Small Bites: Can a Household Budget Clarify your Farm Goals?

Authored by Coach Abby Sadauckas

Small Bites are short, informational articles with practical ideas about stress reduction, improved communication, and farm and family well-being. They are written by coaches from UMaine Extension’s Farm Coaching team. Farm Coaches are available at no cost to work remotely with farmers and farm teams. Read more collected Small Bites.

Farm Goals

Setting up a farm and keeping track of the financial details can be a stress on interpersonal relationships and personal finances.

Instead of focusing on how much income the farm might generate to support just the business and reinvestments, it may be helpful to identify the ways the farm will create income to support personal or family needs.

For many of us, the farm produces a quality of life that is at times unparalleled. I recently read an evocative social media post describing the joy of biting into a perfectly ripe cantaloupe. Yes, that is often the type of payment we might most enjoy, but unless your town is ok with paying your property taxes in cantaloupe it may not be enough.

receipts and laptop

So, where to begin?

At our farm, each year we sort through our saved grocery receipts to get a sense of several big picture numbers. How much did we spend on groceries (coffee, canned goods, pasta)? How much did we spend on household supplies (dishwashing and laundry soap, dog food) and what do our monthly expenses looking like (ie: car payments, tax club)?

Then, we look at ways to bulk buy some of those grocery items to reduce costs. We’ve also begun having some of those household supplies (ie: the elusive toilet paper) delivered right to our door. This saves us some money, but more importantly time headed to a different store to procure that one item, which inevitably leads to impulse purchases. We then put these numbers into a simple spreadsheet with the same categories as what is listed above, total the columns and review our monthly household budget. We then take that and add in savings goals (ie: retirement, vacation, take-out). This is done on a monthly basis that reflects when the bill might come due or when we want to take that time away from the farm. If there is a deficit we’re able to identify it now, adjust our owners’ draw for the farm’s lean months rather than skip paying ourselves. 

Want more ideas to keep track of finances? Farm coaching might be for you!