I don't know about your family but we are either in feast or famine mode. We either have extra money or not enough; it all depends on my hubby's fluctuating work load. We never know from year to year if his company will have lots of jobs or only a few.
Recently we were in famine mode for a few months because my hubby was put on 32 work weeks. That ended just before Christmas and we've been playing catch-up ever since. Now he was just put on 10 hour days 6 days a week. Being a one-income family can be crazy when work schedules fluctuate.
It also seems as soon as we get a little bit of money saved up something seems to break. This time it was one of our vehicles and some home repairs. Both of which are going to be costly.
I am very grateful that the highs and lows are getting less dramatic. The lows aren't so low because we're managing the highs much better. That just comes with age I guess. We are saving more during the feast times to use during the famine times.
Since I'm sure other families go through the same thing I thought I'd share how we are working our way out of this cycle of feast or famine.
We stick to a budget and try our best not to deviate from it. If we should get a little extra money in our budget we decide together where it would be best to put it. Sometimes we save it, other times it is needed immediately. On rare occasions, like income tax refunds we take the whole amount and apply it to one debt to pay it off or down significantly.
In times of feast we always try to build up our pantry for those times when finances are tight. Getting extra cans of veggies, some meat to put in the freezer, or as small as a couple packages of Ramen noodles. Every little bit helps when money is tight.
Don't get me wrong - my family wants things. Lots of things! Just because we get a couple extra bucks we don't go hog wild and blow it all on fun stuff. Oh, we used to, but not anymore.
Each family member has something they really want. Each time we get some extra cash we set money aside in an envelope to save up for it. We encourage our kids to do odd jobs to help raise money for whatever they want. This teaches them to work hard for what they want and they take better care of the item because they worked for it.
Don't Deny Yourself
I've found if the hubby and I go too long without doing something for ourselves we both get really grouchy. So during our feast times we will do something fun as a family. It could be going out to our favorite restaurant, taking the kids bowling, or buying something small that we've been wanting for a while. The key is we budget it in. There's a big difference between splurging and treating yourself every once in a while.
Start a Pantry
If you don't already have one create a pantry in your home. It can be as small as a box in a closet or an entire room. Each week try to buy at least one thing to add to your stash. We try to spend $1-$5 worth of stuff to tuck away each week. Plus we can lots of veggies from our garden each summer.
Pantries or root cellars have been around a long time and were used to store foods and supplies for the winter when time were tighter. That's exactly what we do. We store foods and supplies up when times are good for times when money is a little tighter.
Rainy Day Fund
Also called an emergency fund. We try to maintain at least a small emergency fund for those times when things break and need fixing or replacing. A washing machine, car repairs, etc. Something that needs to be fixed right then that can't be put off for any real length of time.
By keeping an emergency fund or rainy day fund we are more able to keep up with our normal monthly bills because we aren't robbing Peter to pay Paul. Plus we don't have to borrow money from the bank or family members.
My family isn't perfect by any means, but we are learning to balance out this feast/famine cycle we've been in. By budgeting religiously and spending wisely we have food and money when we need it regardless of his work schedule.
Hopefully this information will help your family like it has ours.