consult with your financial adviser and legal or tax adviser regarding your individual situations before making investment, social security, retirement planning, and tax-related decisions. For information about Protective and its products and services, visit

Companies and organizations linked from Learning Center articles have no affiliation with Protective or its subsidiaries.