Why I Run My Household Like a Business (And Why You Should Too)

Before I started up my blog, I spent my free time as a dedicated volunteer for Little League baseball. And although I rose through the ranks over the years to eventually become a league president, looking back, my fondest Little League memories still come from the time I spent managing my son’s tee-ball team.

My first “practice” was a pitiful failure. I was woefully disorganized and, as a result, the 5-year-olds got bored almost immediately. Before long, that practice session looked like something straight from Lord of the Flies; I had lost complete control, surrounded by a band of marauding boys who defiantly spent the rest of the hour kicking up the infield dirt and pulling the wings off moths in the outfield.

Needless to say, I made sure the rest of my practices were always well-organized.

The Importance of Organizing Your Personal Finances

Organization is a means to an end. The truth is, organized people save more time and money than those who don’t. When you’re organized, you become more efficient and that makes life much easier.

With respect to your personal finances, organization is what enables people to manage seemingly complex and/or enormous jobs such as tracking their income and outgo down to the last penny with relatively little effort.

The good news is, getting organized isn’t hard. In fact, all it takes is a little commitment and discipline — and I found that one of the best ways to get organized is to run your household like a business.

My Household Business Organizational Structure

In the grand scheme of things, a household is a business with real assets and liabilities. There are revenues, represented by our household income, and there are non-discretionary obligations such as the mortgage and utility bills. There are also discretionary costs in the form of entertainment, vacations, and other non-critical expenses that require careful analysis and smart decisions.

And just as any smart business works to efficiently manage and maximize its revenues, I too want to ensure that our household spending decisions always give us the most bang for my paycheck.

From the day we were married, the family finances have been jointly managed by the Honeybee and me. Each of us has separate responsibilities that are clearly defined, as shown in the handy dandy household organization chart below.

The duties of the household CEO and household CFO.

As you can see, it’s not very complicated; I act as the CEO, while she is the CFO. I know. But just play along.

I’ll now go into a little more detail for both our jobs.

My Duties as the Household CEO

As the CEO, I’m responsible for long-term and strategic financial planning decisions, including stuff like how much life, auto and home owner’s insurance to carry, retirement and investment contributions, emergency fund allocations, and future big-ticket discretionary spending. That requires me to evaluate all household expenses, both past and future, and then determine whether those expenses are discretionary or non-discretionary.

In short, my job consists of seven primary tasks:

  1. Identifying future household expenditures
  2. Categorizing those expenditures as either non-discretionary or discretionary (“needs” or “wants”)
  3. Developing a household strategic spending plan
  4. Establishing the household budget
  5. Ensuring my family understands the strategic spending plan and budget
  6. Ensuring the strategic spending plan and budget are faithfully adhered to
  7. Refining the strategic spending plan as necessary

My Wife’s Duties as the Household CFO

As the CFO, the Honeybee acts as the family’s financial manager. Essentially, in addition to handling day-to-day financial operations, she keeps her fingers on the family financial pulse, always aware of past and impending non-discretionary expenses, as well as any near-term discretionary spending considerations.

In a nutshell, here are her seven primary responsibilities:

  1. Establishing and maintaining our financial records and spreadsheets
  2. Ensuring all the bills are paid on time
  3. Actively tracking household expenses and income
  4. Identifying present and future household expenditures to support strategic planning
  5. Ensuring the strategic spending plan and budget are faithfully adhered to
  6. Ensuring the checking account is balanced each month
  7. Identifying negative financial trends and potential trouble areas

Summing It All Up

Running our household like a business has played a crucial role in ensuring that our family income has been used as efficiently as possible over the years. In fact, it’s been more successful than I ever imagined.

That being said, will the way we run our household work for everybody? That’s doubtful.

Has it worked perfectly for us? Of course not.

But it has instilled a strong sense of organization and financial discipline into our lives. And for most anyone who aspires to take control of their personal finances and achieve financial freedom, that is absolutely essential.

Photo Credit: ell brown

38 comments to Why I Run My Household Like a Business (And Why You Should Too)

  • Whatever works! I my household, I operate the dual roles of CEO/CFO. Any large expenditures we discuss together. It works for us (for over 40+ years).

    • Len Penzo

      Yep, I know a lot of folks who do that. I like the split duties because it not only spreads out the work load, but it also keeps both partners involved and invested in the family finances.

  • We have similar roles in our house; hubby’s the CEO & I’m the CFO. We’re a team!

    • Len Penzo

      I really enjoy the tandem approach. I think it is especially beneficial when there is only one household breadwinner in the home — as it is with us. I think it is important for the stay-at-home spouse to have a handle on the finances, so they are not caught flat-footed in case of an unexpected death, or even a divorce. (No need to read anything into that, folks. I’m happily married. LOL)

  • there is a saying that goes like this,
    “if businesses were run more like a family and families were run more like business everyone would be better off.”

    i have often countered this by saying;
    ” if more families were run more like a business then everyone would realize just how much that businesses are already run like a family.”

  • You are way too organized Len. But, it’s better to be organized and hit the target, than to be disorganized and flounder around.

    I’m the CFO in our family and I have a much simpler method for running the finances. I squirrel away a bunch of money on payday, then I act like we are broke when everyone comes asking me for money. We will be married for 21 years next month and it still works.

  • It seems like your wife has more work. You have all the big picture things and she has all the day to day things. Sounds like your maintaining all the CEO characteristics.

    • Len Penzo

      Oh, she definitely does have more work than I do, Matt! But she is also a stay-at-home mom, so she has more time than I do too. ;-)

      I think in the grand scheme of things, she actually gets more perks than I do. (And I’m sure I’ll be sleeping on the couch after the Honeybee reads this. LOL)

  • I think we are also split down those CFO/CEO lines in a sense. And, we come to an agreement on the large expenses.

  • That’s a great way to give people roles and make sure that things get done. I like the important sounding names as well.

  • Debbie

    Can you explain in more detail what “developing a household strategic spending plan” means? Is this a statement full of #’s: expenditures/balances/leftover? Or is this a general approach type statement?

  • We don’t have similar structure in our household but it seems that all humans are born with no structure ingrained in their genes. We must learn to be organized not only in our personal finances but in all other activities as well. Folks who follow some kind of organized structure in their lives have lived and are living successful lives.

  • Good plan Len. My wife do similar, and we have an annual Summit Meeting, which you might liken to a shareholders’ meeting. Really helps to keep us on track and in accord.

  • I have been running my finances like a business for years. I started to realize that I also run the rest of my life a little like a business. I delegate the things my wife is good at to her and I assume the duties I am good at as well. Together we discuss our dreams and plans just like a good partnership.

  • I love the way you have broken it all down. This is similar to how my husband and I manage our finances. I think the critical thing to household finances for couples is that both partners are involved and know what is going on so they can be on the same page. It definitely keeps the financial arguments to a minimum…

  • Len, after reading your post I realized that I am both CEO and CFO. No fair! I think I have to ask my husband to assume some responsibilities. Rather than dumping it all on him at one time, where do you think I should start? Asking him to take on one or two smaller tasks?

    • Len Penzo

      Wow. As you well know, handling both chores is a lot of work, Suzanne!

      It’s a tough call … I think the CFO task requires more time — but if you have been handling both duties, I suspect you might want to hold on to the CEO role.

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